Superior Partnering
by Jeffery S. Busch, Principal

Partnering is a working relationship between all project participants which promote the achievement of mutually beneficial goals. In essence, partnering seeks to create a unified team, cooperative in attitudes, to achieve a “win-win” scenario for all. Superior Partnering goes beyond typical partnering efforts. It uniquely combines contract language, top management commitment, project and participant pre-assessments, customized workshops, skilled and experienced facilitators, and post-workshop follow-up to reach measurable partnering objectives.
The benefits include productivity savings, better cost control, reduced paperwork, timely resolution of issues, attainment of value engineering objectives, and the elimination of claims and litigation. Overall, superior partnering produces a smoother, more effective construction process and a higher quality finished product.
We have found that effective partnering generally follows specific steps, which vary depending upon the size of the project and the participants’ past experience with partnering. The key steps we follow include:

  1. Draft a partnering clause into the contract
    Although partnering is not a contractual agreement, we have found that a written clause inviting participants to partner increases involvement, and helps turn partnering into action on every project.
  2. Secure top management commitment
    A pre-workshop on strategic partnering is advised for top management and key project personnel, especially for ‘first-timers’ or parties who have not worked together in the past. Our experience shows that pre-workshops help dissolve boundaries and integrate organizations at fundamental levels, better preparing all participants for a successful partnering experience.
  3. Select the best partnering facilitator
    The key to achieving a superior partnering process is aligning yourself with a well qualified facilitation service. The facilitator plays a major role in controlling the flow of the agenda for the partnering workshop and in setting the stage for partnering meetings. The facilitator brings process skills, experience, and project management tools to the partnering process. Your facilitator must understand the basic elements of your project, critical dates and tasks, and the personalities and past history of the parties who will be working with each other. Considerable skills are needed in personnel relations, communication, and conflict resolution along with a strong background in design and construction.
    An important feature of effective partnering workshops is an in-depth evaluation of each workshop. We find out, each time, what works, what needs improvement, and where to make changes. Each new partnering workshop benefits from the combined improvements of previous workshops. In addition to an internal evaluation, we work closely with other partnering facilitators, sharing ideas, tips, strategies, working with the industry for the continuous improvement of the partnering process.
  4. Pre-assess the project and its participants
    The workshop cannot be an off-the-shelf standard presentation. It must be customized to meet the specific needs of the project and the participants. The workshop facilitator must thoroughly research and plan for a partnering workshop.
  5. Facilitate the partnering workshop
    During the workshop, we cover Project Goals & Action Plans, Risk Reduction, Problem Solving & Communication, Project Specific Issues, Partnering Tools, Processes, and other important topics.Anyone having a significant stake in the construction process should participate in the partnering workshop, including those at the executive level. Depending upon the size of the job, the number of participants, and other factors, the partnering workshop will average 1 to 1½ days in length.
  6. Perform follow-up
    It is vital that the momentum and commitment built during the workshop be maintained through project completion. Continuous follow-up with the project and its participants — through periodic jobsite visits, telephone conversations, and continual assessment and measurement of results — is a must.

Construction is one of the few industries where strangers conduct business on contracts worth millions of dollars. With this much at stake, successful partnering requires a multilevel, superior approach to working effectively with people and issues. Make sure you have the right help, then proceed with every confidence in meeting your partnering objectives.