Creating a Common Performance Environment will lead to more effective teams

Mac Muzvimwe has a proposition…..

There is a constant debate on how to rewrite construction contracts in order to incorporate working in a BIM-enabled and/or digital environment. The discussions seem more centred on issues of liability – whose model is it anyway, integrated project insurance and so on. There is some discussion on how to make teams work together more collaboratively in a digital environment, but there is little or no discussion on creating a Common Performance Environment, i.e. a digital environment which not enables collaboration but also allows the team’s performance to be collectively measured and rewarded; an environment in which there is absolutely no opportunity for “points scoring” by any of the team members. Such an environment will require a radical rethink and shake-up of the current procurement methods, particularly for consultants.

I have often wondered why does a client care who the quantity surveyor will be, or the building services engineer, the architect, BREEAM Assessor, etc.? Take for example, a Further Education College looking to construct a new teaching block; should the focus not be on firming up the requirements brief, particularly focusing on ensuring that the consultant team and the contractor will deliver a facility that is fit for purpose? Instead, most clients get involved in writing individual briefs for procurement of the consultants – is this the best use of their time; after all, their day job is running an educational establishment, a hospital, etc. Procuring separate discipline teams can result in (a) gaps in the brief which can mean that some key duties are not picked up by any of the consultant teams, say between the Lead Consultant and Project Manager, or Project Manager and Quantity Surveyor (QS), (b) progress meetings which are often littered with excuses, blame game and finger-pointing, for example, ‘the architect was late with issue of the drawings, so our cost plan is high level and not market tested’, or ‘the structural drawings were late so we have not been able to do any clash detection work’, and so on.

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Creating a Common Performance Environment means you create a single team, which right from the outset, starts with end in mind, i.e. providing a facility that is fit for purpose. After all, the project is about the facility; anything else in between does not matter; it is just a process. More importantly, it is a proven fact that all high performance environments share a serious common devotion to results, and that environments influence people’s behaviours.

Therefore, clients should just seek to procure a Lead Consultant, who has one simple requirement; a facility that is fit for purpose (the result). It is then up to that appointed Consultant to appoint whoever else they want to join their effective team that will deliver the required result(s). I would envisage succinct progress meetings in the format of a RAG (Red, Amber & Green) report. Show me the design? Are you on programme? Are you budget? Meeting adjourned; see you in a months’ time! No finger pointing, points scoring, nothing – because the client does not need to know what is happening behind the digital doors of his project team. If a single performance measure is missed, it is on the whole team.

I have worked on projects where the client used “Team Performance Measures” (TPMs), but as the consultant appointments were individual, on poor performing projects, the meetings to agree these TPMs were only fraught with heated arguments and blame apportionment. In the end, the client was often left with a team disillusioned with one another and with very little desire to support each other and any weak links in the team; individual competition remained inherent in these environments.

A Common Performance Environment will mean a single point of contact and a team focused on the results. In such an environment, if I was a client, I would even judge the need to undertake value engineering with the client as a failure by the team to meet the brief. I am a strong advocate for Target Value Design, i.e. a collaborative design process with all parties working in integrated manner to produce a design that provides the best value for the client, and the budget (the target value) is a key design criterion. Currently, value engineering workshops are often fraught with the design team being blamed for an expensive design and with them countering that the QS has over-allowed, and in most cases, the exercise is then reduced to a cost-cutting exercise. The design team should never be allowed to design without costs in mind; the QS should be an integrated part of the design team, offering cost advice at every given opportunity – that level of integration can only happen in a Common Performance Environment. Such an environment will also mean that a client, as a fee payer, should only accept a narrow range of acceptable performance standards. At the end of a project, successful or otherwise, do any clients ever reflect to see if they created a high performance environment? I think that all clients should.

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