In the early 1970s a bunch of Essex wide boys got together and formed a rock band called Dr Feelgood
. Their sound was very retro, even in the 1970s. A lesser-known fact was that the name was derived from street slang for a corrupt doctor who would sell prescription drugs for recreational purposes. I don’t know if this term is still in use – I am a grumpy middle- aged bloke these days and don’t get out much.
I have been spending quite a lot of my summer working with my colleague Cathy Berry and my friends at CIRIA
on a guide for sustainable procurement in construction. Many partners have worked with us to develop this guide and I am really excited about it. I hope you enjoy it when it is published later this year.
One of the most difficult challenges we had was finding meaningful case studies. With a few notable exceptions; when we asked people for case studies they either came up with nothing at all or bland “happy sheets” promoting their companies or massaging the egos of the people involved (or both). Things like “our client asked for BREEAM
excellent and we did it” or “we worked hard to get ISO 9001 certification” or “we dug a hole, took the dirt from the hole and put it in another hole and saved lots of waste from landfill”. Social case studies often consist of “here is a photo of our MD fishing a supermarket trolley out of a river on our jolly corporate volunteering day”.
All very laudable but the reader does not learn much from this. These studies are out of Dr Feelgood’s casebook, satisfying for a short period of time but ultimately disappointing.
If we are to share learning around this topic we need to be much more specific about how we do it to make it effective. I have devised a little checklist to help:
1. What is the purpose of the case study?
a. To make you look good.
b. To make your organisation look good.
c. To share what you have learnt.
2. If the answer to 1 above is not c, go back and start again.
3. Have you described what you actually did in enough detail for people to replicate your good practice?
4. Have you described the things you found difficult and how you overcame them?
5. Have you described the tangible benefits from your case study?
6. Have you said what you will do differently as a result of this work?
I know at least four people are reading these pages because we got three replies to the last one and a bloke called Moe wrote to us to tell us he reads them (hi Moe!). If you have case studies that pass this test please send them to me and I will be happy to promote them.
I hope the case studies we have finally chosen for the guide pass this test and that you find this checklist useful when you are sharing your lessons learnt.