Page 1

Issue 19 April - June 2017

partnering innovation Exploring new ways to maximize collaboration

INSIDE: page 6

page 16

Reinforcing A Partnering Culture

Best Practices: The Human Touch

Terminal 3 East Renovation at San Francisco International Airport

Building a better way to travel, with the help of collaborative partnering

World- Class Innovators. Landmark Buildings. Inspiring Per formance.

CONTENTS INTERNATIONAL PARTNERING INSTITUTE IPI is a non-profit 501(c)(3) charitable organization that is funded by our members and supporters who wish to change the culture of construction from combative to collaborative. Phone: (925) 447-9100

BOARD OF DIRECTORS Pierre Bigras, PG&E Roddy Boggus, Suffolk Construction Company, Inc. Pat Crosby, The Crosby Group Pete Davos, DeSilva Gates Construction Larry Eisenberg, Ovus Partners 360 Rachel Falsetti, Caltrans John Fisher, WSP Michael Ghilotti, Ghilotti Bros, Inc. Richard Grabinski, Flatiron West, Inc. Randy Iwasaki, Contra Costa Trans. Authority Jeanne Kuttel, CA Dept. of Water Resources Geoff Neumayr, San Francisco International Airport Jim Pappas, Hensel Phelps Construction Co. Ivar Satero, San Francisco International Airport Stuart Seiden, County of Fresno Thomas Taylor, Webcor Builders David Thorman, CA Div. of the State Architect, Ret. Len Vetrone, Skanska USA Building



Features April - June 2017 Partnering Innovation


Facilitator’s Corner

Reinforcing a Culture of




Executive Director’s Report


Understanding Partnering as a means to a successful end

Partnering Innovation


Derivative Partnering on the Exposition Phase II Light Rail Project


Research Roundup The Nevada DOT Conference on Innovative and Effective Partnering

Candice Evenson


EDITORIAL OFFICE: SUBSCRIPTIONS/ INFORMATION International Partnering Institute 291 McLeod Street Livermore, CA 94559 Phone: (925) 447-9100 Email: ed@partneringinstitute.org www.partneringinstitute.org


Best Practices The Human Touch: Technology and Collaboration

DESIGN/CREATIVE Michelle Vejby Email: mvejby@msn.com

COPYRIGHT Partnering Magazine is published by the International Partnering Institute, 291 McLeod Street, Livermore, CA 94550. Four quarterly issues are published annually. Contents copyright 2017 International Partnering Institute, all rights reserved. Subscription rates for non-members, $75 for six electronic issues. Hard copy issues are available only to IPI members. Additional member subscriptions are $75 each for six issues. Postmaster please send address changes to IPI, 291 McLeod Street, Livermore, CA 94550.


Cover photo: Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, Terminal 4 South Apron ASR Reconstruction, Phoenix, AZ. 2016 Diamond Level Partnering Award, Transportation Projects, Under $25M; City of Phoenix Aviation Department (Owner), J. Banicki Construction, Inc. (Prime)

April–June 2017 Partnering Magazine



Dana Paz, IPI Executive Director

The Answer is C


ollaborative construction has

sacrificing the vital human element.

effort needs to build trust among the

been making steady gains over

We’ll also take a look at how a

players that need it the most.

the past thirty years. Project

Nevada conference sponsored by

teams have many tools to facilitate

the Federal Highway Administration

At a recent meeting with blueprint app

collaboration at their disposal, such

presented the future of Partnering and

developer PlanGrid, we discussed how

as new technology platforms and

e-construction—noting that these two

a lack of trust is the primary obstacle

alternative delivery and contract

practices leverage one another. In both

to sharing information. Only teams

methodologies (ADMs). Partnering

cases, it is clear that Partnering is needed

that have taken the time to establish

in particular has developed from a

for technology to be the most effective,

trust can optimize information sharing

handshake and some trust exercises

because it encourages a culture of trust.

apps for what they’re designed to do:

into a highly structured process—and

share. The reverse is also true—even

many organizations have developed

Another innovation to Partnering

the most innovative and well-designed

their own specific brand of it, tweaking

featured in this issue is one being

platform in the world will not facilitate

it as necessary to fit their needs.

rolled out by the Los Angeles County

communication if there is no trust

Metropolitan Transportation Authority

between its users.

