Project Management Institute

Partnering the project--successful methods of building commitment, communication, cooperation for project excellence

Project Partnering has a decade of application in construction. Partnering builds commitment to listen, to be open, to work together for the good of the project. The process is flexible and adaptable. Several unique approaches meet the unique requirements of clients. One to build the team in half a day. A second to identify risks and opportunities by walking the project by territory, technology and time. Other approaches applied when parachuted into under way projects to take the “pulse” and correct the course of project relationships. Learn to partner people for excellent projects, even in adverse conditions.

Partnering reduces risk by opening communication, identifying potential concerns and issues, and designing a rapid problem solving mechanism. Each approach came from specific client requests over the past eight years.

Exhibit 1


To create project working relationships characterized by open and frequent communication, commitment to Excellence in all aspects of the project, and cooperation to achieve rapid completion.

Exhibit 2

Definition for Projects

Agreement after a contract award by people from client, contractor, design and other stakeholders with a vested interest in a project’s success to work together as a team to complete the project in an exceptional fashion. Exceptional project completion requires (our definition):

  1. Rapid, safe execution.
  2. Quality work—at all times, in all tasks.
  3. Frequent and complete communication.
  4. Rapid problem resolution.
  5. Willingness to explore each other’s perception
  6. Early dispute settlement—listen, listen, listen.
  7. Commitment to negotiate for as long as it takes rather than litigate.

The first is a six-hour or half-day partnering session requested by Don Perry, Director of the Indiana Public Works Division. Initially, the partnering sessions focused two days on team building. Smaller project teams and owners of multiple projects find it difficult to devote that much time to any one project. Don asked for a four-hour session and agreed to a six-hour day.

The session starts early with breakfast and finishes with lunch. Breaking bread together helps people know each other as humans. Partnering is a process to change attitudes, to improve relationships and to complete projects successfully. The design works both the right brain, the emotive, and the left brain, the rationalizer.

Exhibit 3

Successful Negotiations:

Some “Benchmarks”

*All participants believe they were successful in meeting their basic needs.

*Each participant feels that the others accepted their concerns as legitimate.

*All participants believe that the process was fair and equitable.

*All participants are committed to implementing any agreements reached.

*The principals have ratified the agreement represented in the negotiations.

*The agreements that have been reached CAN be implemented— they are technically, financially, politically, and socially viable.

*The participants would be willing to have a “rematch” in appropriate circumstances.

Exhibit 4

Partnering Workshop Results

Establish a common mission statement, team objectives, and guidelines.

Create an evaluation process to ensure continuous improvement.

Define issue resolution processes tailored to the team.

Develop problem escalation processes.

Exhibit 5

Exploring Our Hopes and Fears

■ 1. Discuss the best project on which you have ever worked.
 List the attributes that made it great.

■ 2. Discuss the worst project on which you have ever worked.
 List the attributes that made it terrible.

■ 3. Discuss your hopes for this project.
 List the hopes and wishes you have for this project.

■ 4. Discuss your fears and anxieties for this project.
 List the concerns, worries, fears you have for this project.

Exhibit 6

Project Excellence

One: List twenty (20) positive elements currently present that will make this project successful.

Two: List twenty (20) barriers to success also currently present on this project.

Three: List twenty (20) behaviors and actions that you want present on this project that vividly demonstrate a commitment to Partnering.

Four: List twenty (20) actions and behaviors that you want to see and hear that show excellence in communication and cooperation on this project

Five: List twenty (20) actions or behaviors that will specifically reduce or resolve conflict.

Exhibit 7

Preparing the Project Commitment

The project commitment is a set of guiding principles or a code of conduct. This will set the standards, foundation, values that guide our behavior with respect to each other on this project.

1. Write three to five goals about the responsibility to the taxpayer—our customers.

2. Write three to five goals about the relationships among the stakeholders on this project.

3. Write three to five goals about the responsibility to the crafts—the people building this project.

4. Write three to five goals about the execution of the project.

5. Write the preamble saying what we are doing and why.

Are you willing to commit to these goals?

Please sign your name as an indication of your commitment.


The second approach modified our project Plan-to-Plan™ process to make the second half-day as productive as possible. Partnering classically improves relationships and then stops. We expanded its scope. The Public Works Division discovered that they got 50 times the sharing of information if they used the afternoon to walk through the plans and specifications on of the project. People were open, animated, and involved in improving the project immediately after the partnering session. We adapted that learning, added structure, and now devoted the afternoon identifying issues and opportunities in the work. This process is a territory—walk the project page by page, station- by-station, floor-by-floor; technology—walk the project by types of work and by in the boots of the subcontractor; and time—walk each phase of the project day-by-day. The results of partnering have been significant cost savings to the owner; profit improvements to the contractor; and time reductions to the project.

Exhibit 8

Project Partnering Commitment

We, the partners of the XXX Project commit ourselves to working together and to construct a high quality project in accordance with the contract, plans, specifications, and other contract documents. We pledge ourselves to communicate, to cooperate, and to coordinate in order to complete this project on time, within budget, and with excellent quality for the satisfaction and recognition of all parties.

