Whitepaper: 11.20.2013

Does Teamwork Really Matter?

— Bob Betz, Executive Vice President, Operations

How High Performance Teaming can facilitate quality construction, on-time delivery and team camaraderie.
by Bob Betz, McCarthy Senior Vice President, and Dan Fauchier, CMF, Executive Vice President, The ReAlignment Group

When an owner embarks on a major capital project, a top priority should be to support collaborative teamwork and a “project first” mentality toward delivering an on-time, high-quality, high-performance facility that meets all project requirements. “High Performance Teaming” is an approach that can serve as the framework for successful teamwork and help meet this all-encompassing goal.

Benefits of High Performance Teaming
High Performance Teaming serves as a means to break down silos, create horizontal competence in teams, unify disparate groups within the various organizations, and focus on the project’s success first — before individual agendas or goals.

The decision to utilize High Performance Teaming should be made by an owner very early in the project, well before construction begins. This process is designed to allow the team to focus on the tasks at hand, forecast risks and opportunities, manage systems, encourage professionalism and collaboration, and resolve inevitable conflicts. All projects have their own set of challenges; through this approach, team members are better able to overcome potential obstacles and take proactive steps to meet the owner’s needs and to limit risks surrounding areas such as cost escalation, uncertainties related to functionality, unique construction/material requirements and inter-disciplinary trade coordination.

High Performance Teaming benefits all project stakeholders, from the owner’s management team, facilities personnel and end users, to the architect, contractor, consultants and subcontractors. By delegating authority, promoting leadership, developing appropriate feedback systems, and anticipating and invoking necessary team expansion or changes, the process drives all project participants to “project first” thinking, allowing them to ultimately focus on what is best for the project.

Aligning Team Thinking
Before embarking on High Performance Teaming for a given project, the attitudes of project participants are assessed to understand their current state and to implement steps help enable individuals achieve Level Three thinking, identified as follows:

  1. Level One Thinking: Personal thinking or “Level One” is about personal safety — both physical safety and career safety. It’s important one feels secure in a work environment in order to create the opportunity for a person to excel, contribute and take pride in the success of a project. The personal and professional needs of participants in any project have to be recognized and understood. Only in a productive, safe, Level One working environment can a person move up to and work at Level Two.
  2. Level Two Thinking: Level Two thinking focuses on team and business outcomes and organization successes. Attaining business goals contributes to the company’s health, growth and longevity. Level Two thinking is the fundamental bridge between the individual and his or her employer, securing loyalty to the organization and fostering protection of the organization’s interests. Contracts are written at Level Two. The danger of Level Two thinking is that it easily and frequently becomes “silo” thinking, preventing collaboration as each vertical organization works within its own protective silo, oblivious to the benefits of collaboration.
  3. Level Three Thinking: Once a person feels personally safe at Level One and safely part of a Level Two team, he or she can begin focusing on the best interests of a given project. Collaboration begins where organizational interests overlap at the project level. In order for people to operate at Level Three, they must feel safe and secure at Levels One and Two. It is only at Level Three that “project first” thinking lives and thrives. Likewise, only “project first” thinking allows for collaboration and trust in delivering the project. At Level Three, whenever a problem arises, the first question the team asks is, “What’s best for the project?”

Communication: The Critical Factor
The most important goal of High Performance Teaming is to ensure communication is clear, effective and efficient. Complex projects require close coordination with end users, together with a deep understanding of technologies, systems and unique facility usage requirements.

Typically, communication follows the Level Two “silo” pattern, whereby answers to important questions are routed through the company rather than being discussed at the appropriate level and then having a joint response sent to the next management level. The goal for High Performance Teaming is that this never becomes the case.

With High Performance Teaming, the project team establishes horizontal communication at executive, manager and field levels, cutting across the silos and reflecting both the job and the level of authority of professionals on the project. Rather than the typical vertical configuration of individual company teams, the project team is realigned and configured to reflect authority and responsibility to the project. An executive team is formed that generally includes the owner’s representative as well as executives of contractor, the architectural firm, various consultants and key subcontractors. Together, they make critical decisions regarding the project.

Project managers for each company, as well as experts from the owner’s facilities staff, form a separate team to focus on work at the project site, forecast risks and opportunities, decide what recommendations to make to the executive team regarding risks or challenges arising on the job, and engage in the management of the construction. Field teams deal with implementation on the project site, crew supervision, inspections and so forth — all with the objective of maximizing the “project first” effort of all the project teams.