In this age of a greater understanding

(LA Metro) in response to a unique

of collaboration, what’s next?

construction environment. For them,

The future of Partnering is going

building trust and communication

to depend greatly on our collective

This issue examines that very topic,

among the construction team is only the

understanding of Partnering as the

exploring how various means and

first step required for success. In order

means to an end—that end being to

methods of collaboration intersect

to build their construction packages

build trust on the team. Once that trust

to produce valuable innovations.

they need to build trust with all of the

is established, it can be the determining

We’ll highlight the ways in which

communities they build through. They

factor in handing innovations to the

one contractor is using technology

realize it’s not enough to take a cookie

industry and increasing complexities,

to maximize collaboration without

cutter approach—that the Partnering

whatever they may be.


Partnering Magazine April–June 2017


Collaboration. Innovation. Sustainability. Partnering to build what matters for our customers and communities.

George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH), Terminal B South Side Replacement, Houston, TX

Philadelphia International Airport (PHL), American Airlines, Terminal F Baggage Claim Addition and Ticketing Renovation, Philadelphia, PA

LaGuardia Airport (LGA), Central Terminal Building, Queens, NY



Strategies for Reinforcing a Culture of Partnering

“...reduce the barriers to communication and increase a sense of common purpose.”


t the beginning of a project, a great deal of energy and effort can go into establishing alignment within the project team at the Partnering kickoff. The kickoff initiative frequently results in a strong sense of collaboration and teamwork. The challenge however, is that as the project moves forward, the project team begins to face the typical challenges associated with a construction project and may fall back into old

patterns of behavior, which may include more adversarial approaches. In addition, the project team also begins to focus on the normal project functions, and may not seek to actively reinforce the collaborative culture established at the kickoff. Many project teams abandon efforts to reinforce partnering altogether, and as a result, fall back into the same adversarial culture that characterizes many projects. 6

Partnering Magazine April–June 2017


Just as within companies and organizations, maintaining a positive and collaborative culture within a team requires focus and commitment. Even a well-intentioned project team may lack the basic strategies for maintaining culture change and sustaining a collaborative environment. Fortunately, there are a number of these strategies available. Some are the regular reinforcement activities that are a part of any comprehensive Partnering initiative. However, other more creative strategies also exist that don’t require additional investment, and can effectively reinforce a culture of collaboration beyond the project kickoff. a collaborative culture. Project team

environment. This also enables a more

The following creative strategies will

members at all levels benefit from

cooperative and reasonable atmosphere

help to reinforce a culture of Partnering,

recognition of the work accomplished

when challenges come up and issues

reduce the barriers to communication

and successes achieved. This is

have been escalated. These meetings

and increase a sense of common

especially important on longer duration

may be as informal as a lunch or dinner,

purpose throughout the project:

projects where more significant,

or more structured where the executive

schedule driven milestones and

team reviews the project report card

substantial completion are spread out.

and discusses metrics, accomplishments,

Even an annual recognition of work

and challenges.

Onboarding New Staff and Subcontractors

achieved throughout the year can give

As new staff and subcontractors

an important morale boost to a team

become involved in the project, it

that may lose sight of long term goals.

Stand and Deliver Team Reporting

partnering culture on the project and

Celebrations do not have to be anything

Another highly effective method

get them involved. This may include

elaborate or complex. Providing a

for maintaining an environment of

a brief meeting to share the project

catered lunch for the trade workers,

communication and collaboration is to

mission, goals, and team values. It may

leading an all-hands meeting where

utilize “Stand and Deliver” reporting.

also include introducing them to the

successes are discussed, or having a

In this unique strategy, the project

project charter so they understand

project management team dinner are all

management team collaborates to

how success is being measured on

simple methods to celebrate successes.

provide a status update on the goals of

is critical to introduce them to the

the project. If appropriate, it may also include inviting them to participate in

the project. This drives communication and coordination in the preparation for

the project team surveys evaluation

Executive-Level Team Meetings

and subsequent partnering sessions.

