As seen on, October 2011
Written by Darren Smith, CEO, Cima Strategic Services

Has someone, acting as both judge & jury, ever proceeded to sentence you to the island of “You Don’t Know What You’re Talking About?”

A colleague tried this on me recently. My colleague thought he knew enough about IPD to certify (figuratively speaking) those who claim to know something about IPD. Well, who’s certifying this certifier?

Once a definition is established (in this case IPD), we tend to become dangerously stuck on it and fail to see the collaborative forest for the IPD trees. Our industry may be at that point.

Let me explain. The Wikipedia definition of integrated project delivery is “a collaborative alliance of people, systems, business structures and practices into a process that harnesses the talents and insights of all participants to optimize project results, increase value to the owner, reduce waste, and maximize efficiency through all phases of design, fabrication, and construction.”

Can anyone reading this article explain to me what this definition means? I still don’t know what I’m going to receive if I use IPD as my delivery method. In other words, some sort of upfront costs (at least extra work) are clear and the benefits (at the end of the project) are vague. If I’m an owner, it sounds like more risk on the face of it.

My colleague referenced above believes this Wikipedia definition of IPD is the standard. Anything else is wrong.

I propose the construction industry use a more practical definition of IPD, one that is not construction-related at all, one that more people (owners, construction professionals, suppliers and users) can relate to and act upon easily. The Wikipedia definition is technical, product and process-focused in the vein of BIM and LEAN. IPD is none of those. IPD is simply a behavior standard.

This Wikipedia definition of IPD flies in the face of something a colleague of mine, Alan Weiss, and I agree on and he wrote about recently:

Cutting to the Chase

People don’t want to have to interpret a strange language. (“We operate in the sales space, focusing on connectedness and authority with subordinated client needs.”)

People want to know what’s in it for THEM. This is not a bad philosophy for social, civic, and family relationships, as well. But it is vital and essential for business.

Practice being both concise (taking fewer words) and pithy (using powerful words) to convey your meaning. Understand that others are adults, and are capable of asking questions if they need more information.

Start at the conclusion, you’re not a mystery novel. Tell me what you can do for me quickly and cogently and enticingly. Then leave it to me.

The current definition of IPD is strange language. It is not concise or pithy and it doesn’t convey what’s in it for the reader (i.e WIFM – what’s in it for me). Up to now, I’ve used anecdotes to define IPD because I’ve not been able to find language that satisfies. Now, before your eyes I will make a death-defying leap over the cadre of certifiers I’ve encountered and define IPD.

Here it goes:

IPD translated from construction language to simple English means collaboration.

Collaboration =

a collaborative environment (autonomy, mastery and purpose)

+ demonstrated collaborative skills and behaviors

(skills include powerful questioning, critiquing and listening)

(behaviors include demonstrating respect towards others by using their names, setting tone and speaking in terms of how what you want helps the other person get what they want)

+ trust

(trust begins with familiarity of team members through past experience or familiarity with their body of work)

Whew, I did it.

The three elements that propagate a collaborative environment come from Daniel Pink’s book, “Drive.” He states that creative people simply want latitude (autonomy), the opportunity to do something really well (mastery) and the opportunity to be part of something greater than self (purpose).

You’ve heard some in construction casually state “you only need trust” in an IPD project. This assumes trust is something you can simply turn on or off like a light switch. Well, trust is organic and grows over time.

Before you can have trust, though, you need to show you can collaborate by demonstrating collaborative skills and behaviors that don’t come naturally and must be learned by most people. But, before this you need to design and build a collaborative environment consisting of the three elements listed above in this definition of IPD (autonomy, mastery & purpose). To top things off, some type of integrated form of agreement can make IPD more effective though it is not a requisite.

The output of collaboration (the WIFM) is everyone acts like they are on the same team and wears the same color uniform. Creativity is uncorked, or churned-out from unexpected places, to achieve project goals such as removing large chunks of waste. An example would be waiving all claims among team members and eliminating redundant and excessive project insurance costs expended by all parties. That’s the value of IPD.

Working From the Inside-Out

Lastly, in this definition of IPD, there is an operating phrase for creating collaboration (specific manner and sequence) called “working from the inside-out.” Currently, owners are not buying-in to IPD as quickly as expected for several reasons, one being, the AEC community is mostly selling IPD from the “outside-in.” What do I mean by that? The AEC community is out there selling IPD and when they stumble upon an opportunity, they turn-on the trust light switch with whatever firms they will be working with. They whip-together an “IPD project team” and then they might make some effort to string together existing IPD elements in their organizational culture to support the project team (whatever that means). All this happens with the expectation that things will work out. Sound familiar? While owners may not be able to verbalize it or put their finger on this truth, owners feel something is not right. Hence, they do not buy-in to IPD. It feels riskier than current options.

What we need to do is work from the inside-out. Here is the suggested path:

● IPD has to help you achieve your business strategy

● Win support from senior management

● Choose IPD as your culture, not just one of your delivery methods

● Choose an IPD champion

● Complete an IPD readiness assessment

● Design and execute training on how to behave at an IPD standard

● Use a large amount of carrot and some stick

● Pilot an IPD project

Can we now see the collaborative forest for the Integrated Project Delivery (IPD) trees?

My goal for this article is to shift the definition of IPD and reset it to propel owner buy-in and help in the revitalization effort of the construction industry. Who says the current definition out there is correct? It’s sort of like the old political joke “he’s a crook, but he’s our crook.”

Darren Smith produces the IPD Academy, which includes the annual IPDAssured Program for collaboration training (eLearning version also available). Darren can be reached at .

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