Monday, September 30, 2013

What a pathetic little story this one turned out to be…

A real,’ first world white girl drama’, one might say – though involving a family of 4.
New Zealanders, decent citizens stranded on the 32nd floor of an apartment building in Hong Kong. Barricaded behind dozens of unopened boxes of mostly valueless household items, locked in a 2 year rent contract, 2 teenagers in private schools, yet no job, no income.
Really sad, pass me the tissue box.
Still, no news in this for the rest of the world apart from the 4 pathetic creatures scratching their heads and thinking if there possibly could be a dignified way out.

For the mother (me) there are plenty of jobs to rescue around the Globe (she has got some secret powers, you see) – and desperate AEC clients wanting to be served, but she can’t move as she’s been scammed.
She’s been trying to get the media’s attention to this little scam, for numerous reasons, yes, to name and shame those at the centre of it but also to give her and the family some closure to move on.
Oh, yes, and to warn others not to become victims of this scam.
No media is interested in the story, no local journos (Hong Kong) no New Zealanders (where they are from) or from any other country, from where future victims might come from are interested in mentioning or God’forbid investigate the story.

It would be of interest if the perpetrators were, say pretend Nigerian Kings, or Russian mafia or some other lowlife trying to get the better out of a somewhat naïve, very trusting, white (middle class) New Zealand family.
The problem is, that the scammers here are well respected – internationally active, multi-national companies.
Starting from Gammon Construction and backed by its two parent companies Jardines and Balfour Beatty.

Sorry, too hot. Will not touch.  Tough luck.
The Embassy will provide a list of lawyers, Gammon would ship us out but provide no compensation or admit any wrong doing, Balfour Beatty will wash its hands that there is anything unethical happening here and Jardines?
Well, Jardines will have a great time making fun out of the victims (see attached);                 

I’m no victim by nature, so will resist becoming one this time too, but I am so convinced of the wrong doing of Gammon here and the media actively protecting them and their parent companies, that I will make the unsavoury move to get into a Hunger Strike from tomorrow morning (8am HK time);
The following Press Release explains it all:

And yes, it is all a bit pathetic to my liking, but spare a thought for the fact that these companies do operate in 80+ countries, extremely likely that yours is one of them.
So, if this little press release does not appear in your local papers, they are covering up for them, there too.
So, if you like to do your little bit for some decency in the Global AEC maybe share this link;
If you don’t well, probably will not make any difference to anything, anyway.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

How do you say in Chinese: Losing one’s face to save someone else’s butt?

Over the last couple of weeks I asked a question from the representatives of Balfour Beatty and Jardines that had the gist of:
If a CEO of one of their companies fails to act according to all points of the published values of his company, does that automatically make the company’s integrity tarnished?

The representatives of both of these companies supposedly in full knowledge of the events (that I claim make Gammon look bad), parents in equal shares of Gammon have expressed to me their continuous and solid support of Gammon and as such confirmed the company’s integrity as ‘intact’.

I found this cause of action by the parent companies unsatisfactory and had set out to test my theory that ‘the action of one must impact on many others’ with the various associates of Gammon, starting with a half a dozen of their claimed long-term clients.

I will be approaching these company’s representatives through ways available to me (email, professional and social media) since so far no official media had been prepared to engage in direct conversation on this and related topics.

I will be visiting the completed buildings and building sites that these companies have in common with Gammon and will look into the history and the nature of their relationship.

What a waste of time and energy, one might think! What good can come out of this exercise?
As I often do, I’ll start with a personal story that will hopefully show clearly how the actions of the CEO and his underlings (previously mentioned) potentially tarnished the integrity of many other ‘innocent’ people.

To be blunt, because one person chose to save someone else’s butt, many others can potentially lose their face for no fault of their own.

I still admit to be very new to Hong Kong and the Chinese culture all together.
But I believe that fundamentally every society has a basic rule, where one’s ‘word’ has a certain weight and its trust worthiness is closely linked with ones standing amongst others.
Closely associating with those that violate this rule tends to be universally recognised and dealt with by internal cleansing processes (i.e. exclusion from the society);

So, the simple question to all those that associate with Gammon is:
If what Gammon is doing is ‘wrong’ can an associate of Gammon claim to be ‘squeaky clean’ still?

Because this little project is going to likely be of a protracted and tedious nature and attract only a very limited and highly localised audience, I have created another blog where the happenings will be reported on:

In case the story grows with time and the question of overall ‘ethical consumerism of the AEC industry’ gets explored in relation to other subjects relevant to this (debunkthebim) blog, I’ll revert back to here.
In the meantime, I’ll free up this, well-read channel for more technical (BIM-ish) topics, next one will be an overview of the current BIM activities in HK, as I see them, of course;
Here is the story in an illustrated format:

Sunday, September 22, 2013

We hired her – she was no good – we fired her…

What is the big fuss about?

Just look at her behaviour over the last month, running around hysterically telling everyone how badly she’s been treated, hurling accusations of all flavours at everyone she’s ever come across – firing shots below the knees to many that were nothing but fair in their dealings with her.
Don’t these last couple of weeks of her ever-increasing whinging and whining prove beyond reasonable doubt the exact  point of her absolute inability to fit within Gammon and justify the somewhat unpleasant but necessary decision made by a couple of wise men to get rid of her quickly and painlessly?

Painlessly maybe for the company, not for me.
At the ripe age of 48, I’m a big girl, in more ways than one. I know how the world operates, the machinations that go on at the top of the AEC far too intimately too, and very sadly, I might add.
I do not believe in fairy tales, miracles nor am I particularly religious.
I grew up in Yugoslavia where corruption was the way of life. I worked and lived in 5 different countries, experienced just about all systems of country governments that there exist.
I ran small and medium size businesses and had a number of adventures of paralegal and legal nature going up to the High Court of New Zealand.
I’m not naïve or a spring chicken by any means or measure.

Yet – I did not see it coming.
I knew it was going to be hard work from day one.
I knew it six months before day one, when I was first interviewed for the job at Gammon and listened to the incomprehensible technical babble of the director I was supposed to be reporting to.
I smelled the rat, I pulled back my application for the job and was adamant not to walk into a trap.
I questioned the HR agent (a long term partner of Gammon) about the details of the job, the org chart, the company’s reasons for establishing the role, the intentions they had with it.
I played the ‘hard to get’ for months and did not agree until all parties made the right noises.
They wanted ME personally and wanted me urgently.