◆ Responsibility to the Public — Our customer

— Good quality project. (Durable, attractive, functional, user friendly secure.)

— Good value for taxpayer’s money.

— Maintain safe workplace.

— On-time Completion.

— Building designed and constructed to be able to adapt to future needs.

— Accurate systems documentation for facilities maintenance.

◆ Responsibility to People Involved in this Project

— Chain of Command — to resolve issues promptly.

— Mutual goals toward delivery of the product to the owner.

— Frequent listening with respect, between all parties.

— Bringing the job in on time.

— Tasks completed right first time.

— Maximize Quality and Safety.

◆ Responsibility to Craftspeople and Workers on the Project.

— Safe, clean workplace-zero injury accidents.

— Drug and alcohol free project.

— Good planning and coordination of trades.

— Clearly defined rules for the job site.

— To consider as viable input from crafts’ personnel

— Recognition and reward process.

◆ Responsibility for Executing the Project.

— Timely start and completion.

— Maintain frequent and open communication

— Quick response to problems.

— Keep team intact.

— Complete change administration.

— Close out project quickly — 30 days.

— Timely payment.

Exhibit 9

Achieving and Measuring the Partnership

■    For each goal, write two or three key measurable actions, tasks, activities or work that we can measure to achieve the goal. In other words, write down how we will achieve these goals (what we will do— jobs, tasks, etc?).

■    We can only achieve what we can measure. Four different metrics, measurements, exist for any task. You may measure Results (tangible, deliverable), Scope (quantity), Performance (activity, actions), or Quality (how good, quality of a product). Rewrite these tasks in measurable terms to ensure we are fulfilling the Partnering commitment.

■    To say again, identify two or three measurable tasks (measurement-embedded) for each goal of the commitment.

Exhibit 10

Measuring the Partnership

■    What are ten (10) measurable actions you will do personally so the achieve excellence on this project?

■    What will you do personally and specifically to communicate, cooperate, help others and be a team play to build excellence?

Exhibit 11

Problem Resolution / Escalation Process

■    Discusss as a large group and complete one form.

1. Name the key players at each level who can agree to problem resolutions.

2. Agree on what problems we can solve at each level. Solving a problem and approving the expense are different.

3. Identify the levels of authority for problem resolution/escalation.

4. Agree on the time limit for solving the problem and approving the expense or for committing to a date for both actions.


The third approach uses two methods developed from parachuting into the middle of projects to restore relationships. Partnering in the middle of a project is a tough challenge. One is to collect data on the management process such as submittals, progress, changes, requests for information, and schedule. These can be aged like accounts receivable. They analyzed this data for information—what does this tell us about the current situation of the project—and for intelligence—what does it predict for the project. The people were mixed up by tables and asked to role play one parties in the project—designer, user, owner, builder, project administrator—to develop the information and to predict outcomes. We then asked the actual entities to evaluate all they have heard for each to respond to what they would do to improve the project and the project process.

Exhibit 12

Issues, Issues, Issues

■    Today, we are identifying issues: concerns, thoughts, risks, opportunities. Issues may be categorized by the following:

Assumptions— What are not facts that we are treating as facts and how will it impact the rest of this project?

Decisions— What is needed when? What decisions have already been made that may have to be revisited?

Risks— What can go wrong? What is the impact? What is the probability?

Opportunities— What are the opportunities to significantly improve the success of the project?

Information— What do we not know? What do we need to know and when?

Imperatives— What must we do very well to ensure project success?

Definitions— What are the operational definitions (glossary) that will impact the remainder of this project?

Exhibit 13

Identifying Issues

Potential challenges, opportunities, concerns, issues, risks, problems arise in all areas of this project because we are dealing with a human system. The earlier these are identified, the sooner they get resolved. The sooner the resolution, the fewer the surprises. A project with issues resolved early is a smoother, faster, quicker profitable project.


Another approach for an under steam project used Territory, Technology, Time mentioned above. Again, the key players gave a response to the findings.

A third method we used directly confronted the bad attitudes and ended with each individual promising to excellence and to return the project to the proper course.

Our experience suggests that partnering follow-up is beneficial. A neutral can ferret out issues, problems, and misunderstanding. Follow-up can have several agendas: reviewing the commitment, reviewing the issues, discussing the next six to eight weeks – day by day, walking the territory, going over the work by materials and by specialty contractors. Follow-up with the neutral partnering facilitator will increase the quality of the project while reducing time.