Periodically, it is important for the

implied pressure to represent a unified

executive level team to meet and

team when delivering their report to the

discuss the progress of the project.

executive level.

Celebrate Successes

the next Partnering session and applies

The communication at this level

As project milestones are achieved

is critical regardless of whether

or other important elements of the

the project is going well or facing

project are completed, stepping back

significant challenges. Clear channels

Community Involvement Projects

to recognize and celebrate successes is

of communication must be maintained

Bringing the project team together

an extremely effective way to reinforce

to ensure a sustained collaborative

to work on initiatives outside of the


April–June 2017 Partnering Magazine


FACILITATOR’S CORNER project serves to enrich the surrounding

one another begin to collaborate beyond

the individuals and organizations

community in addition to creating a

the regular meeting structure and the

involved by reinforcing credibility

sense of community and camaraderie.

organizational walls that separate teams

and achievement, and they can be

Working together to benefit others

are minimized. Co-location may not

extremely important in future project

helps to establish a “sense of grounding”

be feasible for smaller projects due to

pursuits as well. As such, aiming to

and creates common alignment within

limited space and budgets, however,

achieve a project award is an initiative

the team. It also helps to break down

project teams can work around this

for the benefit to all involved. When

barriers that may separate us and

by having co-location “days” in which

a project team establishes winning

reinforces the commonality we all share.

the parties are committed to being on

an award as a project goal, it places a

Giving to others is a strong and powerful

site all day for specific days. This will

specific requirement on a team to work

way to drive teamwork and appreciation

encourage leveraging those days for

together to meet the standards of the

of the benefits we all have. Activities

problem solving and issue resolution.

award criteria. To serve its purpose of

may include participating in a local charitable event, utilizing project team

reinforcing a collaborative culture, both parties should take part in the process

skills and resources to help neighbors

Break Bread

in need of construction services,

Throughout history, sharing a meal

contributing time to a local community

has served to establish dialogue and

service organization, or raising money

encourage sincere communication.

for the project’s choice charity.

Breaking bread together reduces

Industry Contribution

barriers when we are confronted with

Many projects afford unique

the common bonds we all share. While

opportunities to capture lessons learned

this sharing is not directly related to

and contribute meaningful knowledge

Partnering, sharing a meal in the spirit

to the industry. Highly successful teams

of partnering and collaboration goes

may document their successes through

Documenting Project Accomplishments A completed project is made up of many

and address award criteria on a regular basis throughout the project.

successful accomplishments and yet

white papers and related publications.

most discussions at project meetings

These collaborative initiatives can help

are focused on challenges or preventing

project teams stay aligned on project

problems in the future. Taking time

goals and remember the larger vision

on a regular basis to recognize and

of success of the project. Whether what

document project successes is a great

they learn is a lesson for mitigating

way to reinforce team effectiveness and

future risks, or a best practice for

collaboration. An ideal environment to

repeating success, project teams can

document recent accomplishments is

convert their experience into valuable

at project progress meetings. At least

knowledge to benefit the industry at

once per month, project team members


should each highlight one or two recent

a long way toward maintaining open

accomplishments. Developing this habit

communication channels and a sense of

Implementing just a few of these

helps to counter the tendency to focus

common purpose. This can take many

strategies will help project teams

only on project challenges. It will also

forms, from a shared lunchroom area, to

reinforce a partnering culture and a

help the team to be reminded of the

weekly lunches, to dinners, to happy-

collaborative work environment.

effectiveness of their collaboration.

hour. When we share a meal together, we become re-connected to the simple

Co-Location While co-location of a project team is not

things we all have in common.

