Have you read the book or seen the movie Moneyball?  The story is about Billy Beane, general manager of Major League Baseball’s Oakland A’s. The A’s have the smallest payroll in baseball yet compete against teams with two to four times the payroll. Billy learns he can’t win if he tries to play by the golden rule. In this case, the golden rule is ‘he who has the gold makes the rules’ (and wins most of the time).  If the A’s were going to win, something had to change.

So, Billy created new rules, using secondary player statistics and blemished players, to build a team instead of a pile of cash. Playing by his rules, he was able to win as many games (albeit with less style-points than the teams with the stars) as many of his rich competitors. The latest example is the Oakland A’s winning the 2012 American League West Division title on the last day of the 162 game season over the Texas Rangers, who have twice the payroll of the A’s.

How does this apply to design & construction, or any other business for that matter? Well, in baseball, you’re trying to win games, whereas in design & construction you’re trying to win projects.  What are the current rules being used to win these projects?  Low-bid.  But is this the best way to deliver the highest satisfaction, predictability and value for the money?  Not really, but it could be if we add one important element. Let’s focus our team on being collaborative and thus achieve ‘lowest final cost.’  If all team members are collaborative then you’ll see less waste (more value for your money), increased satisfaction and predictability.

Today, we confuse feeling with being. Just because you feel collaborative doesn’t mean you are. If collaboration begins with only feeling collaborative in your head, it will disappear as soon as the benefit of collaborating disappears. This is the way it really works:  if you first use your heart to be collaborative, then you’ll stay collaborative easier and more frequently.

What is most unpredictable about a project? People. What do we have the most control over on a project? Our attitude and behavior towards being collaborative. What if we improve the current rules by pouring as much effort into raising the bar on team members’ attitude and behavior towards being collaborative as we have on utilizing software tools and making work process improvements? Consider an insight recently shared in a conversation with a large healthcare system executive – “what helps or hinders us the most on our projects is our human capital and yet we concentrate so heavily on IT and processes.”

Collaboration doesn’t mean you have to be touchy feely. It doesn’t mean you only have to be nicer or more cordial. It means being more relational, intentional and institutional in your collaborative approach to work. Collaboration is a transformational direction.

Billy Beane revolutionized Major League Baseball by creating his own rules and focusing on secondary statistics and blemished players. Creating new rules is the name of the game.  Let’s focus on using the heart to be more collaborative and revolutionize our industry.

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