The Future of Construction Partnering: Where We’ve Been, Where We Are, and Where We’re Going

by | Apr 22, 2021

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Back in September of 2020, we launched a new series called The Future of Construction Partnering, which addressed how the Global Pandemic would affect the role of partnering in the construction industry long term. We now return to observe what has changed since then and to look further into what the future holds for partnering! For example, this excerpt from Arcadis’ 2020 Global Construction Disputes Report speculated that:
With COVID-19’s impact on the construction industry, we expect a further increase in claims related to delays and increased costs on projects. It is very difficult to predict the true widespread impact of this global pandemic, but with construction projects shutting down in some areas of North America, we know that projects will experience delays and disruption (p. 12).

Under normal circumstances, most potential conflicts that project teams prioritized before the pandemic included public safety, budget constraints, project schedule times, plus other miscellaneous challenges. But given the rise of COVID-19, project teams have had to readjust their project goals to implement new safety measures consistent with COVID-19 protocols, as well as find new creative ways to communicate with their teams. Nevertheless, these adjustments did not happen instantaneously. Because most construction projects inherently carry high risk factors and can be riddled with contention, the transition into working virtually initially created additional barriers to building a culture of effective listening and communication; collaboration; and trust through partnering.

GLA, however, has persevered. Although transitioning to a virtual space took some adjustment—and while we sorely miss working with our teams in person— we continue to discover more benefits to virtual partnering. Whereas a typical in-person session used to consume a whole day because they included commute times and lunches, our virtual sessions can now be accessed from anywhere, whether from the comfort of our homes, the office, or from your truck on the job site. On our interview series “A Moment with GLA,” one of our construction partnering facilitators, Vicki Mattia-Martin, attested to some of the apparent positives of online work sessions. Some stated positives included giving team members more time to engage more with in-field work, saving money that previously went to miscellaneous expenses like gas or team lunches (but dont don’t get us wrong, we miss those lunches a lot!), and providing a more level playing field for team members to express their voices and opinions during on-screen meetings.
Certainly there are still some barriers to these virtual meetings, but GLA has continued to encourage an environment of open communication, trust, and collaboration. This is done primarily by requesting our project team members to keep their cameras on and to be cognizant of their nonverbal communication during all meetings. We feel that this alone has made the transition to virtual sessions that much easier and more personable.

Despite projects continuing to face challenges like reductions in work crews; delays in permitting and other government agency responses; restricted site access; and much more, agencies and contractors still have yet to face the entirety of the costly, legal ramifications brought about by the global pandemic (Skadden et al. 2021). As more projects without third party facilitation anticipate impending litigation in their distant future, it is becoming increasingly clear just how essential construction partnering and dispute prevention are in the life span of projects. LA Metro’s CEO, Phil Washington, for example, recently expressed his position on partnering in a recent interview on “The Ambassador with Sam Hassoun.” Mr. Washington is not only an advocate for partnering between owners and contractors, but believes that partnering should be extended to city and local entities. This goes to show how the global pandemic has made partnering’s role in the construction industry indispensable. Indeed, rather than the pandemic weakening the role of partnering, it seems that the need for partnering is actually greater because of the pandemic. Although the construction industry has not faced a challenge of this caliber before, GLA’s style of dispute prevention has always been designed to help their teams anticipate potential conflicts and adapt, no matter the circumstances.

To learn more about how GLA can help your team during these challenging times, please contact us through our website: www.gla.world.

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