Had I read the employment contract properly? I had.
Had I noticed the ‘terminate with 1 month notice with no particular reason within the first 6 months’ part of it? (not exact quote, I can’t get myself to dig up the contract but many, many people have since paraphrased this part – so it is pretty close to what it meant) – I think I did – but if anything, it was a positive sign for me;
No competent company of any size would go into a lot of cost and trouble to get and then fire someone within first 6 months?
Unless their intentions were unethical from day one. Who knows?

If anyone drew my attention to that paragraph before I signed the contract my thinking would have been in the line of: This is a serious company, with an HR department that on its own is bigger than most average companies operating in NZ, if the HR director personally recommends someone to the board, following due processes of reference checking and compulsory OPQ tests, the company would make sure to get the right person and would not need to rely on the ‘fire within 6 months, let alone 3 (what happened here)’ part of the contract at all;

So, yep – call me naïve – I saw nothing to be concerned in the contract I signed.
Consequently, yes, I should have just accepted my termination based firmly on the same contract and got on with my life.

After all, I did behave badly in the few weeks I was employed at Gammon;
I took my job title literally and seriously (Head of Innovation) and doggedly persisted on doing just that, in spite of many warnings; rattling the SQ of the ‘Gammon way’ is no good for one’s survival chances.
I disregarded the deeply set in hierarchy of the company and went above my direct superior with what I thought were legitimate concerns over activities that put the company in the line of direct risk of losing money and clients (I still think these concerns were very valid – and did it only after the direct superior dismissed all my concerns and on numerous occasions);
I stood up and lectured project directors with 30+ years of experience and made them feel uncomfortable and out of their depth. I thought I was helping their projects run successfully by giving them the technical advice they needed.
I exposed phoney projects and bogus developments. I supported and praised staff that were themselves disliked by their superiors and on a borrowed time, anyway.
I went out to construction sites and talked to people that were supposedly within my team without asking for my own supervisors permission to do so.
I asked for autonomy in my role and believed it when I was told, I had it.
I called corruption where I saw it, again 100% prepared to back anything up with facts and figures.

The biggest mistake I made was, that I trusted the ‘so called whistle-blower policy’ of the company I was introduced to at my induction.
So earnest was the chap (Bryant Lee, if I recall the name correctly) in explaining the process of addressing any concerns regarding the operation of the company that I had taken it (again) at face value. After all, it was accompanied by a booklet called the ‘code of conduct’ with a compass on its front page (to show you the ‘right’ way) and written in very clear English.

I knew I was new to Hong Kong.
I knew HK was not the same as the Middle East, New Zealand, Australia or any parts of Europe that I understand well.
I still thought if I had my story clear, clean and backed up with facts, I was safe to raise concerns that were firstly, making my job impossible to perform and secondly seriously hurting the company.
I was wrong.

Not only did the ‘so called’ process decline an impartial investigation of my concerns, but it was abrupt; they wanted me quiet and gone without a moment of delay.

They had also convinced both of their parent companies that the story was simple and straight forward, just as the title said:

‘We hired her – she was no good – we fired her…’

There must be an invisible code of conduct across these 3 companies for them to accept each other’s’ words based on only one party’s claim. What did they not want heard? What had frightened them?
Why was my side of the story never investigated by anyone? Due to a fear of getting involved and more hands getting dirty?

Had the fact that ‘This Gammon HR Director’ responsible for hiring ‘this loose cannon’ become a discomfort?
Chasing her across to globe until she signed up, paying for relocation costs for her family of 4 on behalf of the company, as well as for professional assistance with finding schools for the teenage children (two) and providing a supporting letter (attached here) to a long term apartment leasing company ONE week before signing off a termination letter; were none of these facts dodgy even if one accounts for the highly ‘special’ HK business environment?

Jardines said it was all fine and dandy. Balfour Beatty confirmed it too.
My own HR lawyer said, it’s all contractually sound;
Some well-wishers that had gone through similar ordeals (with the same company) advised me, to forget it and move on.

Let’s strip away all emotions and everything else that are unnecessarily distracting in this story and consider only 5 claims:

1/ they hired me to a specific position following a prolonged search across the globe ‘determined to get’ the right person (the HR director was personally involved with the hiring, he should have got it right, especially after I turned down the job and said clearly, why – after all he clearly stated that there were other 3-4 clearly as capable candidates on offer);
2/ their CEO praised me, my performance and the skills I brought to the company publicly on two different occasions (4th July and 8th August) within just the 1st 10-11 weeks  at Gammon;
3/ their HR director provided a letter to a Real Estate company guaranteeing them my employment on the 12th of August; (4 days following the public praise of the CEO in front of 100-or-so Gammon managers)
4/ they fired me on the 19th of August. (12 weeks into my job)
5/ if I was so bad that this was necessary to be done in such haste (which may be true)
a/ should the HR director not be fired too, having so badly misjudged this applicant (me) and spending so much company money on getting her here?
b/ should the CEO’s understanding of what was going on in his own company had been questioned after publicly  gushing so positively about her, 11 days before he personally showed her the door?

Does anybody else see something fishy behind these unanswered questions?
What happened between the 12th and the 19th of August that made the company act so fast?
Did she steal? Lie? Act unprofessionally? Immorally?

How could I move on, knowing that this would be my assumption of someone else pushed aside so swiftly?

How could I ‘blankly accept’ the ‘official’ PR packaging of the case ‘of mismatched chemistry’ and not see instead what the title of this post says.
How could I accept that I’ve been ‘no good’ when I know, I have.
How could I accept that Gammon’s behaviour was also ‘rubber stamped’ by its parent companies?
How could I move on and look at the myriad of highly respected clients this company claims to have, knowing that they would all likely join Jardines and BB in seeing this as ‘a storm in a tea-cup’ where a disgruntled employee had fallen on her own sword? (i.e. – see the title again);
How could I move on and walk into another of their own shops, subsidiaries, consultancies (say Parsons Brinckerhoff) and still believe that the problem was with me, my lack of cultural understanding, reckless behaviour, idealistic thinking and not just something ‘plainly wrong’ with the way Gammon behaved;

I can’t move on yet.
I have to spread this net wider and ask, (personally if I have to) all the others that give Gammon the perception of a ‘good’ company if they really think that what happened to me was ‘right’;
No need to go into the nitty-gritty, just look at the 5 points described above.
No need either to get all high-and-mighty and ethical about what ‘right’ means in this context.
Even if you disregard the ‘pathetic little whinging’ me, can a company be called ‘good’ (in a business sense) when its HR department is so frivolous and reckless?

