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Project Collaboration - Best Practices

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Project Collaboration Best Practices

Chapter 4:  Optimizing the Collaborative Team

“Whether you’re on a sports team, in an office or a member of a family,

if you can’t trust one another there’s going to trouble.”

The Speed of Trust by Stephen Covey


A collaborative team encourages early involvement of key project participants to define goals and build consensus.  Working together, team members become problem solving innovators who, regardless of their role, are committed to the mission of the project in every respect. 

A project’s success should never be left to chance.  A Project Coach can help make a project a success.  Hired as an Owner’s consultant, a Project Coach will work with the team to align individual goals and actions with the project mission through collaboration and information sharing.  The Project Coach will guide the team to create a project environment that promotes transparency and produces accountability for the project mission, keeping the team motivated and focused on collaboration.  While the concept of hiring a Project Coach is new to the construction industry, this position has had success in other industries.

When selecting a Project Coach, Owners should consider industry specific experience.  In construction, this individual should be versed in both the design and construction side of the process.  Effective motivation is a result of this individual’s ability to listen to what is being said and turn it into positive messages; this is an essential skill.  Project Coaches should be multifaceted with the ability to teach or work hand-in-hand with the team to resolve an issue.  All coaches must have the capacity to follow the project from start to finish; continuity plays a role in success.  Listening skills are a key competency to an effective Project Coach.

Team Development Process

Step 1: Develop Project Mission.

Goal: To be completely transparent on what defines success for the Project. 

Success factors become the project mission for all team members.  The Owner ultimately defines success. Each key stakeholder should identify how their organization defines success. A team’s success is dependent on the individual contributions being aligned with a common mission.

Step 2: Define Team Purpose Statement. 

Goal: To create a project specific purpose statement.

A team Purpose Statement illustrates how the team will succeed. Stating what the team will achieve together the Purpose Statement provides a focal point for performance. 

Step 3: Create Performance Measures.

Goal: To set project specific performance measures that align with the success factors identified.

Every project has the goal of being executed within budget and on-time.  During team development sessions, we break down those mandatory goals into bite-size objectives, as well as establish other specific goals.  Appreciative inquiry is used to develop team goals and strengths.  It is important that each stakeholder have input on project goals and not rush this process as it may take a few sessions.  It is the responsibility of the Project Coach to structure the meetings to generate the best ideas. 

Step 4: Develop Action Plans.

Goal: To create clear plans to achieve the success of each performance measure. 

Goals are dreams unless you develop a plan to achieve them.  Action plans identify the strategies, key initiatives, and measures for each goal, as well as identify who is primarily responsible for implementation.   

Step 5: Gain Commitment and Align Roles with Team Purpose.

Goal: Affirming commitment to the Project Plan.

As new team members join the project, it is critical to create a new team member orientation process, which includes the Project Plan (mission, purpose, performance measures, and action plans).  The teams create ways to incorporate goals into everyday activity including, but not limited to, daily huddles, posters, newsletters, and logos.  

Step 6: Remain Focused.

Goal: Keep the team motivated and aligned with the project plan.

Success relies on executing a plan.  Team Development sessions give the team the opportunity to step back and assess progress and alignment with the Plan.  Each meeting must be interactive and never exceed 1 ½ hours in length.  Team meetings should be scheduled at regular intervals during construction.  Agenda topics should be customized to complement the current project activities.  Most meetings start with an antidote about teamwork.  Attendance at team meetings is required so that team members are current with their project team’s performance and contribution to the project.

Step 7: Celebrate Success.

Goal: Personalized recognition provides the best motivation for continued commitment. 

While the process is specifically structured, the path to creating a collaborative and committed team is unique to each project.  The Project Coach should facilitate Team Development sessions to uniquely design them to keep defined success factors at the forefront.  Starting at project initiation and continuing through construction, these sessions are designed to foster and strengthen the trust essential to successful teamwork.  Trust is built when agreements about performance are made at the outset and discussed throughout the process.  Sessions focus on elevating the cooperation necessary to solve inevitable challenges and maintain the desired level of performance.  These are not technical problem-solving job meetings, but rather strategic discussions for aligning the team resources towards the project mission. 

Maintaining focus on goals, while encouraging the opportunity to improve collaboration through Team Development sessions, increases the chances of a successful project.  Team Development has proven to maximize the project outcomes, producing a cost-effective project that embodies the Project Mission and adds value to the project. 

AIA-MBA Joint Committee Contact Information:

Eric Starkowicz, Director of Industry Relations, Master Builders’ Association of Western PA

Phone: 412.922.3912                                                                          Email:  


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