Successful Teaming at UCSD
A prime example of successful High Performance Teaming occurred on the new 196,000-square-foot Health Sciences Biomedical Research Facility at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD). With UCSD as the owner, McCarthy as the builder, ZGF Architects, LLP, as the designer, and The ReAlignment Group as the facilitator, UCSD elected to implement a High Performance Teaming approach to achieve its goal of building the highest performing laboratory facility within the UC education system and possibly the entire country. Construction is scheduled for completion at the end of 2013.

The project team incorporated techniques and strategies from Integrated Project Delivery and design-build to implement principles promoting a collaborative delivery model. Lean Construction theory also informed the team’s processes so it was able to design new, more collaborative and reliable partnering models. Through High Performance Teaming, the team implemented the following five principles:

  1. Real Project Collaboration: “Projects are built by people.” Therefore, collaboration of all job participants working on all aspects of the project was crucial to the timely, cost-effective delivery. High Performance Teaming at UCSD led participants to regularly focus their collaborative discussions on intermediate priorities and forecast risks (to mitigate them) and opportunities (to enhance them).
  2. Increase the Relatedness of Project Participants: Traditional approaches to construction often develop adversarial relationships; however, the team changed that paradigm on the UCSD Health Sciences Biomedical Research Facility by developing project relationships founded on trust and sustained by reliable performance. When conflicts and disputes arose, they were resolved quickly in an atmosphere of trust and openness, with conscious processes allowing resolution at the lowest horizontal cross-organizational level.
  3. Projects are Networks of Commitments: The fundamental building blocks of design and construction are commitments. Productivity in every industry except construction has improved 100 percent since 1960. One of the most common reasons construction productivity has actually decreased in that period of time is the lack of reliable commitments. Construction industry studies reveal that only 56 percent of what people say they will do in any week is actually performed. The team’s focus at UCSD was to increase the performance of commitments in order to increase the productivity on the project while maintaining costs and the project schedule.
  4. Project-First Thinking: Rather than optimizing parts of the project, participants on this project optimized the whole project. Utilizing High Performance Teaming, the team found it drove project participants to think in terms of the best interests of the project rather than the legalistic “rights” of the parties. Cross-organizational, horizontal teams were taught to work in unity and to elevate issues upward to obtain authority to solve problems and keep the project first.
  5. Couple Learning with Action: What the team learned from the project every week was communicated to all participants so any mistakes were not repeated. Project success can be learned from a “best practices lesson learned” scenario. Team members found that High Performance Teaming fosters a robust feedback system enabling continuous reflection and action on lessons learned.

Through the use of High Performance Teaming, an owner can realize quantitative results on all aspects of their project — from performance enhancements and delivery of a high quality project to accommodation of a fast-track schedule, maintenance of a safe jobsite and fostering of camaraderie amongst all team members. The process drives all project participants to “project first” thinking, streamlining the team’s focus on what is ultimately best for your project.

About the Authors
Robert Betz is Senior Vice President for McCarthy, based in San Diego, Calif., overseeing the firm’s San Diego operations. With nearly 25 years of construction industry experience, Robert joined McCarthy in 1994, serving in various leadership roles for the firm’s Southern California Division. He has been involved in numerous complex and challenging projects all over Southern California including labs, education, healthcare, office buildings, parking structures and hospitality. He has also been instrumental in establishing McCarthy among the top green builders in the region and helped drive the division’s use of leading technology on jobsites. Robert holds a bachelor of science in civil engineering from California State University at Fullerton and an associate of arts degree in architectural engineering from Cerritos College.

He also holds certificates of Construction Technology, OSHA 500 Construction Safety, and OSHA 501 General Industry Safety from the University of California, San Diego. Robert can be reached at rbetz@mccarthy.com

Dan Fauchier, CMF, is Executive Vice President for the The ReAlignment Group where he facilitates, trains and coaches owners, designers and builders in lean principles, tools and techniques, including Last Planner® System (pull planning), Integrated Project Delivery (IPD), Root Cause Analysis, Value Stream Mapping and Alignment Partnering. With more than thirty years of experience as a construction project manager on over 100 projects, he has been a design team manager for dozens of Fortune 100 clients, a UCSD and SDSU instructor, and a California Contractors State License Board Mediator and Arbitrator. Since 1997, Dan has trained over 4,000 construction professionals nationwide in conducted nearly 300 one- and three-day construction management, scheduling and forensics seminars and workshops. Dan is a Certified Master Facilitator for Lean Design and Construction through the International Institute for Facilitation, a Construction Management Association of America (CMAA) San Diego Board member and founder of the CMAA University Dennis Dunne School of Leadership and Facilitation. He was one of only two recipients of the national 2010 CMAA Distinguished Service Award. Dan can be reached at dan@projectrealign.com

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