As much as BB and Jardines like to wash their hands from this case – they are Gammon’s parents after all.
As such, they are responsible for Gammon’s actions  - including when they lend them their own highly manicured ‘values’ to strengthen Gammon’s standing in the international community.

After all, would I have accepted the job offer in spite of the clearly voiced misgivings, had I not been made aware of the illustrious reputation of at least one of their parent companies in HK?
Or of the pedigree of their long standing clients and associates?
Maybe I would not have.

In which case they themselves (the parent companies and clients) could have been spared of this muddying of their names by this ‘misled ex-employee’ of Gammon.
So, I still say that, no matter how much they’ll try to ‘paint me as a lost soul’  there is guilt by association, something that goes back to the basic idea that words ‘integrity’ and ‘doing it right’ should mean the same, no matter what language they are uttered in.

When I look around HK’s streets I see a lot of ‘good’ and ‘integrity’.
I experience people doing the ‘right thing’ all the time.
This makes it even harder to move on.

What Gammon did to me was wrong.
No matter how loudly or silently they argue to the contrary.
No matter how much BB and Jardines are backing them, awarding them their full support for the way Gammon handled the case.

I can’t move on. I may yet in the future, I hope so;
There is one more thing I do want to get a firm confirmation on and that is to check out if Gammon’s clients, partners, subcontractors and other associates will also rubber stamp Gammon’s ‘rightness’ too.
(as it is likely to be the case but I will give them the benefit of the doubt for the moment)

That’s what I’ll do over the next week or so.
Call me whatever you like, I can’t move on until the perception of integrity or lack of it is more fairly distributed between Gammon and me.
In whatever language that is spoken locally.
As well, I’ll keep scheming about the parallel and stable AEC system we all deserve.


Friday, September 20, 2013

In search of balanced reporting regarding the Habtoor Leighton Group (HLG) vs Al Faisal Holding (AFH) dispute

For those that have been interested in and like to follow the adventures of the Leighton Group (and its subsidiaries) in the Middle East, the last 5 or so years have provided plenty of fascinating reading, if somewhat one sided, especially as published in the ‘western’ media.

It had been widely reported that the move to purchase part of the Al Habtoor Company was a bad decision for Leighton (ref 01) and that the newly formed company soon found itself struggling with collecting its due revenues often called  ‘legacy receivables’ (ref 02);
The picture of Leighton’s struggles in the ME was that of a respectable contractor performing well and not getting paid for it.
I wonder if any of the shareholders have pondered why had it kept pursuing new work (that it might not get paid for) within the region, when these ‘conditions’ were not great even  4-5 years ago for the most casual of observers.

Yet, not only did HLG continue to pour money into bidding for new (mega) projects including 2 parts of Qatar Rail’s Metro; (ref 03) but also continued to underperform on all the ones already in hand. Who said This? It was not quite what the media had been reporting;
Ooops, this has not been reported, but it is a close range personal observation.
(and of course it can be substantiated).

Maybe the Australian public prefers a news medium that tells what this public wants to hear;
Arabs are rich, Arabs are bad payers; rather than question, the public would change channels

Good Aussie contractors (separated for months at a time from their loved ones, working under harsh conditions) not being honoured in timely manner for their hard work.

I’m no professional media-watcher by any means but it is interesting to see what Google will bring up on the topic of “Habtoor Leighton Group (HLG) Al Faisal Holding (AFH)” (without the “ “) when searched from Hong Kong (and taking into account my history of interest in this company);
Almost every one of the links could be analysed at length and would bring up a great bias, unfortunately for the Qataris mostly in favour of HLG. (ref 04)

It would be interesting to see what other blog readers would come up with searching on the same topic from other regions of the world (if you prepared to share it, email to :
How many western outlets have faithfully relayed the Qatari press release – which was carefully crafted and very palatable to western minds. (ref 05)

If I was a Leighton shareholder I would look into this issue more seriously.
The Habtoor family is still is part of HLG and is the only current gateway to some on-going work and to the rebuild of some goodwill for Leighton. That is, a gateway to any type of positive outcome for anyone involved, (apart from a handful of people in the management of HLG) that will do fine, whatever happens.
Hiding behind the Habtoor family name and pitting them against their Arab brothers in Qatar would be an extreme folly in my book of logic.
Yet, this is what is happening right now. (see prev refs)

The AFH press release (ref 05) leaves the truth to come out via the legal system, something echoed by Al Habtoor  as he “told Arabian Business some of the cases would be heard in major international courts, including in London and New York, and more could be launched.
“It’s going to be big,” Al Habtoor said.” 
(ref 06)

A sad story, really it will end up in tears.
Yet this story has nothing to do with the fact that “The Australian” had failed to give any airing to the AFS press release from the 7th of August  (ref 05) – as far as their own search engine can show me (ref 07) following Damon Kitney’s article of the 5th of August (ref 01);

What about the ‘right of reply’?
What about the fact that Mr Kitney also refused to have anything to do with two of my humble requests for some media attention (God’ forbid investigative journalism?) (ref 08 – including their full disclaimer to cover for “The Australian” saying ‘no sorry’);

Both of the distinguished Arab gentlemen caught up in this mess are being manipulated. 
They have the means to buy the best PR in the world, but that is not going to save either of them.
What they need instead (or maybe as well) is independent, contractual and technical assistance.
MMA can provide this for them.

I’m off to write to Sheikh Faisal Bin Qassim Al Thani.

All references can be seen here:

Today is a public holiday in Hong Kong …

That's good news for some of my minders, they’ll have a day off.
The others, dotted around the world aren't that lucky, unless of course they are based in the ME – where Fridays are off, anyway.
Out of pure generosity, I’ll make their jobs easier today – in case they are on-call because their counterparts are working and are pressuring them to do so too – and volunteer progress on most of the current projects I’m running, including pointing out where I may not have properly dotted the ‘i' s, crossed the ‘t’-s or bent my own, pre-set rules and deadlines.

