Frequently Asked Questions
We actually put this question on the table at the initial workshop and ask the full project team how could they, as a team going forward, deal with this very likely scenario. Guess what? They’re very pragmatic and invariably agree on two actions. #1. They will ask the individual ‘why they are not following through on their commitments?’” This conversation in most cases will reveal that the lack of perceived commitment was due to a misunderstanding or poor communication. #2. If, after several attempts at helping their partner, there is no change, the team agrees that the individual should leave the project. Call it ‘soft accountability’. But it works.
Over 15 years ago, Dan Gilbert, the Regional Manager in Southern California for Kaiser Permanente Facilities told me, “New ostensibly more collaborative project delivery methods and processes can actually hinder project teamwork. The problem begins when project stakeholders believe that because we’re using them, we should not have issues over teamwork and alignment. So they are reluctant to start a job by asking one another key, seemingly simplistic questions. These can include: ‘what is our goal?’, ‘can we develop a communication protocol for this job?’, ‘do we really need a conflict resolution process?’, “how do we want DB to work on this project with this team?”.This can doom a project team”.
Yes, absolutely. On the Salinas Valley Memorial Hospital design-build project, the job was delayed by owner changes and unknowns. This created some angst between the DB team led by Hensel Phelps and the owner. We brought the Hospital’s Medical Director into one of the partnering workshops and asked him “what is really, really important to you, your staff and patients?”. He answered promptly, “Getting the 5 operating rooms renovated with supportive HVAC as soon as possible”. Seth Boles, Senior PM for HPPC said, “we can do that in 6 months or less with the understanding that the rest of the job will still be delayed”. The medical director said “Great, do it”. In the workshop they put together a joint team, with its own goals to accomplish this. These compelling goals pulled them together as a “World Class” team. The team subsequently achieved this goal and the project subsequently won several national DBIA awards for project excellence.
Trust but verify (it’s actually an old Russian proverb with all respect to President Reagan). Yes, we advocate verbal conversations whenever the subject involves a judgement, opinion or determination. But we also advocate a ‘confirming memo or RFI’ after these conversations. And, we ask project teams, “how many times after a partner does not follow through on his or her commitments to you will continue to trust them?” It’s game over.
About 50% of our interventions are on jobs that were or are being formally partnered. And for whatever reason it is not producing results. As mentioned, our reset approach with highly focused derivative teams and very short term milestones and reviews offers a totally different experience that guarantees immediate results.
We work with them and in most cases become viewed by them as a resource partner that augments their existing tools and processes. Our belief is that a project team with a mutually committed to offensive game plan is each stakeholder’s ‘best value risk management tool’. We, however, always need to be accountable to senior management.
Quite simply, because a formal, facilitated partnering session is a ‘safe’ venue for open, direct communication among project team members.
Similar to arbitration and mediation, the agreements, conversations and proceedings from a formal partnering workshop are not subject to legal recourse. More specifically partnership goals and commitments are not contractually binding.
This happens perhaps 85% of the time. The best way we have found to address this is to talk with your fellow stakeholders and seek to understand their concerns. We might then set up our “2 hour Preview Session” to enable them to actually experience our process in a short period of time.
If, after 3 project level workshops within the first 9 weeks of our engagement, the team does not rate themselves “World Class” (8+ on our ‘Good to World Class’ grid) we will facilitate a 4th workshop for no charge other than out of pocket travel. We also celebrate by hosting a lunch for the team at the workshop after they realize “World Class”.
We have conducted reset workshops on JV relationships, design-build team relationships, projects with multiple owners and on what we term ‘issue specific’ sessions. The latter can include: expediting consideration of a large value engineering idea; project close out; expediting permitting with permitting agencies present; program partnering and so forth.
We have worked on all of the above. Most of us know that a private, negotiated job or an alternative ‘collaborative’ project delivery method using BIM or Lean is no guarantee of project teamwork or success.
Jim, the problem with alternative project delivery methods whose intent is to produce collaboration is twofold. Number one is the assumption that because we’re using this PDM and we’ve preselected the construction and design team we shouldn’t have conflicts. So they do not bother to ask hard and seemingly meaningless questions like what are our goals; how will we communicate with one another and, how will we resolve conflicts? Secondly, and paradoxically, the more experience people have with an alternative PDM the more they are going to have different expectations of how it should be executed on a particular job. These two phenomena can doom a project team.
— Dan Gilbert, Executive in Charge of Construction, Kaiser
Permanente NFS, southern California
This process needs to be seen as one of senior management’s top 2 priorities on this project during the 6 weeks after the initial workshops. We will need a principal from each stakeholder in each workshop. Anything less than this will, in our experience, send a message to the participants that ‘and then this too shall pass…’.