Eric J. Sanderson, Red Rocks Advisors Eric J. Sanderson, MBA, MIPI, President of Red Rocks Advisors,

a partnering strategy by itself, it serves

Award Pursuit

as an excellent tool for encouraging

Awards provide recognition of the

Faciliatator who specializes in Wastewater,

collaboration and fluid communication.

unique project accomplishments of

Horizontal and Vertical Construction.

Team members that have easy access to

the team. These awards also serve



Partnering Magazine April–June 2017

LLC. Based in Arizona, Eric is an Award-winning Partnering



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April–June 2017 Partnering Magazine



INNOVATI Partnering Innovations: Derivative Partnering on the Exposition Phase II Light Rail Project

By Candice Evenson, IPI Operations Coordinator

Eisenhart’s philosophy of achieving world class results encourages teams to develop innovations like Derivative Partnering, which came about three years ago during the Exposition Phase II Light Rail Project. The owner


on this Partnered project, valued at 610M, was the Los


Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority


(LA Metro). The prime contractor was Design-Build Joint


Venture Skanska-Rados, and the designer was WSP


| Parsons Brinckerhoff. Using Derivative Partnering,


the team was able to be more productive, maintain


Partnering momentum, and work with third parties


like Southern California Edison (SCE) and Los Angeles


Department of Water. Without the innovation of


Derivative Partnering on this project, estimates Mike


Aparicio, Executive Vice President of Skanska, the project


would have been 18 months late. In total, the project


spanned four years and seven months. The team came


in on budget with no claims and won a 2016 Ruby Level


IPI Partnered Project of the Year Award in the category of Transportation Mega Projects.


Partnering Magazine April–June 2017


Photos: Exposition Phase II Light Rail Project (photo by Jeff Zucker)

Engaging with Third Parties: While engaging with third parties has historically


been considered a challenge for teams on

Working with cities is one thing, but is it

Mega Projects, it is a strength of Derivative

farfetched to say that utilities can actively

Partnering. Derivative partnering came

support project success? Not according to

about as a solution for addressing a

Eisenhart, who has seen how successful

large concern and a question of “what

Derivative Partnering has been in that

if.”—“What if we bring everyone together?”

area. To change the relationship, it is

Eisenhart recommends that teams look

important to ask utilities a question that

for the critical relationships and third

they aren’t used to hearing: “What would

party entities from the beginning, and

make this project an extraordinary success

seriously discuss their concerns about the

for you?” Doing so allows utilities to work

project along with those of the owner and

directly with the contractor and gives them

the contractor. At an airport this includes

the opportunity to make requests—such

the TSA, the FAA, and Concessions. For a

as for a replacement that is not in the

Railway this includes cities and utilities.

specs, or for a no-cost change. By bringing them into Derivative Partnering sessions,

Typically two hours in length, Derivative

During the Expo Light Rail Part II Project

speaking to them face to face, and getting

Partnering sessions are shorter than

there were two Derivative Partnering

to understand their point of view, the team

General Partnering Sessions—but that

sessions held with the cities of L.A and

can take their perspective into account and

does not make them less productive.

Santa Monica. These were essential to

accomplish more.

Uniquely, several teams can be organized

cultivating a partnership.

at once, meeting during separate sessions to fulfill different objectives. Eisenhart emphasizes that “[Derivative Partnering sessions] have to be short and hard hitting.” That means the team should look at “goals, action planning, who can contribute, and then move on.” Each Derivative team develops its own issue

“What evolved was an understanding with workshop participants that the JV and EXPO would listen to and respond beyond any contractual requirements to city concerns re. noise, dust, traffic. But it worked the other way as well. If the JV wanted to do, for example, some night work, the cities would go out of their way to accommodate the JV and EXPO1.”