1/ The sale of the ‘small share’ portion of Murray Murray Associates (yet to be formally formed company) is now officially closed;
Unofficially, of course I’ll let all of those friends that had said to me ‘wait for my next pay-check’ ‘first of October’ ‘new job’ or ‘when I convince my wife that this is not an act of flushing money down the drain’ to still have a piece of my ‘yet-to be baked’ pie.  
Go for it, still 994 small-shares left, 100 US$/per piece.
There is one of the paid-up ones that I can’t identify the owner of – this may mean that the person will email me soon to clear up the mystery, or it is the first instalment of the previously described ‘integrity fee’ levied against 2 companies yet to be honoured.
They will be pleased to know that this first instalment had arrived safely – the rest, 999,900 US$ can be deposited into the same account.

2/ The silent auction on the 65B MTR experiment had been officially closed too;
It had been a hugely successful exercise as a ZERO (0) number of entries was submitted / received. 
Great to know that the across-the project confidence of this ambitious BIM endeavour is at such high-level that my generous offer was not tempting enough to any of the involved contractors.
This will mean a lot of juicy work for MMA for years to come, here in Hong Kong and anywhere else these companies will operate; or in the unfortunate event that MMA does not survive till then, for another equally competent Forensic BIM-ming enterprise to make a mint out of some blatant ignorance exercised by some at present.

3/ The feeling of success that the previously described task-sets have given me is being slightly dampened by the failure (so far) of the ‘pay up or take it down’ campaign of mine – I must confess;
But knowing that there is a large, international team working on it gives me confidence that we will get there soon;

From this point, my minders can check out from reading the post…as I’m going to indulge in writing about the nicest people I’ve met living at any-one time on any-one place in the current times and these are the people of Hong Kong.
A bit of an expression of regret for not taking the time to learn what this ‘mid-autumn holiday’ was about, not even tasting the moon cakes that are being sold everywhere.
I've been so caught up in our own little ‘survival game’ that I failed to show a basic courtesy to the city that has been good to us, so to make amends a bit, I’ll share a list of tiny/sometimes wonderfully contradictory observations on the people of Honk Kong:

There was the girl that served me at Starbucks a day or two ago, stone faced and cheerless, yet ran two blocks after me when I left my umbrella behind.
There was the young chap with his ears plugged in and eyes glued to an iPhone that pushed in front of me on the MTR escalator to then gently guide a complete stranger with a white-cane through the paying machine at the top.
The two little old ladies breathing down my neck as I tried to manoeuvre across the ding-ding’s turnstile to then squeeze up on the narrow bench, fully laden with shopping trollies and all, so I can sit down beside them.
The tiny old Chinese man that rearranged half of the other bench of the same tram, full of teenagers so my husband can sit down, as well.
The entire crew of the local food court needs mentioning too, that would find a free table for us at the busiest of times, especially the young chap that will take the used trays away even though they do not belong to his zone.

This will sound cheesy, and heck’ who cares – but I've lived in 5 very different countries all over the world for prolonged times and I've never seen so many truly and genuinely down to earth nice people as here, in Hong Kong.
Even the ones doing the hardest and by-some standards lowliest jobs will smile at you if you make eye contact with them, there is no such thing as a lift too full to let you squeeze in or a footpath too blocked-up to ground to a standstill. I once saw a woman carry a proper-thick, full size bed mattress folded in half onto a train and no one bet an eyelid around her.
Even when a distracted taxi driver ends up stuck in the middle of an intersection blocking half a dozen trams from moving; their simultaneous tooting has a cheerful and only slightly annoying tone to it.
The business owners that plaster the fronts of their premises ‘with no waiting’ signs at weekends when maids have their days off, yet quietly tolerate rows of make-shift cubicles of cardboard boxes erected and utilised for temporary picnics, book clubs, churches, hair salons and who-knows-what every Sunday.

The ‘live and let others live’ phrase seem to be the perfect description of the daily life of HK.

I had met one or two back stabbing, highly paid and dirty-scheming directors first hand too, very early after arriving here – but this is no time to ruin the festivities for the others, close to 7 million of them.
So, whatever you are celebrating today, enjoy it Hong Kong!

(views  in/out if our bedroom windows);


Wednesday, September 18, 2013

She keeps on ‘mourning’… and you've been a bit reckless…

Sorry if this title makes no sense – an inside joke – you’ve got to have been there to understand it but the punch line is worth publishing as it is funny in its own right:
… and the punishment for your recklessness is learning by heart entire debunkthebim  blog, all 483 posts and still coming… until,… well the joke stops there…

Actually, I was about to write a post on another type of reckless behaviour I came across today when I caught up on some of the forums I like to follow and sometime contribute to (or act like a ‘troll’ as some like to interpret my controversial but still true – to me views);

The topic in question was titled: How do you become a BIM Engineer?
(link at the bottom of this post) raised by a young and eager to become BIM-mer.

Many of the comments were actually very good – my favourite group of regulars dished out many reasonable and wise advices on how one should go about becoming a BIM Engineer, once the industry and the forum participants agree, that such position actually needs to exist.
Still, even with some caution and warning peppered through (mostly by Marek, bless his heart) almost everyone was bending backwards in encouraging any young talent interested in pursuing the field to do so.

So, here comes my bomb:

Don’t do it Thanisha Graves!
The inconvenient truth about BIM is, that unless it is done ‘my way’ and at a large enough scale or the industry suddenly cleans up its act, BIM is doomed to fail.
My way is the ‘forensic BIM’ way when one party gains potential advantage over another by employing tools and systems the other party does not (yet) have and in turn pushes the others to up their game too;
The cleaning up of the industry is what I call turning a widely set-in corruption, based around gambling like behaviour into a more rule-based playing field.
Anyone good at maths that also know how the current AEC operates will conclude quickly that the likelihood of either of these two happening any time soon is close to zero.
Yet, me stating these thoughts will outrage all the pro-BIM-mers out there that have put decades of work into honing their general (process based) and/or specific (product based) BIM related skills.
Some of them will be eager to get into a ‘put me right’ argument yet again, still I’d discourage anyone getting too enthusiastic about hurling abuse at me.

