Best CM Practices for Risk Mitigation Management: Part 4

Photo of a clipboard with notes on it

Initiating the Turnaround
Professional Staffing Changes

In addition to protocol corrections, the owner must consider strategies for making personnel changes to improve team chemistry and for stimulating team building in the midst of tightening CM protocols (balancing the “stick” with the “carrot”).

A project usually starts with a honeymoon period between the contractor and CM team. How long that honeymoon lasts typically depends on whether or not the parties are realizing their financial projections for the project. Once the contractor begins to see profits drop, he often looks at the CM as the reason. Any personality conflicts that were there but dormant are now exposed to the highest level.

Does the political and institutional will (e.g., fortitude) exist in the owner’s organization to replace members of the team in the interests of team chemistry? While most problems are traceable to the system and not individuals, there are still some problems that are traceable to individuals. The old adage applies, “Change your people or change your people.” And while this might be a necessary part of the overall solution, it is usually considered a last resort by many owners. Once protocol changes are instituted, replacing team members must be considered if one or more of the following conditions exist:

  • If single individuals remain recalcitrant
  • If issues are no longer being resolved at a rate that allows the project to keep moving
  • If meetings between the contractor and CM are not fruitful to resolve issues
  • If personalities get in the way of day‐to‐day operations

While it may seem daunting to convince the contractor to make changes on its side, contracts will oftentimes provide this option to the owner, especially with respect to the contractor’s project manager and superintendent.

Though the contractor often advocates for “quid‐pro‐quo” (e.g., a reciprocal personnel change on the owner’s CM team), it is not absolutely mandatory that the owner make a move in order to prompt the contractor to make a change. If the contractor’s personnel are an impediment to progress, the owner’s executive must conduct regular, candid conversations with the contractor’s executive‐in‐charge, followed by tactful letters from the owner’s CM team giving formal notice to the contractor of undesirable behavior or performance.

Similarly, the owner must be flexible enough to make the necessary personnel changes to the owner’s CM team to keep the project on track and avoid bogging down. Owners can’t be fearful of the perception that they have “blinked” and therefore lost control of the project.

In the next installments of this series, we continue to strategize realignment actions that Anser may facilitate on the owners-side of the fence, including instituting a balanced change culture.



This is an 8-part series called Leveraging for Realignment: Best Practices for Troubled Projects, originally presented at CMAA National Conference.

Contributing authors: Shawn Paroline, SAIC; Mike Kenny, San Diego County Water Authority; Dan Fauchier, The Realignment Group; Jim Linthicum, San Diego Association of Governments; Chris Brasco, Watt, Tieder, Hoffar & Fitzgerald, LLP