Improving Processes Derivative Partnering can expedite the design submittal process, which again ties into engaging with third parties. Having

resolution ladder and looks ahead at what it can accomplish in the next six months. Depending on what is deemed necessary to help reach a key milestone, derivative sessions may be held as frequently as once a month. The Exposition Phase II Light Rail Project team held 65 sessions. www.partneringinstitute.org

Photo: Skanska-Rados Joint Venture celebrated 1,000,000 safe hours with a BBQ. April–June 2017 Partnering Magazine


PARTNERING INNOVATION “Derivative Partnering involves shorter, less expensive and generally smaller sessions where key players meet to discuss specific goals and concerns.”

a discussion about betterments, design submittals and how they should best be formatted saves the Design-Build team the unnecessary time and effort of sending multiple revisions back and forth. Furthermore it recognizes utilities as part of the team. “Work together, help each other out,” says Eisenhart, rather than just “dumping stuff on the desk.” When

Photo: Exposition Phase II Light Rail Project–Train Testing. Photo by Jeff Zucker

they know their voice is being heard, utilities will see the value of Partnering and request another session.

milestone.” The shortened, targeted approach helps teams to zeroin on a key milestone and strategize toward success.

Reaching Key Milestones

In the end, while Derivative Partnering sessions can still involve

Derivative Partnering helps teams accomplish more by keeping

more than 35 people, a number that includes top management,

sessions smaller; bigger is not always better. When there are too

everyone there is focused and collaborating on a specific task,

many people in a partnering session, “It gets more unwieldy,” says

looking to make the most of their time. It makes sense then that

Eisenhart. Large partnering sessions can make people less engaged

Eisenhart would hold a timed challenge halfway through the

in the collaborative process because the session begins to feel

sessions to get everyone brainstorming.

more like a presentation, or because it takes too long before each person can contribute. That’s where Derivative Partnering can help.

The attendees are split into four to five groups to come up with creative ways to better achieve project milestones. After seven

“Some issues only involve about ten people,” Eisenhart points out.

minutes are up, everyone votes for the best idea. The Exposition

“Get everyone in the room who can contribute to completing that

Phase II Light Rail project team describes the challenge as a fierce competition: “not because of the small reward, but because the team knew how important this was to their common goal of doing the best they could for the project.2” The strengths of Derivative Partnering point to it as being essential for Mega Projects. Being able to work with utilities is a great asset for a contractor, and for overall project success, but also something that is difficult to achieve. Lasting three or four years, these projects find it hard to maintain Partnering with so many stakeholders. Derivative Partnering addresses both of these challenges. By having smaller groups that are incredibly focused and involve all the right people, teams can better engage with third parties, improve processes, and reach key milestones—putting themselves on the path to world class results. __________________________________________________________________

Photo: Skanska-Rados Joint Venture. Photo by Jeff Zucker


Partnering Magazine April–June 2017

1,2: Exposition Phase II Light Rail Project IPI Partnered Project of the Year Award Application.



The Nevada DOT Conference on Innovative and Effective Partnering


PI had the pleasure of being a part of the Nevada DOT Conference on Innovative and Effective Partnering in Reno, Nevada April 4th-6th. The event showcased successful Partnering initiatives and best practices—but

it enables agencies and industry to deepen their understanding of what makes Partnering work and of common barriers. Effective programs will establish a forum to generate and use

most important, it highlighted what the future of Partnering

industry input, establish Partnering program goals, foster

might bring to heavy civil construction.

the commitment and participation among stakeholders at the highest levels of leadership, and track progress toward

The conference was planned in coordination with an

established goals. Establishing a Partnering program provides

executive panel made up of the Nevada Department of

agencies the opportunities to track changes and trends in their

Transportation, the Associated General Contractors, the

Partnering program, monitor and cross-reference results, and

Federal Highway Administration, the American Road and

make evidence-based decisions for continuous improvement.

Transportation Builders Association, the Ohio Department

Agencies with well-established programs will truly get the most

of Transportation, Q&D Construction, and Jacobs. Varied

out of their Partnering efforts.

perspectives allowed for the conference to deliver knowledge and understanding on Partnering that anyone in construction

Partnering and Alternative Delivery

could use, whether funding and planning agencies, owners, industry or facilitation professionals.