Have been there, seen it all, am scarred for life but as a result I’m also totally immune to the PC-BIM blurbs on the topics of ‘transitional times’ , Universities that ‘teach’ BIM, the engineers  of future that somehow will pop up through a very interesting Darwinian process that will be BIM literate and know what buildings are about etc etc…

Sorry guys, it is unfair to encourage anyone into a BIM field without explaining to them that they will likely sit at the bottom of the ‘food chain’ for ever and get exploited by the non-BIM-mers  or be limited to employment in very small businesses.
And even those small to medium sized BIM practicing companies that believe to be making progress with BIM and in control of their futures will soon enough find themselves fighting for the scraps of works left by the non-discriminatively profit hungry multinational consultancies and contractors.

Unless of course I get it my way… and if you know your history you may actually believe that I can…
In that case, I’ll welcome all the talent into the AEC arena not just the young but also the old (and the middle aged). Not just the BIM literate but also the others that may not be but have plenty of other experience and skills to contribute to a better AEC industry.


Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Dear Mr Khalaf Al Habtoor!

To those loyal readers of mine that hope I’ll soon return to my usual subjects of technical BIMish tricks and tips or at least slightly amusing snippets of BIM-related arrogance I battle in my daily work any time soon – here is a brief message: please carry on being patient for a bit longer.
This lonely battle of mine will probably get worse before it gets better, but sometimes you just got to do what you know you need to do.
The blog has become tedious; feels like a prolonged moan and a series of blogposts can appear to merge into a great long and boring monolog.
But, I need to use my time wisely and there still are many-many issues that need to be aired – or at least hinted at, before I run out of this precious commodity.

(spare a thought to those that need to follow/and or analyse my blog as part of their job – you – my loyal, not forced-readers can at least opt out, they do not have that luxury);

I’ve been writing ‘public’ letters to various individuals over this blog for the last couple of weeks – primarily due to them refusing to engage in any direct conversation with me.
Today’s letter is a bit different, as while it may look like another aggressive personal attack on someone, it is a genuine (and last of this type) offer of help.

From the ‘pack of big guns’ that have crossed my paths over the last couple of years, the Habtoor family is the one I feel the least bitter about.
So if you choose to carry on reading the letter, do that with that positive thought in your mind.

Dear Mr Khalaf Al Habtoor!

You and I have never met in person, not for lack of trying from my side.
I did get once awarded a little chunk of one of your sons’ valuable time – grateful as I was for the opportunity, my performance obviously was not enough for him to let some daylight in.

Had a meeting eventuated between us – at any time over the last 2 ½  years – we could have had quite a chat.
I understand, you take an interest in tennis and count some of the best Serbian players as your personal friends. I originate from that very country.
You recently purchased a hotel in Budapest – I know the building well, I studied in that city for 5 years for my degree in architecture, a quarter of a century ago.
Beyond these we could have chatted on something closer to both our hearts, the fate of the Habtoor Leighton Group.

I would have told you how I believed you got a ‘lemon’ for your part of the company – not because of your business skills; the price wasn’t the issue.  The problem was the unfortunate judgment that the Leighton bunch were as capable as the M&R team, with whom your people had completed numerous projects successfully enough.

A mistake anyone can make, after all, both companies speak the same language and the suits and smooth talks can sound similar. If anything, at the time the laid back style of the Aussies would have felt quite refreshing after the somewhat stiff South Africans.

Nor would I have dithered over this decision for too long; the damage was done> It was the projects that need and needed urgent attention.
One of them was already terribly late, having chewed through ‘god knows’ how many project directors. I would have explained to you the highly illogical facts of how and why did the job get so badly off the rails under the guardianship of one of your best directors. He worked magic while on the team with M&R, but got lost under the games played by the Leighton-chaps. The money and reputations at stake are in the hundreds of millions by now.

Then, there was another project, not quite as late at the time I first raised the red flag  – but bound to become late, being led by a couple of under-experience leaders easily manipulated by an indecisive client and their architect.

The ‘big sandpit in the desert was possibly the saddest story we would have tackled had we had a cup of tea together. An ideal client, many more projects to come from them too, decent consultants pitted against the bunch of gangsters running the HLG boat; unaware even of the basic scope they were to deliver, let alone how and by when.

If we had met more recently, within the last 12 months, we could have nattered about the little adventure that the bidding for the Qatar Metro projects had been, how and where some of the talents were sourced to somehow spend the seemingly unlimited budget for this project that was ‘all but in the bag’.

We really could have chatted for hours,  maybe trace the enviable rise of one of your talented employees from a humble package manager to a PD via a couple of doomed projects with handling fees probably reaching millions of Dirhams – a large chunk of it directly from your pocket. A lot of money lost to blatant arrogance, even for minor shareholders.
Maybe the fact that the major shareholder was publicly non-rattled kept your rose-tinted glasses in place.
Could you have eliminated something important there: For Leighton, Hochtief even the Spanish, this game is still mostly about money.
The ones to lose the most are you and Mr Sadiq and your families’ reputation.

But, unfortunately – we were not destined to meet.
Even now it might not be too late do it, but this time the invitation needs to come from your side,.

Best regards,

Zolna Murray

Picture from here:

Monday, September 16, 2013

On integrity and values and how Jardines are meddling with my consistent parenting…

We lived in the UAE for 3 years. In the land of fast cars, wide roads and cheap petrol we drove leased Mitsubishi Lancers. One of the first rentals was a 1300 model on its last legs, could hardly make the one and only rise on the road from work to home.
Yet, we did not mind it.
The Mitsubishi Dealership and Diamondlease the company we dealt with were owned by the Habtoor (family) Group. We supported them with our small little business and in turn they kept HLG, the company I worked for afloat.
A win-win situation.

Shortly after arriving to Gammon a couple of months ago, I had the official induction day, where the ownership structure of the company was duly explained. I did a bit of homework on it afterwards as well and discovered that one of the parent companies of Gammon, Jardines also owned (operated?) the Wellcome supermarket chain.
So, when my teenage daughters arrived on the 7th of August, by then fully enrolled into their new schools and looking forward to a couple of years of living in Hong Kong, I explained to them, that just as we supported ‘sister’ companies in UAE we will do this here too.
Could they please make sure that they purchase all their groceries at the Wellcome supermarkets. We support Jardines, Jardines supports Gammon, Gammon supports us. Everyone wins.

