Historically, industries within the built environment have been criticised for their fragmented approach to project work.
Establishing partnerships to deliver better results for customers has been mooted as the solution.
And lately, the landscape of construction development delivery has been changing rapidly with an emphasis on joint venture, public / private partnership and strategic alliances.
In the last decade, there has also been a move towards bringing together diverse disciplines, many of whom have worked together before.
In most cases, coordinating and integrating complex information, procedures and systems results in improvements in the efficiency of delivery.
But successful collaboration relies on clear communication.
After all, the project team usually comprises a group of strangers with competing interests who may never work together again
Collaboration is about identifying shared goals and investing combined time and effort into achieving them.
It’s also about communal benefits and combining expertise.
But to share information, data, processes, resources and skills, you need to communicate structure and clear working practices.
These could include:
- Creating clear lines of communication and authority
- Devising protocols for the dissemination of information
- Defining goals
- Rewarding initiative
- Holding regular meetings
- Implementing problem resolution procedures – which should be based on solutions not blame
- Ensuring procedures focus on continuous improvement – such as target setting, assessment and adaptation.
Often, construction projects have been built in an adversarial environment.
After all, the project team usually comprises a group of strangers with competing interests who may never work together again.
Each member of that team is forced to compete with the others to earn a reasonable profit and delays, conflicts and disputes are common.
Meanwhile, the project owner expects a team that works together to produce a quality product, builds according to plans and delivers the product on time and on budget.
Information sharing in the supply chain – between main contractors and subcontractors for example – undoubtedly improves performance of the project.
And maintaining openness in the relationship helps to avoid dispute and means the parties are more likely to choose to work together in future if the opportunity arises.
Of course, when we talk about collaboration, we are not necessarily suggesting you team up with your competitors, although this can work on big contracts where you may struggle to deliver alone.
We are talking about working alongside similar companies engaged on the same project.
Supply chain engagement and transparent and timely procurement can also make the project more time-efficient
Bring on the benefits
There can be huge benefits to collaborating on a project, not just for you but for your customer too.
Combining resources can be monetary in terms of cost savings; but it can also support employment opportunities with cross sector training helping to address skill gaps.
Supply chain engagement and transparent and timely procurement can also make the project more time-efficient, while broader understanding of the bigger picture usually results in less waste.
For your client, increased capacity and expertise means that more can be achieved for less.
How we make it work
At Apex Roofing we work together with our sister organisation Apex Scaffolding on a regular basis.
We have very defined roles, actions, processes and responsibilities in the projects we undertake, but find that collaborative decision-making helps the project work smoothly and on time.
We run parallel research on risk management and we share staff which creates a skilled and motivated team, all of which are chosen on the basis of “best for the job”.
We also identify and align aims and objectives at a “best for project” decision-making meeting ahead of the work.
By doing so we create a culture of engagement and innovative thinking.
“Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success.”
When automaker Henry Ford said these words, he could have been describing the intended outcome of collaborating on construction projects.
However, there is no point pretending that collaboration is plain sailing. In fact, establishing collaborative working relationships can be difficult and take time.
Additionally, fostering a culture of trust is imperative to the success of the process. But when collaborative working is in place the benefits include business growth, customer engagement, leaner processes, innovation and time saved.
New technology and ways of working are helping to break down barriers between the different players in the process to allow this to happen.
In a nutshell
For collaboration to work, the entire project team must commit to a common vision and each member throughout the supply chain must take a role in decision-making, creating an overall culture that supersedes the individual culture of each organisation.
It may sound like a monumental effort but more and more companies and contractors are seeing why it pays to make those steps towards working together.
The benefits of collaboration include reduced project cost for the owner, higher profits for contractors, earlier completion and fewer contract disputes.
The emphasis on relationships rather than transactions can also establish support for continuous improvement and long-term relationships that extend to future projects.