Partnering Magazine July-September 2017

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BEST PRACTICES

The Partnering Champion Award: Contra Costa Transportation Authority

C

ontra Costa Transportation Authority (CCTA)

(AAA) the construction program of state highway projects, and

is this year’s Partnering Champion, nominated

supports it through Partnering the way Caltrans does. Iwasaki

by CPM Logistics, LLC. The Partnering Champion

recalls saying, “what we need to do is implement Partnering.

Award is IPI’s highest honor, given to an organization

And we have to hire the right person with the right skills and

that embraces and models Partnering. In recognition of the

the right attitude.” That person turned out to be Construction

achievement, we interviewed CCTA Executive Director Randell

Manager Ivan Ramirez.

Iwasaki for his take on Partnering as an agent of positive culture change.

Beyond having the right people, Iwasaki understood that changes to the organization’s documents would be needed for

For Iwasaki, the award is a gratifying

the culture shift to be successful. “I want the

representation of all that CCTA has

manuals—all the criteria,” Iwasaki had said,

achieved, and continues to aspire to, on

as he formed the plan for the program. “I

their Partnering journey. “We are striving

want the arbitration spec pulled.”

to be an owner of choice, and the path that

His commitment was vital to establishing

we chose was the partnering path,” says

the agency’s Partnering culture when it

Iwasaki. Like anything, he acknowledges

was still just forming. For instance, on

that projects cannot always go perfectly,

one of their early partnered projects, the

but that through Partnering, teams work

Construction Management consultant had

toward the best possible outcomes—

not transitioned from the old mindset.

always maintaining fairness regardless of

Iwasaki knew that had to change, and met

what challenges arise. That philosophy,

with the consultant to iron out what they

and continuous dedication to structured

would not have perceived as a problem. It

collaboration, leads to long lasting relationships for improved business and shared gain. Breaking down the benefits of

Photo: Vice Mayor of Danville, and CCTA Commissioner, Newell Arnerich, accepts the 2017 Partnering Champion Award

Partnering Iwasaki says, “At the end of the

makes for a good example of how the values and norms of one’s work environment inform interactions. Once Iwasaki had communicated the new expectations, the

day, the process saves us money in the short term, and it gets

consultant altered their behavior accordingly and would go on

us better bids in the future.”

to be hired a second time.

Iwasaki makes an effort to attend every Partnering session,

So what does Partnering look like when done by a Partnering

and it is his leadership that originally led to the culture shift

Champion? It’s the whole package—all of the Partnering

at CCTA to embrace Partnering. It began with a question: “It is

elements, every time. “We have formal Partnering sessions. We

such a great process at Caltrans. Why don’t we embrace and

hire the facilitator, lay down the ground rules. Ivan goes over

adopt it at CCTA?”

the manual.” They use a dispute resolution ladder and risk

Iwasaki worked for the California Department of

register to anticipate and prevent issues.

Transportation, in the director’s office, up until 2010. There,

Reinforcing each project’s charter goals is another key

he recognized the value of their Partnering Program, which

element they don’t leave out. “We all take a survey,” says

Mark Leja was heading at the time. In comparing the

Iwasaki, “and then the contractor takes the same survey. We

partnering process against the adversarial paradigm, he said

rate on a scale of one to five ‘How are we doing on schedule?’

the choice was clear. “It was much better, than getting calls

‘How are we doing on budget?’” The survey keeps the focus

from contractors who were still in negotiations for claims on

on the goals while also maintaining transparency and

projects that had ended two to three years ago.”

communication by following up. “All of that is aggregated into

When he began at CCTA seven years ago, Iwasaki saw the

information and displayed for everyone to see.” The trends or

potential and risk for CCTA to deliver projects through the

differences in responses can give important clues into where

construction phase. CCTA Advertises, Awards, and Administers

improvements can be made, and where some dissonance may

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Partnering Magazine July–September 2017

www.partneringinstitute.org