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Partnering: method for dispute avoidance.

As with any new process or development that promises success, better relationships, fewer fights and lawsuits and, therefore, greater profitability, the concept of "Partnering' has caught the imagination of the construction industry.

The very term has become a popular buzzword and a part of the jargon of the everyday construction process. However, even among those who advocate its use, many do not understand the process or its inherent value to the industry.

What is Partnering?

The core principle of Partnering is that if the construction project participants develop a common set of goals and work as a team, the project will be completed in a manner beneficial to all. The goal of Partnering is to eliminate conflict during the course of the project and, more importantly, to eliminate the litigation that arises out of such conflict. The basic method utilized is to focus on the early resolution of disputes by establishing a framework for key players on a project to communicate and solve problems jointly. Impossible?. Those who have participated in Partnering arrangements in both the public and private sectors say that it works.

The Corps of Engineers is credited with having invented the concept of Partnering as a logical development of its desire to achieve on time and first-class construction without lingering disputes and litigation. The Corps believed that many construction problems are the result of a lack of mutual understanding, respect and communication between and among the construction team members who are thrown together in the typical Corps project. Unlike private projects where a set team of participants may be custom crafted to a project, the government must accept the lowest responsible bidder or bidders (on multi-phase projects). Accordingly, from that setting strangers tend to be required to work together and, often, upon the basis of generalized preconceptions of the behavior they may expect from their counterparts. By causing those participants to come together in a pre-construction retreat for the purpose of establishing communications, developing sincere relationships and respect for one another, and anticipating problems which may arise and agreeing on how they are to respond, The Corps believes that it is creating the opportunity for the parties to avoid the pitfalls of traditional adversarial roles. Instead, the parties are encouraged to work as a harmonious team, despite the continuation of contract provisions, self-interest and problems which will arise in even the best of circumstances.

The Corps has only attempted to use this process in a few limited districts within its command. However, although there have been fewer than 100 Partnering workshops conducted by the Corps, the Corps reports that those projects which have used this process have uniformly resulted in satisfying results for the government and the private industry participants. In brief, no lawsuits and no claims.

How Partnership is Implemented

Whether in the public or private sector, almost all Partnering arrangements commence with a seminar which can last from one day to a week, where key personnel of the project participants learn to work as a team. The key personnel are usually those personnel who will interact on the project on a regular basis and those with decision-making authority. A "facilitator" is hired to run the seminar and teach the participants the skills required for a successful partnership experience. Commonly the key personnel endure a personality test-an evaluation of whether they are aggressive or passive, and how they react to conflict. The "students" may also participate in team projects unrelated to the project at hand in order to develop a relationship of trust, and focus on practicing teamwork and negotiation skills, for many a first learning experience. The participants also develop joint goals which vary depending on the emphasis desired. For example, on many projects the primary goal is timely completion; on others, the prime concern is safety.

At the end of the seminar, the participants draft and sign a mission statement to identify goals and resolve to cooperate in achieving them. A typical one is the following mission statement drafted by participants at a Corps project seminar at the Eastern Space and Missile Center:

We, the partners of the TOCC project, agree to work together as a cohesive team to produce quality job on time, under budget, safely, insuring a fair profit for the contractors. We will stream-line the paperwork process, resolve conflicts at the lowest level and provide a safe work environment. We agree to communicate and cooperate in all matters affecting the project by developing specific action plans to break down communication barriers, improve work change orders and ensure construction, instrumentation and follow-on operation and maintenance of the TOCC to meet the needs of the Eastern Space And Missile Center. Organization Development Journal Fall 1990
COPYRIGHT 1993 Hagedorn Publication
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Copyright 1993, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:Mid-Year Review & Forecast, Section III
Author:Peckar, Robert S.
Publication:Real Estate Weekly
Article Type:Column
Date:Jun 23, 1993
Words:782
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