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Collaboration Part 7 - Change, Change, Change

 

We've had two collaboration meetings since my last blog posting on the collaboration effort I'm participating in. To recap, our firm is involved in a very large, biomedical research building project at a local public university. The delivery method is CM-at-risk with design-assist for major trades. Looking back through this blog, you can read about the entire process. It all started here. 

 

The most recent collaboration session was last week. Each of the past two meetings also contained a social event. Following our formal meeting, the group went to a local bowling alley for drinks, food and duck pin bowling. If you're unfamiliar with this sport, check out this Wikipedia article. Both times not everyone went bowling, but the group that did had a great time and got to know each other a bit better. I think the social events will become a regular part of our collaboration time together, though duck pin bowling may get old and something else will need to be tried. 

 

As the title of this posts states, the team continues to change and change. Since my last collaboration post, these are the personnel changes the team has encountered:

 

  • PA for the architect of record retired

  • Assistant PM for the AOR has been reassigned to a different project, but has been brought back because two of her replacements have left the firm

  • Sr. PM for the CM has been reassigned to a different division of the firm and moved cross-country

  • Project Executive for the mechanical design-assist contractor has moved to a different division inside the company

  • Project Engineer for the mechanical design-assist contractor started her maternity leave

  • Owner's team and CM have accepted new participants due to project phasing

Sometimes it's hard to keep track of who's in and who's out!


But that leads me to this thought: change is inevitable and how we react to it as a team is important. In my last foray into our collaboration process, seen here, I ended with this parting shot: "Recognizing that a majority of this team is in denial gives me a positive feeling. Hopefully, across the coming weeks, the team can move from denial to anger, to guilt, to sadness and finally acceptance that we have a problem and we need to fix it." This was in reference to our facilitator's analogy between team dynamics of change and the work On Death and Dying by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross and her 5 stages of grief. 

The quarterly surveys we take gives some indication that a majority of the team may be in the anger stage and potentially heading to guilt. If you recall, we fill out a blind, 13-question survey on all the firms on the team using a 7-point scale. The purpose is to gauge each firm's responsiveness, honesty and willingness to work together. Its meant to survey our feelings at a point in time that we can compare against previous surveys to glean some insight into the team dynamic.

This month was the fourth time this survey has been filled out. The number of respondents is up to 78% which is not great, but is better than it has been. The average scores still hover in the 4 to 5 point range and the owner continues to have the lowest average score. This quarter, it was 4.05, down from 4.47 in the last quarter. 

While I still find the data to be suspect, for many reasons, I have new appreciation for it as we now have four sets to review. Across the board, the scores for each firm went down. There are two reasons for this. First, we have new team members filling out the survey for the first or maybe second time. Many of these new respondents are field personnel who are having a very different experience than the office staff or the design or owner's team members. I think these new respondents also are not afraid to grade their teammates down, whereas some of the design team members have had trepidation in doing so. 

 

But, the primary reason, I believe, the scores are consistently lower is in the analogy to the 5 stages of grief. I don't  believe this project is progressing the way that anyone feels it should or hoped that it would. We are being barraged with changes, second-guessing decisions and generally not being allowed by our client to do the work we were hired as professionals to do. While the office staff and design team have been involved in this project for several years, the new field staff have not. I think much of that is related to anger at the situation which has manifested itself in lower marks on these surveys. 

 

I think this may have been a wake up call to the project managers in the room. For me, my personnel has not changed since Day 1 of the project. But these design-assist contractors are bringing their field staff in and maybe need to spend some more time understanding what they are dealing with. The "short answer" portion of the survey was interesting in that it exposed a very serious problem that the CM has to deal with: their general superintendent. 

 

I have had very little interaction with the superintendent. As I explained in the collaboration meeting, he's come to me with some portions of the design that he wants changed and tried to couch it as a "problem" for the construction team or longevity of the building. This isn't my first rodeo so in every instance I was able to explain why we did it that way and even throw part of it back on him: "if you're concerned about it, set up a meeting and we can discuss it." Of course, the meetings were never scheduled. He knew he couldn't railroad me and he walked away. 

 

However, the foremen who have to work with the superintendent every day put things in their short answer responses like "dishonesty," "unprofessional" and "back-stabbing." These were not taken lightly by our group and became a large part of the discussion in our collaboration session. The CM was represented by their regional VP and Sr. PM for this project. To their credit, both men said they were aware of the situation and had already taken the necessary steps to address it. 

To date, the superintendent is still on the job, he was not terminated or reassigned. I have, however, noticed a change in his demeanor and in his professionalism. Perhaps that is the best change of all - a man was allowed to keep his job if he is able to change how he accomplishes that job. 

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