Now, my girls have been brought up to be a bit wary of large, multi-national corporations and markets where quasi competition masks large monopolies, after all, we lived in New Zealand for quite a while before leaving for the ME and Asia.
But they also have been taught of strong family values and the importance of big words like ‘trust’ and ‘integrity’.

So, these two teenagers cannot be faulted for assuming that two sister companies (Gammon and Wellcome) would share the same values. If Gammon says ‘trust us, we work with integrity when we hire/fire our staff and act accordingly’, then consequently when Wellcome says ‘fresh meat’ that claim should be taken as true too.
So, no problem for them – Wellcome is the shop of choice. Every dollar they spend there is a dollar that will help Gammon keep on being a successful and innovative company.

Now forward the time ahead 11 days. (edited and corrected from 18)
Their mother is fired and Wellcome is no longer welcome to be shopped in.
Every dollar (of the few remaining ones we have) they spend there is now indirectly helping those within Gammon that are working overtime to cover up for a mess they created and get us out from here.

As a parent with much longer experience than I have, you’d think that Jardines would be more successful in aligning their ‘children’s’ behaviour as to avoid one compromise the credibility of another.

I might not be alone with the view that if they can tolerate one child-company acting in contradiction to their advertised values then maybe the others will be too?
Like, will the meat really be fresh when it is claimed to be?

It is not easy to be a parent.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

The first 5 ‘shares’ of MMA have been sold! Hold on AEC! We might yet save you…

Well, that is the good news.
The register will be updated as soon as I have the code names for the proud new owners.

There is bad news too, unfortunately.
My dear acquaintances – but for some reason reluctant -to become my business partners, Mr Hamish Tyrwhitt and Mr Thomas Ho, both gentlemen esteemed leaders of AEC companies have as good as rejected another very reasonable offer of mine to tidy up some loose ends left by severing our relationships so all of us could get on with our jobs of building a better world.
The full and entirely one sided conversation is copied here:

Dear Mr Thomas and Mr Hamish!

Seeing your two names here side by side is a bit unnerving, I have to confess. Those readers of this letter that do not know the full story could be even forgiven for thinking that I somehow and purposefully orchestrated a simultaneous and vicious attack on two distinguished leaders of the industry.

As hard it is to believe it, for years I’ve been minding my own business, trying to make a living while being a good engineer and the two of you just happened to get in the way of that humble goal.
Get in the way and stay in the way.

Addressing the two of you separately and jointly, gives me a bit of a bittersweet ‘dear diary’ experience – a one way outpouring of emotions, since both of you have been remarkably restrained in responding to me directly.
This could be due to taking someone’s advice ‘not to negotiate with the terrorist’ or maybe you just are too busy with more important work.
Can there be anything more important than one’s ‘integrity’?

You can’t really accuse me of being inpatient. It has been about 2 years since I first contacted you Mr Hamish about the millions that were leaking from the company you were partially heading due to the mismanagement of a half a dozen UAE projects I personally knew well.
Maybe you wish now, Mr Hamish that you could turn the clock back and instead of the token meeting set up with the clueless financial guy that spoke softly to me, bought an orange juice and carried on his own merry way, you actually did investigate what I was alleging then and maybe even clean up a mess or two.
Mind you, in that case you could not show Mr Thomas that the gloomy futures I predicted 2 years ago for those projects are now the sad reality – and maybe stop him falling into the same trap as a decent JV partner would have.

The speculation that either of you is considering  to be in any danger from my past/present/future actions is of course just that, a speculation – you could be resting easy as according to the latest signs coming from those carefully observing my current behaviour-/state of mind – I’ve definitely reached a stage of panic, by appealing to the wider industry and hoping to raise funds to carry on fighting this fight that we all know has been decided long ago.

Let’s get real though! A thousand ‘shares’ set at a 100 US?
Who better than you two gentlemen to vouch for the fact that it is almost totally impossible to raise out of the blue from general AEC-associated public enough money to survive even one month here in Honk Kong, a vivacious yet pretty pricy city Mr Thomas and his mates had lured me into?

No, even in my wildest dreams had I truly expected this part of the strategy to extend my life in the ‘ring’ – I just wanted to give all of those people, many I know personally, currently silent spectators, sitting on the fence, a bit of action.
An opportunity to feel part of this story, a story that everyone knows will end up in tears.
As silly or naïve it sounds, I wanted them to have a bit of a ‘feel good moment’, God knows you and your peers give them plenty of sad hours in their everyday working lives.

Costly or not Hong Kong is where we live now.
We committed to it when we moved the two teenage daughters out of their schools, the husband out of his job and put our household items onto the containership in Abu Dhabi.
This commitment was further sealed when we signed a 14+ month long lease supported by a letter from the company saying I was gainfully employed there and implying that the landlord will have no difficulty collecting the rent for it.
Gammon is after all a big name in this town, I doubt if he saw any warning sign in the fact that the letter only said that I had started working there 2 and a bit months ago. Everyone knows that many people have been working in Gammon for 20 + years, quite a few over 30. They would not bring someone over from the other side of the world and encourage into a 30K/month apartment just to fire the person a couple of days later? Or would they?

Few people that walk the streets of Hong Kong daily can miss the banners of excellence, safety and integrity plastered around every other construction site that Gammon is active on.
Why would this landlord miss it or guess that the ‘integrity’ slogan is just that and has a very limited real application when it comes to this company?

Dear Mr Thomas and Mr Hamish, I’m sure you both are well aware how unhappy I have been by your careless use of this word. I’m also certain you know that I offered you a token fee to pay to be temporarily forgiven for this indiscretion.
I’m sad to say, that in spite of my bank account being very publicly available, the funds have so far failed to reach me.
Yet another million lost irretrievably in the bellies of the monster twins?

As a great team building exercise and as the heads of these two companies you two must personally follow up this case and ensure payment is made, let’s say within the next 48 hours, counting from the time when I post this letter to you two.