Renee Hoesktra, RHA LLC and Julia Kliewer, State Construction and Materials Engineer for Arizona Department of Transportation

Building on the premise of the conference: innovation and

Heavy civil construction has recently seen a rise in the

effectiveness, sessions expanded upon the notion of “basic

adoption of alternative delivery methods, particularly with

Partnering” to consider evolutions in construction such as risk

design-build and CM-At-Risk (or CM / GC). These methods have

management processes, e-construction and alternative contract

grown in popularity because they support greater construction

and delivery methods. What are some of the innovations to

input during the planning and design phase, as compared to

construction Partnering? And how must Partnering—a team

the more “siloed” nature of design-bid-build.

management strategy—adapt with regards to evolving project management strategies?

Agencies that regularly partner design-bid-build projects need to consider some adaptations to partnering on design-build

Programmatic Partnering

and CMAR. As a team management strategy, Partnering should

Kick-Start Your Partnering Program: Ohio Department of Transportation (DOT), Nevada DOT and Caltrans shared their experience in developing an effective program.

kick-off as soon as the team is brought together. In design-build

Many state agencies that regularly partner their construction projects have developed Partnering programs to oversee these efforts. This is a telling advance in construction Partnering, as 14

Partnering Magazine April–June 2017

or CMAR, this is during the design phase rather than when construction kicks-off. Partnering in the design phase includes a different set of participants, is led by the design team, and will focus on design rather than construction goals. Partnering during design provides the team with the opportunity to www.partneringinstitute.org

collaboratively establish project needs and determine the

to collaborate. E-construction tools also require team members

scope of the team vis-a-vis the scope of the project. What are

to trust one another, and to trust the system in order to be

some design risk factors that the team needs to mitigate?

effective. Agencies that want to adopt e-construction but are

Who should be involved? What is the issue resolution process

not Partnering should consider Partnering as a means to build

and who is at each level? Once construction kicks-off, the

the trust and communication that teams need to embrace

team should hold a construction kick-off session, bringing


in the relevant participants, updating the charter to include construction goals, and updating the issue resolution ladder

Risk-Based Partnering

to reflect the players who will be resolving construction

Renee Hoesktra, RHA LLC

issues. This transition will be vital to ensure that all that was accomplished and established in the design phase is honored

All management strategies evolve to mitigate risk—that’s

and followed through on in the construction phase.

their essential nature. ADMs mitigate the risks that come with fragmented and incomplete information. E-construction

While alternative delivery provides greater opportunities for

platforms help to mitigate risks brought about by inefficiencies

collaboration, it is ultimately a project management strategy.

and bureaucracy. Partnering helps to mitigate the risk of

Teams still need an effective team management strategy to

antagonism and adversarial climates. Risk-based Partnering

foster the team qualities of trust, and open communication

takes this understanding one step further by enabling teams

that will provide the opportunity to make the most out of the

to come together to collaboratively determine what risks their

delivery method.

projects face, so that they can establish specific mitigation strategies throughout design and construction.

Partnering, Technology and e-Construction The FHWA, as part of its Every Day Counts 4 Initiative, couples many of the virtues of Partnering with those of e-construction.

Risks can be broken down into three categories: technical, contractual and relationship. Most agencies have developed their own model of a risk register, a tool which allows teams to

Different than design and construction software,

identify risk, conduct an in-depth risk analysis, carry out risk

e-construction is the creation, review, approval, distribution,

evaluation and establish a plan for prevention and response.

and storage of highway construction documents in a paperless environment. These paperless processes include electronic

The opportunities gained by conducting this exercise early and

submission of all documentation by all stakeholders, electronic

collaboratively are significant, and give teams greater control

document routing and approval (e-signature and workflows),

over managing uncertainties on a project. If a team comes

and real-time management of all documents in a secure digital

together to do this during the design phase, the construction

environment accessible to all stakeholders through mobile

team will get the added benefit of understanding the project’s

devices and web-based platforms.

design risks.