Exhibit 14

Six techniques generate issues:

1. Walking the Project by Territory

(Geography, location, station) Review the scope of the project from one end to the other. Understand all the work that has to be performed to accomplish that scope. Understand the geography, the territory of the project. Look for issues, concerns, by walking the physical layout of the project. Design Professional

2. Walking the Project by Systems and Type of Work

(Technology) Look at each type of work, each subcontractor. Move that work across the physical project as well as across the time of the project. Understand the technologies of the project. Look for issues, concerns, by reviewing the different systems, types of work, methods, equipment, materials, tools, and subcontractors. Subcontractors and supervisors

3. Walking the Project by Time

(Completion Schedule by Week) Walk the project schedule moving from phase to phase. Learn the approach, the strategy to completing the work required by the scope of the project. Understand the time of the project. Look for issues, concerns, by reviewing the phases, sequencing of work, strategy, tactices. Contractor

4. Look over the project system to identify issues we may have missed above (Inputs, Resources, Process, Results, Metrics) of the system. All

5. Take a vertical slice of time at any crucial time of the project to identify the issues at that time. Everything occurring at that time is examined. All

6. Draw a box around a critical event or activity and examine it in detail. All


We have shown four examples of partnering approaches. The first proves a project can be partnered in half a day. The second is a method to elicit all the issues on the project at the beginning. Many people are reluctant to identify issues believing them to be unimportant. The more issues identified before starting the project the better the project. We have a project preplanning process that only develops the issues before execution. The third approach is to analyze the data of a project to forecast outcomes based on that data. Changes are suggested and principals respond committing to action for improving the project. A fourth approach confronts a troubled project. Possible project quality becomes the motivator for action by the responsible parties. The danger, as John Summercamp ably said, is to believe “interpersonal relationships” is a four-letter word.

Exhibit 15

Situation Analysis

■    Your table will be assigned one of the following issues to evaluate:

* Modification Log

* Meeting minutes sorted by responsibility

* Answered RFI’s sorted by discipline

* Unanswered RFI’s response time if answered today

* Outstanding Submittals and Returned Submittals

* Schedule

■    These documents provide data.

* Read and analyze these documents for content, for facts, responsibility.

Now look at context, how many, how often, response time, for increases, for the rate of increase.

■    This is information.

* Now use your experience and wisdom to interpret what you have learned.

* What is your prognosis for this project?

* We are taking a snapshot at 25% complete.

* What does this information indicate for the remainder of the project?

* What are the cost implications of this information?

* What are the implications for time and schedule?

* What impact does this information have on the speed of construction?

■    Any other implications?

■    This is intelligence.

Exhibit 16

Possible Improvements

■    You will be assigned a role (User /Tenant, Property Manager/Owner’s Representative, Architect, Program Manager, General Contractor). From that perspective and that persona (yes, organizations have a personality), list ten improvements on a view graph they believe are necessary to successfully finish this project.

■    These can be things they should do but more likely are things they believe others need to do to improve this project.

■    Now, if you could only get one thing accomplished off your list of ten, which one would your role select? What off all these suggested improvements is the most crucial to your persona?

Exhibit 17

Responsible Party

■    We will walk through the fifty suggested improvements and assign each one, as a large group, to the responsible party.

■    Again assume that perspective and that persona.

■    Distill the list of suggested improvements to no more than seven, but five is preferable, that your group believes to be the responsibility of that party.

■    Now list three to five actions, behaviors, or activities for each improvement you will take which will contribute greatly to making that improvement.

      Be specific, measurable if possible, attainable, resource consuming (it takes work), and time limited (by when)

■    General actions are subject to interpretation, be very specific. Your group is taking the role of the responsible party and you are saying what action you will take, in what time frame, and are telling us how we will measurably see a difference.

Exhibit 18

What is Wrong?

■    What are the negative aspects of this project? This includes concerns, worries, problems, attitudes, quality, schedule, performance. Anything that you or your group perceives as detrimental to the project.

■    What are the consequences to the project, to relationships, if these negative aspects continue?

■    Everyone needs to hear and understand the issue.

Exhibit 19

What is the Opportunity?

■    What quality is possible in this project if these negative aspects are changed? A quality project has quality in the product (or the bridge), the construction process, the administration, and in relationships.

■    Is this opportunity great enough to make people want to change how they are performing?

■    Is this quality sufficient to change your behavior?

Exhibit 21

What Action Are You Going To Take?

■    Given:

* All the Issues

* The Consequences of Continuing this Way

* The Opportunity for Quality Completion

* The Required Changes

■    Write a list of actions you will take to achieve the Opportunity for Quality Completion.

* We want to know what change (result) you will make, what actions are required to produce the change(s), when it will be done, and who is accountable for doing it.

■    It is important that everyone see or touch or measure the tangible change (result) produced.

Exhibit 20

What is Required?

■    If we are to achieve the possible quality for this project, what must we do? What must we change?

■    Each to assume one of the following identities:
 Contractor Field, State Project, Contractor Office/Project, State District/Construction.

■    Answer the next six questions as that identity.

1. What do we do right? And should continue to doright?

2. What is imperative that we do right?

3. What do we need to improve? A lot? A little?

4. What do we need to not do next time that we did this time?

5. What are we not doing that we should ensure we not do?

6. What new or different thing should we do?

This material has been reproduced with the permission of the copyright owner. Unauthorized reproduction of this material is strictly prohibited. For permission to reproduce this material, please contact PMI or any listed author.

Proceedings of the Project Management Institute Annual Seminars & Symposium
September 7–16, 2000 • Houston, Texas, USA



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