Initiating the Turnaround
Cleaning the Slate
As we theorized at the outset of this series, projects seem to go astray when parties don’t recognize extra work. In a troubled project, each party prepares its own list of grievances and perceived cost impacts without sharing it. How does the team tackle the backlog of extra work requests and claims? We have seen owners using a unique, mid‐project, partnering process called Project Realignment to quickly make a huge difference. The Ohio Department of Transportation has adopted it as its model from the outset of the project, rather than merely a mid‐project correction device.
The Project Realignment process involves assembling staff from all parties at a neutral location such as conference center, getting it all out on the table, and then realigning the previously siloed parties into three, horizontal, competence teams. The three competence teams — executive level, manager level and field level — essentially cut horizontally across the vertical silos that are the employers (e.g., owner, CM, contractor, and designer).
Following the Construction Industry Institutes’ recommendations, the parties flowchart their change management process to reorient the dysfunctional team. The owner proposes to the contractor: “Let’s ‘wipe the slate clean’ by working together to quickly resolve all outstanding change issues and disputes. Anything we can’t agree on, let’s submit to a mutually chosen third party to quickly analyze and make a recommendation. (There’s no point in fighting when we can work together to figure out what’s fair.)”
After the facilitated session, the owner’s CM team should promptly issue all legitimate change orders (e.g., requests for proposals) for the contractor to return pricing. CII recommends that the change management process be nurtured by devoting “specific time at regularly scheduled meetings to identify and act on changes.” 1 Diligent follow‐up by executives over the following several weeks is crucial to ensure that the effort to “wipe the slate clean” is holding form.
The same metrics that measure failure can be used to measure the turnaround. Is cash flowing? Are disputes resolved quickly? Are schedule milestones being met? Is communication free flowing and conversational (while necessary documentation is made without emotion)? Is high quality reflected in passed inspections and lack of rework?
In the next installments of this series, we will explore how to overcome poor past precedents.
1 Ibid., page 14
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