Let me offer you a little incentive this time!
You stick to your part of the deal (as per above) and I’ll commit to the following:
1/ For the next 12 months, I will not pursue (initiate) to work for the clients of HLG on the ADIB, ADCO Qusahwira and Al Bustan projects, nor will I make any public comments about these 3 projects;
2/ I will not publicly discuss the circumstances of my hiring and firing to the role of the ‘Head of Innovation’ by Gammon. I will not pressure the Balfour Beatty Ethics Committee to investigate this matter; (unless they choose to do so, where I can’t stop them);
3/ I will not taunt you two gentlemen for the next 12 months in my blog or other publications.

The above offer is by no means a blank ‘gag order’ imposed on or accepted by me.
I’m offering you 12 months to clean up your companies related to some of the hottest and possibly most damaging subjects.
On the others, the game stays live.


Zolna Murray
2013 09 12

Saturday, September 14, 2013

24 BIM jobs on offer today….

….and none good enough for you! – my 15 year old scrolls through the email messages on my phone. She loses interest in the masses of school originated notices following the job-ads and leaves, not risking hanging around long enough for me to explain, that the type of BIM jobs I’m after rarely exist let alone get advertised.
Companies that look for ‘BIMDraughtsman’ aren’t just carelessly using an oxymoron – but are centuries from understanding the career paths they should be providing for BIM-attuned professionals.

In the absence of any such career-road-maps a bright BIM-mer nowadays universally/globally can start of as a ‘REVITcumCADOperator’ then maybe become a BIM modeller, grow into a coordinator and reach the height of his/her career as a BIM Manager (or a ‘Snr ‘one if s/he gets really good at it and learns to bite his/her tongue at critical times); Voting for the company’s official BIM software also helps;

Serious, strategic BIM-based management roles weren't on offer when I first set Predefine up some 5 years ago in New Zealand, so I made my own.
When we lost everything on that little adventure and accepted the failure I still hoped that the problem of under-appreciation of well-rounded BIMmers was just a NZ problem and went on a global job search.

Early after moving to the Middle East in 2010 I found some good people, their thinking appeared to be in synch with mine…and one thing led to another to culminate with me joining  HLG 2.5 years ago as their BIM Manager.
Unfortunately, in spite the promising start that role never had the chance to develop into something meaningful  partially due to the untimely side-lining of my then manager that actually saw the value of what I was doing.

And just to prove that some people stay forever dreamers, earlier this year I got  tricked into believing that there was still at least one company working within this industry that was mature enough to create the dream role; After all, they named the role ‘Head of Innovation’.

So, I applied for the job and duly got interviewed for it.
The bubble burst almost immediately for me – these guys had no idea what they were talking about;
So, I queried  the reputable HR agent handling the case about the position of the role, and when he confirmed the org chart I asked him to pull my application back (direct quote here, spelling mistakes included):

Hi Pete,

The position of the role within the company’s org chart is critical for me.
Please pull-back my application for this job. The two gentlemen I talked to, do not need/want (deserve) a person of my caliber.
You may be able to offer someone much more suitable for them still, as they were going to make their decision in 2 weeks’ time;
I wish you success.
For some tips for recruiting in the senior/strategic field of BIM– check my blog today;



How and why did I still end up accepting their job-offer and moved to Hong Kong at a high personal cost just to be fired within 84 days is a question any reasonable person should ask;

If you are cheering for Gammon in this game or HLG whom I left just as bitter you may say that was because I was desperate for the job.

Well, let me remind you of the calibre of people hiring for BIM jobs and their ability to assess the candidates for the roles they do not understand themselves? And the plenitude of BIM-mandated projects on the market; QRail rings a bell?
At the time, I could have walked into at least 5 different highly paid ‘pretend’ BIM jobs.

I did not want to do another pretend BIM job ever again, so when Gammon showed their real colours and kicked me out, I had no choice but to create ‘the real-BIM’ job for me.
So, MMA was born.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

For one of the many HK contractors that have been caught up in the 65Bim MTR BIM experiment* here is a chance to redeem themselves!

As MMA**’s first project in Hong Kong we offer ourselves as the lab-rats for the winning contractor of a silent auction.

The offer:
MMA’s team will pick up the contract design-documents prepared by the consultants for the SCL contract of the winner, process them and 3 months following handover of these documents to MMA deliver the following outputs:
1/ a digital model of the relevant design – formatted in a way that MTR will be bound to accept it as compliant with the BIM components of contract.
2/ a confidential report for the contractor containing MMA’s assessment of the completeness and quality of the consultants’ documents highlighting areas of high risk and providing advice on mitigating those;
3/ a report to accompany the digital model formatted to hand over to MTR on behalf of the contractor that will largely indemnify the contractor from having future claims rejected due to non-compliance with the BIM requirements of the contract (contractor will need to get MTR’s written permission that the ‘3 month’ deadline for the baseline model delivery will be officially timed from the commencement of MMA’s activities on the project as opposed to the original date of their contract award.)

The auction:
All principal contractors (JVs) currently employed on the SCL 11xx series MTR line are eligible to bid.
The minimal bid is 500,000 HK$;
The bid should be emailed as a scanned PDF offer signed by the project director(s) to:
The auction will end at midnight HK time on the 19th of September 2013 and the winner announced on the 20th September 2013 via the debunkthebim blog.
Winner can stay anonymous to the wider public and run under an alias (we obviously need to know who we are working with).
Meetings to discuss this service-offer prior to bidding are encouraged and can be arranged for any time up to 11PM on the 19th of September via email or phone (852 6597 8683);
MMA’s 3 month long work will start on the 1st of October 2013 (subject to the documents delivered by the winner contractor) and the deliverables handed over on the 1st of January 2014.
The winning fee will needed to be paid in 4 equal instalments at the first days of October, November, December 2013 and January 2014 through direct credit into our bank account.
Progress reports will be provided to the contractor by MMA on the last days of October and November 2013.

MMA offers this opportunity to any/all contractors unsure about the risks they had taken on when they entered these BIM-weighted contracts to manage those risks wisely and get themselves back onto their ‘front foot’ with the MTR.

In the quite likely case of no bidders, the auction will be concluded with the statement that ‘all is well on the MTR’s BIM experiment’ and the possibility of a knowledge sharing initiative will be rekindled involving representatives of the UK Government’s BIM taskforce.
Contractors involved on the massive ‘also-BIM-mandated’ Qatar Rail project will be invited to join in those future forums.