The documented 7-year e-Construction return on investment

At heart, Partnering is a team management strategy: it is a

for construction management, project collaboration, mobile

process that helps teams articulate and achieve their goals,

devices, and electronic bidding tools ranges from 200 to more

whatever these goals may be. As teams implement innovative

than 700 percent. E-Construction time savings have averaged

project management strategies, like ADMs, risk management

1.78 hours per day, per inspector, and inspectors have

and e-construction, they can use the effective and trusting

collected up to 2.75 times more data. In addition, cost savings

teams that they built through Partnering to get the most out of

have been reported at about $40,000 per construction project,

these innovations.

per year . 1

Thank you to NDOT for hosting this great conference on These kinds of efficiencies alone justify the pursuit of

Innovative and Effective Partnering, and for the opportunity

e-construction initiatives, though adopting technology

to learn from all of the experiences presented. In the next

platforms and systems across such a large-scale organization

issue, we’ll be covering Collaboration 2017, our first two-day

as a DOT is no easy feat. Agencies who partner have an

Partnering conference and 8th Annual Awards Ceremony.

easier time rolling out innovations like these because there is


already a platform to communicate issues and a willingness

1 From “e-Construction and Partnering: A Vision for the Future”. Federal Highway Administration. https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/innovation/everydaycounts/edc_4/epartnering.cfm


April–June 2017 Partnering Magazine



The Human Touch: Technology & Collaboration By Candice Evenson,

IPI Operations Coordinator


echnology has opened up a world of opportunity

Software can gather analytical data on safety, for instance,

for collaborative construction. With BIM replacing

but the user must apply their intellect to make use of the

2D drawings and the Cloud giving teams the ability

results. Remove the user’s role from the equation, and there

to collaborate anywhere in real time, teams are

will be no way to reach the desired outcome. The team that

finding they can work more efficiently and communicate

recognizes the relationship between the user and technology,

changes instantly. Many construction professionals are using

and practices positive norms that promote balance between

mobile devices in the field for improved quality, safety, and

the two, will be the most effective at collaboration.

collaboration. Some report that e-construction allows them to do in hours what once took days. The benefit is clear, but what is less clear is how to maintain the human touch so that teams

Know the Why Before the How

get the most out of the collaborative technology.

Some would say that the first step to mastering a new technology is to learn how to use it, but that would be to

I spoke to Hitesh Dewan, Operations Technology Manager

ignore a very important step for the user. The first step

at XL Construction, seeking his insight on how to reconcile

in training the team should not be learning how to use a

advancing technology with the human side of things. Dewan

new technology, says Dewan, but learning the “why” of the

has been with XL since 2013. His role there is to assess how

process. What is the basic process that must happen? What

existing processes in the company could be augmented or

role will the technology play in improving that process? “You

changed, and research the best technological tools out there

can’t just throw some solution out there,” says Dewan. “You

for the job. Laser scanners, virtual reality technology, mobile

have to understand the process.” In other words, technology

apps—in all cases, Dewan looks past flashy features and

is not going to automatically fix a problem by pressing a

considers with a critical eye what the people are already doing,

button. He uses the analogy of writing: “If you can’t verbally

and how new technology is going to assist with that task.

compose a comprehensible letter, an email won’t get the point across any better.” Once the team understands the

It comes down to keeping everything in perspective: No

motivation behind the process, they can rely on each other

matter how high-tech a tool becomes, it is still a tool.

to use technology to enhance what they are already doing.


Partnering Magazine April–June 2017



Involve Everyone During the Transition When the time comes to learn a new technology, not everyone in your organization is going to be comfortable with the change in routine, making it even more important to keep people involved. During the transition, proper training and transparency are critical to maintaining trust. “Ensure everyone has access to information and feels they are receiving all the information they need,” Dewan emphasizes. It is also important to make the extra effort with those who don’t accept technology as quickly as others. Be aware of how others respond to technology, and think about what adjustments could help ease the transition. Dewan gives an example of how one team member might not have much confidence in the first few automatic inspection reports they receive. In that instance, a personal typed message stating, “I have verified these inspections are complete” can go a long way to putting those at doubts at ease.


