What if I told you there is only one thing that separates a ‘successful’ construction project from an unsuccessful project? In conducting an audit of our last fifteen projects, spanning five years, we determined that collaboration among the project team members was the most important factor in driving a favorable outcome.
When asked, most members of a project team will likely suggest that they are collaborative with the other members of their team. However, our research indicated that in many project teams, the collaboration is largely focused around points of transition or hand-offs, rather than throughout the entire project lifecycle. In addition, we discovered that project teams often assume that everyone knows what it means to be collaborative in achieving a successful project.
Defining Meaningful Collaboration
Collaboration is one of the most frequently used terms amongst project team members, yet it’s also the most misused and misunderstood.
In our experience building multiple large-scale, mixed-use projects, which often take more than two years to complete, we have learned that establishing a foundation based on collaboration throughout the project team is critical to the overall project success. Too often, early mis-steps in coordination and communication can result in major challenges later in the project lifecycle.
To break this pattern, perhaps the most important step in fostering a collaborative team dynamic is to clearly define what “successful collaboration” would look like for your project. Any definition should include more than simply stating that the project should be on-time and on-budget (fairly obvious).
Your definition should also help guide the way that the project team shares information, how frequently they communicate with one another and which critical path items may require input from multiple members of the project team.
Once a set of clearly defined criteria for successful collaboration have been identified, ALL members of the project team can then work together to establish guidelines and “milestones” for achieving these goals.
3 Ways to Build a Collaborative Project Team
As the developer of a project, there are many decisions to make, and selecting a collaborative project team can feel like one more hurdle in the process. Shouldn’t all professionals just work together to achieve a common goal? If only it were that simple.
We have identified three steps you can take to ensure that members of your project team go beyond saying they are collaborative, but that it is truly part of their company DNA.
- Core Values: We recommend that you take some time to review the core values (stated or otherwise) for the companies you are considering bringing together as part of your project team. Even if collaboration is not specifically called out as a core value, much of the messaging and sentiment of the core values can provide insight into how they do business and treat the members of their own teams
- Process & Procedures: You should ask whether they would share with you any of their process and procedures for producing their specific deliverable/service for your project. Often these workflow outlines will provide guidance regarding where and when they may seek input from other team members and how that information will be treated.
- References: You may already be checking with client references; however, you should also ask for previous project team references to gain a better understanding of how other team members describe their culture and actions related to collaboration. Any prospective team member that seems reluctant to share a few project team references might be raising a red flag for you and your team.
We are often engaged to be part of large project teams working on projects that can take two years or more to complete, with significant budgets and multiple steps along the way. Fostering a culture that promotes collaboration takes dedication and focus not just within our company, but with our project team partners as well.
Again, if you ask any firm whether they are collaborative, they will likely respond that they are. However, we suggest that you take the time to dig deeper and ask some direct questions. A little due diligence upfront, could save a lot of time and frustration down the road.
If you would like to learn more about our approach to defining a successful and collaborative team effort, please let us know.