The Four Seasons of Partnering – Part 1

Dear Construction Nation, 

Have you ever noticed how everything seems to go through seasons? Your life has seasons. Your business has seasons. The economy has seasons. It just makes sense that when you have construction Partnering you will have seasons. For those of you who are Partnering your projects, understanding what season you are facing can mean the difference between extraordinary success and failure. Even if you don’t work on construction projects, your business projects and initiatives go through seasons. 

So let me tell you a story…

It was 1992. Bob (not his real name), the new leader of the Department of Transportation (DOT), brought with him a strong belief in Partnering. He began to grow a renowned Partnering program. Leaders from all over the country came to see what this DOT was doing and how they were achieving such extraordinary results on their projects. Everyone was so excited and felt like they were part of something very special. He expanded the concepts beyond his projects and started building the entire culture of the organization as a high trust partnership.

This continued for a decade then things started to unravel. The results were just not there anymore. Partnering was seen as something we already do and that there was no need to continue to put resources into it. While the Partnering Program still “exists” today, it does not achieve extraordinary results, and it not renowned, or even leading edge. What happened?

Have you experienced this kind of scenario on your Partnered projects, or within your Partnering Program, where your Partnering effort just can’t get traction? Or have you been on a project that does not have any kind of Partnering, and has the feel that everyone is out for themselves? Having helped leaders create their Partnering Programs and facilitated project Partnering for over three decades, this has been a puzzle and point of frustration for everyone: the contractor, the owner, and the designer. But here is a scoop for you! Just like the earth goes through seasons, Partnering Programs also go through a cycle of four seasons. It’s just a natural cycle and not understanding this can make you kind of “crazy.”

Every Partnering Program will move through the four seasons and end up in “Winter.” If you don’t move your program into a “Spring” cycle by rejuvenating your program, you’re going to be stuck in “Winter” forever until the program results completely diminish and eventually die. If your project does not have a Partnering Spec or a way to create a working partnership and everyone is out for themselves, that is endless Winter! 

I see these types of projects all the time! It is sad. It is a waste. It takes a toll on everyone involved and the owner pays a premium. One owner did a study of what kind of premium  the contractors add to their costs for working with that owner because of their culture; it ranged from 10-50%. I don’t think anyone wants to get stuck in “Winter.”

Today I am going to walk you through an overview of the four seasons of an owner’s Partnering Program. These seasons not only impact the Partnering Program, but every project that is within that program.  Next week, in Part 2, we will look at each season and share a few ideas to enhance each season.  We will also look at some pitfalls to watch out for during each season. For our purpose here, my definition of a “Partnering Program” is that, at a minimum, the owner has a Partnering Spec that goes into your projects. 

Check out the Four Seasons of Partnering for Owner Organizations chart below.

Please share the Four Seasons of Partnering for Owner Organizations chart with all the owners you know. Understanding where you are in the season of your program can help the entire industry move forward to improve our results, and not get stuck in “Winter.” Or stumble through because you aren’t sure where you are going and if the effort is worth it. Working together in partnership, the industry can and does achieve extraordinary results!

Next week, we will dive into each of the four seasons, and you will get ideas for enhancing each season. We will also look at some of the pitfalls for each season, so that you can avoid these. I can’t wait until we have a chance to hang out again next week. 

In trust,

P.S.  Curious how you can improve your project’s chance at success?

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