Always Have a Plan B An easy trap to fall into is to become too reliant upon the technology an organization becomes comfortable with. Technology is far from flawless, and should be reliant on the user, rather than the other way around. Glitches and www.partneringinstitute.org

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April–June 2017 Partnering Magazine


BEST PRACTICES complications are bound to happen, and at inconvenient times. We can, however, control how prepared we are for them, so that these will be inconvenient technological difficulties, rather than disabling events. “Always have a plan B,” says Dewan. “If you’re resourceful enough, no

Technology is cold and impersonal— which is why teams should not use it for all communication.

technical glitch will stop you in your tracks.”

Communicate Face to Face

would be an obvious challenge to overcome right away. Though the complication of having different technologies

Technology is cold and impersonal—which is why teams

is easier to ignore, it has similar implications for team

should not use it for all communication. There must be a

communication. “The team should establish a common

balance, and if a conversation must be held remotely, a

language by adopting the same platform, whether it is via

phone conversation will more reliably convey a message’s

email, text, tweet, an online posting board, or the cloud.”

intent than an email. Dewan notes that an interactive phone call or video chat can leave a more lasting impression then

The best time to establish a “common language” is during

words sent through a screen.

planning in a one-on-one Partnering session with the client. The earlier the better, says Dewan. The pitfall to avoid is not

But when it comes to building strong relationships on

having a plan for how to approach the technology question

the team, nothing is more effective than face to face

midway through a project. During construction is not the

communication. Dewan references the motivation and pride

time to be realizing that your technologies are incompatible.

a team has when their superintendent personally praises their progress on a project: “That’s something that all the

So whose platform should be adopted? According the Dewan,

technology in the world cannot replicate.”

it is best to adapt to the client’s preferred platform; at the end of a project, they will be living with the project data.

Engage the Stakeholders

The use of one technology over another becomes normal within an organization, part of their culture—which means

Teams should build a relationship with their stakeholders

difficult to change. But by making it a point to be adaptable,

and end-users, to see technology as a way to engage them

you can remove the confusion and frustration that might

one step further. Dewan recalls a hospital project where

otherwise come up in this inevitable scenario. “As a General

they were working on an MRI Scanning Room. “The most

Contractor, we need to be flexible and use various tools,” he

important people I met with were the doctors and nurses

says. “Very likely, [an owner] will prefer to use what they

who are going to use the space for the next 30 years.

have.” Having the same language is important all the way

They had the most buy in and the best feedback.” Taking

through to closeout—at which time XL Construction provides

their average heights, the team was able to provide these

a fully digital package with raw data that Dewan calls “a save

stakeholders with a personalized virtual reality preview

point in time.” The package makes reference and building

of the space from their point of view, and gained valuable

maintenance much easier for their client in the future.

design direction from their experience. As it becomes more common for organizations to embrace

Speak the Same Language

new technologies in the construction industry, teams will continue to face the challenges that come along with the

The promise of technology is to create countless new

benefits. The important thing is to recognize that technology

possibilities, but clashing technologies can present a

is merely a tool. Teams that partner will be better equipped

communication challenge that is up to the team to address

to use that tool to its greatest potential, because they already

from the outset. “If there’s one thing that we should be able

have the structure in place for a stronger collaborative

to do [with technology],” says Dewan, “it’s communicate.”

environment that gives emphasis to the human element. What is going to make the real difference to collaboration

Dewan makes a fitting comparison between technologies and

will be the team practices that promote a balanced

languages. If two groups speaking different languages were

relationship between the role of technology and the role of

expected to collaborate well together, that language barrier

the people using it.


Partnering Magazine April–June 2017


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