Monday, September 9, 2013

‘Don’t worry mate! Everything has been done by the book! She will run out of steam, soon enough!’

A message similar to the one in the title could be bouncing around the globe, courtesy of a number of highly paid damage-controllers, hired by the companies that keep putting themselves in my sights, over the last couple of weeks to get me to turn the blind eye.

See, these companies may be very good in consistently completing their AEC projects after time and over promised budgets. As well, they are pretty good at keeping the media under control.
Ok, little bits of ‘cautious messages’ of ‘challenging times’ may get through from time to time to soften up the shareholders for yet another big write down – but these are so carefully choreographed that one has to be eagle-eyed to see anything worrying within them.

So, I have not been surprised that my press release from a couple of days ago (check link at the bottom) got ZERO airing by the official media, not just where these guys operate (which is pretty much everywhere) but even sites that like to publish ‘odd stuff’ appear to see  nothing odd with this little hot potato.

Take for example the New Zealand media. I’m being a bit biased here, I still check it daily.
New Zealanders are proud of their independent and free spirit (remember David Lange and his Nuclear-free legacy?) not to mention how fast and snazzy they are on the water (America’s cup?) – and according to Leighton contractor’s own website New Zealand has the aussie contractor involved on more than half a dozen publicly important projects.

You’d think that in the spirit of the Women's suffrage in New Zealand from the late 19th century, when New Zealand was the first to give women the vote in modern times – they would give another New Zealand woman a chance to voice her concerns about the activities of companies building on their soil, maybe using their public money?

But no, not even on the ‘odd stuff’ page of the ‘stuff news site’ could I get my press release published.
Maybe someone like Murdoch who has just delivered his native Australia a new Prime Minister, owns all the NZ papers and likes to shield the odd builder from scrutiny.

So, for now it looks like I’ve got to stick with this humble little blog as my gateway to the world.
I would not be surprised if the damage controllers have tried shutting it down too – buying Google may be easier still, than dealing with the issues I’m raising in-an-upfront and honest manner?

Time will tell – let’s just hope Google refrains from shutting me down till the job I need to do is done.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Are you associated with the global AEC industry in any way? Don’t want to bite the hand that feeds you but want to take part in the action that will make the AEC of the future a better place to be? Now is your chance!

Here is the offer, promised a couple of days ago.
A piece of ‘our pie’ to anyone wanting to make a difference to the way the global AEC industry operates, without taking a major personal risk themselves.

The pie is the recently formed Murray Murray Associates.
We are offering up 10% of this business for purchase. The 10% is broken down into 1000 shares at the cost of $ 100 USD per share.
This first share float will be self-regulated and straightforward.
For one share of MMA,
1.       pay the price of $ 100 USD  (or multiples of it) into MMA account.
2.       Next, provide a reference / alias, by which the shareholder will be listed on the share register.
3.       Third and final, email MMA  with a notification of the deposit, with personal information as necessary (which will NOT be shared).
When the money is showing in the MMA account (details below)
·         A PDF certificate will be forwarded showing
a.       Shareholder reference/alias,
b.      share number,
c.       a unique code known only by the shareholder and MMA.

Daily, we will update the register showing the current status of the shares and will post that on the blog;
The shares will be on sale between the 9th and the 19th of September 2013 and the offer will be closed beyond that date. (or “while stocks last” as confident promoters like to say);

The long story behind this alternative IPO is available on the blog.

The short story of it is this:
I (Zolna Murray) believe that the global AEC industry has become inefficient, almost beyond repair;
I base this on my experience gained within the industry, spanning over 25 years and spread across the globe.
As well, I like most of the people operating with me, within the industry. These are good, decent people and the AEC beast has been notoriously difficult to grasp.
The flow on effect of this industry being so rotten, is that it has become a ‘no-go’ zone for a bright and talented young generation of would be AEC professionals.

I do not intend to start a revolution, rather we have set up a business that will show this industry that a service that gives ‘the right knowledge and transparency’ for those that want to get it, can turn the clock back and return the confidence for the public to expect to deal with an honest industry.

The by-product of this new company will be a globally available refuge to young and bright people wanting to contribute, fuelling in turn true innovation and progress.

Needless to say, we (my husband and business partner Graham) and I have set off onto this path with the view to succeed, to the extent that we have put everything material and immaterial we ‘own’ onto this ‘number’.
The masses that are currently employed by or are consumers of this dodgy industry and have some sympathy with our direction, may regard this as too drastic.

I personally know of hundreds of people that quietly wish this change to happen but live by the mantra of ‘Don’t bite the hand that feeds you’.
So, we offer those people out there a very low risk option to contribute to our efforts and make a difference.

Who wants to be the smartest player in the dumbest industry on earth?
Let’s lift the game!

Bank name:      HSBC
Beneficiary:       Zolna Murray
Bank Account:   845-052356-833
Swift code:        HSBCHKHHHKH
Bank address:   1 Queen’s Road, Central, Hong Kong
(otherwise, use Western Union and email me the relevant codes)

We will be also grateful for anyone that wishes to translate this message into other another language and spread it to other parts of the world.
This problem is by no means limited to English speaking countries and the solution to it will not be either!

Due to  the inevitable appearance of ‘the troll’ – I feel obliged to add this footnote to the main message:

…Thank you again for taking the time to forward us your questions. They would be very appropriate to raise of course, had our appeal not been in fact a basic request of support to likeminded people to help us achieve a goal previously well detailed within the blog.

As far as I know this type of activity is not illegal and is often referred to as the ‘FFF-funding stage’ within start-ups.

In this context the word ‘share’ meant a share in the currently very much uncertain future of MMA, indeed its founders. Those that have followed its fortune since its inception would know that the odds were stacked pretty much against the ‘company’.
So, while we of course appreciate all support, we do advise anyone and everyone to do their own due  diligence before they invest/donate any of their own money to anything in fact.

Update (2013 09 13):
On the 5th day of the quasi-float the number of shares sold out of the 1000 that we made available is ZERO.
Many promises though – so don’t get too hopeful yet (you know who I’m talking to) that the initiative will fail spectacularly.

Update (2013 09 14):
check out this video:
made by my daughter Barbara (aged 22) and her partner Shaun;

Update (2013 09 19):