Project Management Institute


for better and for worse

by Carter Rohan


THE CONSTRUCTION INDUSTRY PRESS praises partnering as a glowing universal remedy for current industry problems. The authors of these articles invariably note the absence of claims as the primary device for measuring success. Rarely do they discuss successful partnered projects that have experienced disputes and/or claims, primarily because the general stigma associated with a claim overshadows any achievements that a project may have experienced. it is common belief that a project cannot be deemed a success if it has experienced the foul proceedings of a claim.

Claims happen, to paraphrase a popular bumper sticker. It's how they're resolved that points up the value of partnering, even when conflicts arise.

Thinking Makes It So. Shakespeare observed that “there is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so.” He might have been writing about construction claims. A claim is viewed as an insult and carries a cloak of guilt for everyone involved. The contractor feels discomfort in filing the claim, but feels financially compelled to do so. The CM and A/E feel disbelief that a “partner” would resort to a claim. The owner feels violated. As a result, any mutual trust that existed erodes. Projects and partnering programs that experience claim activity acquire a blemish of weak performance, which may be unfounded.

Claims happen, even in the most well managed construction environments. As with many elements of partnering, our ideas about claims may need to change for us to recognize that they don't always spell failure.

Carter R. Rohan is an experienced construction management professional who has provided services for a wide range of project types over a 20-year career. He is currently a construction administrator for Parsons Brinckerhoff Tudor-Turner Associates.

Idea Transformation

Partnering transforms traditional psychological barriers into positive ideas

Exhibit 1. Partnering transforms traditional psychological barriers into positive ideas.

Dispute Resolution Matrix

Here's a proven process by which problems are attacked for resolution

Exhibit 2. Here's a proven process by which problems are attacked for resolution.

Partnering requires a shake-up in traditional construction industry thinking. Key negative ideas associated with traditional thinking are challenged and transformed into positive ideas by a partnering program. As a result, psychological barriers are broken down and a new approach to project administration is generated. Exhibit 1 shows traditional ideas that are transformed by partnering.

The strength of a partnering program is tested but not necessarily destroyed by conflicts, disputes, or claims. Understanding proper measurement of the success of partnering requires a complete understanding of the theory of partnering.

In the construction industry partnering is merely a term used for a long-term commitment between parties involved in a construction project, usually the owner, contractor, CM and A/E, for a common goal of successfully completing the project. This requires the development of a relationship between the parties built on trust, dedication to common goals, and an understanding of each partner's expectations.

Partnering fosters a strong desire to contain costs when changes are necessary, and leads to a team approach in resolving any financial and time consequences. Partnering establishes communication across various levels, encourages decision- making and problem-solving at the lowest practical levels of authority, provides a framework for discussion and resolve, pro-motes cooperation, and creates a foundation for conflict resolution.

Partnering enhances the general working environment, and while the overall environment is better than for non-partnered projects, the achievement of the mutual goals depends highly on a strong commitment by the parties involved. Partners must jettison traditional attitudes of self-interest and exploitation, and resist the temptation to prey on the cooperation of other partners. By achieving this change in attitude, the stage for success is set. Even so, it does not preclude conflict.

A good partnering program plans for conflict by establishing a foundation for conflict resolution that includes a procedure for discussing and resolving disputes. An attempt should be made to resolve all conflicts or disputes at the lowest levels possible. If resolution cannot be achieved to the satisfaction of all partners at the same level, elevate the issue to the next higher level of authority, and continue to do so up to the highest level of authority established by the partnering agreement. Conflicts resolved at any level of the matrix are considered successful accomplishments and reinforce the assertion that projects can be partnered successfully, even with disputes or claims. An example of a Dispute Resolution Matrix structured by an agreement of the partners is shown in Exhibit 2.

Partners work to settle disputes before they get out of hand, so unnecessary expenditures for arbitration or litigation are avoided. Therefore, the proper measurement tools for determining partnering success should be the accomplishment of the mutual goals of the partners. This can be judged by the achievement of project benefits, which can include:

images A reduction in the owner's expected cost for the project

images Overall project costs coming in under budget

images Completion within or close to scheduled target

images Cost overruns held to a minimum

images Contractor's profitability maintained for the project

images Completion of the project with a good site safety record

images A high standard of quality achieved

images Project team morale maintained at a high level throughout the project.

THE DEGREE OF SUCCESS of partnering is dependent on the level of achievement of the benefits, not whether the project experienced conflicts, disputes, or even claims. Partnering is for better and for worse, and to the degree that it promotes “more better, less worse,” it can be considered a strategy for success. images

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.




Related Content

  • PM Network

    Playing with Fire

    By Jones, Tegan With the coastline of an entire continent burning, a scorched-earth urgency had teams across Australia racing to control the damage. Between September 2019 and January 2020, bushfires ravaged…

  • PM Network

    Trees of Life

    By Hendershot, Steve The world needs more trees—and a lot of them—to stem the damage wrought by mass deforestation. Brazil alone is destroying the equivalent of three football pitches per minute in the Amazon rainforest…

  • PM Network

    Rising Risks

    By Nilsson, Ryan For as long as humans have been building cities, they have migrated toward the coasts -- for food, ease of transportation and any number of ecological benefits. Today, it's estimated that more than…

  • PM Network

    From the Rubble

    By Thomas, Jennifer Puerto Rico's infrastructure woes began long ago. But a series of earthquakes this year coupled with hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017—which racked upUS$139 billion in damage—exacerbated the U.S.…

  • PM Network

    Protection Clause

    By Parsi, Novid As harbors of sensitive client information, law firms are ripe targets for hackers. According to PwC's 2019 global survey, 100 percent of the top-10 surveyed law firms experienced a cybersecurity…