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When you get a great team together – involving the client, project manager, design consultants, quantity surveyor and the contractor – you’ll have a great job. If you have them in place, the right people will generate the right outcome

Team focus improves quality, saves time and cost – By Graham White

At a time when all the talk across the industry is of poor procurement processes, forms of contract, and unfair sharing of risks – causing major problems for construction projects and companies – how can we find a new way forward?

We can all agree the industry is under huge pressure for resources and time, with clients focused on the bottom line, and cost margins becoming razor thin. In this intense and incredibly complex industry, these factors are all the more reason to work consistently with people and companies you trust, because true success is built on consistent and long-term partnerships that add value through familiarity and proven track records.

Transformational change can be achieved through long-term consistency of people and delivery across multiple projects. It’s all focused on getting the right team onboard – from the project manager through to onsite contractors – and then retaining this core team across a range of projects.

This changes the attitude from teams coming together for one-off projects to a partnership mentality, which in turn builds the transparency and trust for all participants to deliver the maximum results project by project, as well as continuous improvement over time.

Great teams create consistency

When you get a great team together – involving the client, project manager, design consultants, quantity surveyor and the contractor – you’ll have a great job. If you have them in place, the right people will generate the right outcome.

Within our industry, what we see often are projects delivered successfully due in part to great team members – companies and people – appointed into key roles. However, what also happens often is that when the next project comes along, the client goes to market again for every part of the job – consultants, project manager, contractor, quantity surveyor (QS) – and ends up with a different team. The client then wonders why this job isn’t so successful.

When the team balance is disturbed, the outcome changes. Simply put, great teams create consistency, so retaining the right people and companies is the key to building teams with the right cultural fit for success.

Promoting the partnership model

One of our clients, NZ Living, has avoided the lowest cost/lowest efficiency tendering model prevalent in the industry by promoting the partnership model. This has seen it retain at least 90% of its team from one project to the next, through negotiation. This requires a fair price and, most importantly, an attitude that seeks continuous improvement.

NZ Living expects contractors and subbies to buy into the continuous improvement idea. This allows them to capture learnings and constantly refine designs and building methodologies, so they use significantly less design and construction resources from when they first started. It’s not about sacrificing on quality of materials or design. It’s the opposite – improved quality and materials made possible as a result of a more efficient way of working.

This approach enabled us to draw up a cost plan that was much more than a budget, and enabled NZ Living then to go to the subcontractor market to validate the costs. When all the subbie pricing was in, we reviewed the prices to ensure they stacked up. This is a great approach: not only did it save time, but NZ Living got the team they wanted, which is a huge advantage.

With this streamlined, production-line approach to development, NZ Living has been able to significantly reduce costs by as much as 50% per square metre to build, compared to a standard apartment per square metre cost.

The key to building trust in teams

This focus will require a key change in processes for many in the construction industry, with a greater focus on communication – making sure that project priorities are understood, with open discussions on outcomes, and transparency throughout the process. If there’s an issue, particularly relating to team members, getting it onto the table early is critical. Being proactive and sharing problems is the key to building trust in teams.

While we admit that not all companies will be comfortable with this type of working arrangement, it is a less contractual environment and builds more of a team culture that improves over time. In working this way, each project captures learnings and refines the methodology, producing a more efficient way of working for the next project.

Ultimately, the added advantage of higher visibility of future work and clearer understanding of upcoming costs, scope of work and business capability enables these partnerships to grow in parallel.

A future scenario, where the industry works together to achieve better results for their clients, as well as continue to build successful and sustainable businesses, comes back to the simple concepts of good people, continuous improvement and communication. It’s not rocket science, but it leads to stellar performance over time.

Graham White is a director of White Associates, expert property and construction consultants and quantity surveyors

whiteassociates.co.nz

 


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