Collaborative Behavior is Long-Lasting and High-Protein

The industry has evolved quickly in regards to its view of integrated project delivery. It’s no longer bound to the type of delivery as it is behavior; collaborative behavior.
The following metaphor is being used to make a point – I’ve carried 10 pounds of “bad weight” around my midsection for the last 15 years because my diet was filled with too many carbohydrates (i.e. I love sweets). This year I didn’t make a drastic change, but what I did do was replace quick, short-term carbohydrates with longer-lasting high-protein alternatives at a few key intersections in my daily eating behavior. For example, I switched my breakfast from a big bowl of oatmeal squares to scrambled eggs and eliminated late afternoon snacks – cookies, granola bars or left-over cake from last-night’s dessert… As a result, I’ve shed 10 pounds effortlessly while increasing lean muscle mass. What if I addressed my food portion sizes next?  What if I formalized these weight-shedding definitions, strategies, skills and behaviors in writing and made it available as a weight-shedding support system? Well, that’s really not my thing.

Instead, what if my weight-shedding system could be translated into a waste-shedding support systemfor organizations? What if this system could help organizations shed “bad costs” or fat from a few intersections in the middle of their budgets that has been knowingly carried around for years?
Increasing collaborative capability fuels this waste-shedding support system. Just like shedding weight, many know what to do. It’s a matter of doing it. Increasing collaborative capabilityhelps you close your organization’s knowing-doinggaps.
Increasing collaborative capability is applicable to any industry that is fragmented, labor-intensive and complex. It will help you do more of what works by looking inward first (long-lasting, high-protein, collaborative behavior) and less of what historically doesn’t work such as looking outward first and assessing what others should do differently (quick, short-term, selfish behavior which is instinctive, reactive, self-preserving and tends to produce negative results, or fat).
For example, in the commercial design and construction industry, quick and short-term behavior has added bad weight (waste) over time to our once leaner and healthier construction projects. According to public data, there is $400 million of waste in this trillion dollar industry. This waste comes in the form of fatty contingency costs, unnecessary insurance coverage and non-discretionary changes due to mediocre design coordination, avoidable regulatory requirements and dysfunction. This waste is a result of looking outward first & protecting ourselves from what others might do or not do. Whereas to shed waste, the industry needs to look inward first. This requires changing working relationships from the inside-out, understanding what problems to solve, how to solve them and the benefits.
“Project Management is 80% Communication” – Project Management International Book of Knowledge

OK. I understand. What’s next? How Do I Specifically Start Looking Inward?

Assuming you’ve determined your readiness for increasing collaboration, first you need to answer some collaborative capability audit questions and second you need to design and build your waste-shedding support system.
Three of several key collaboration capability audit questions

1. Are you focusing on increasing collaborative capability because of an external factor, such as the economy, or is it a strategic decision? If increasing collaborative capability is not a strategic decision, stop here.

2. Is increasing collaborative capability a decision or a problem? In other words, if it’s a decision, you know the answers. If it’s a problem, you are looking for the answer.
3. What do you want from increased collaborative capability and what if you get it? How will you use it? Who will use it?
Design & build your waste-shedding support system using these collaborative capability pillars:

• Define the meaning of collaboration in your organization in behavioral terms. Determine where you are and where you want to be and attach them to a 10 point scale to measure improvement.
• Add “increasing collaborative capability” as a strategy to reach your organization’s objectives. This signals the importance of collaboration to the organization’s leadership.
• Is increasing collaborative capability a question of skill and/or behavior? Commit to installing collaborative skills & behaviors in your team to walk your collaborative talk. It won’t suddenly happen by itself or because you request everyone to try harder. You need a venue in order to practice, research, test and grow in a safe environment.
• Evolve your culture with intention to one based on collaboration. This creates the environment necessary to effect long-term, meaningful change.
As mentioned, a fragmented, labor-intensive, complex industry like commercial design & construction has 400 million in waste with materials accounting for only a small percentage of that waste. The rest of the waste is labor. Technology and improved processes will help reduce labor waste, but the biggest opportunity is to change behavior.
Incremental behavior change is doable. Choose a few intersections in the middle of your organization and start closing the knowing-doing gap with increased collaboration. It’s not like you’re being asked to make green vegetables smell like bacon. Yet, it will help create a renaissance in the design & construction industry.

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