Why Team Alignment Matters
- Nov 17, 2016
By Denton Wilson, Director of Collaboration
Throughout my career I’ve been on a journey to align teams with purpose in order to establish an environment that creates more predictable outcomes. Many call this aspect of project delivery “collaboration”. I see collaboration as an overused buzzword. To change years and years of established behaviors takes great effort, focus and consistency.
At Beck we are taking a different route by making great strides in being very proactive on the front end of each project focusing on team alignment and measurable expectations. We are engaging openly with our stakeholders and partners to integrate our expectations in a unified and measurable vision. We define, align, measure, adjust and repeat. We do this by being proactive in early development of environments that support, grow and truly motivate our teams.
A Higher Level of Accountability
If the desire of our industry is to truly delivery greater value, higher quality, at a lower cost and with a more predictable schedule then we must become more efficient together. The effort is an understanding that collaboration equals accountability. True collaboration will simply fall to the side if individuals and teams are not held to a higher level of accountability. Re-aligning the knowledge of a team much earlier in the delivery process, however, brings a totally new focus.
Team alignment and team health are not only common topics of late, but areas of focus that we must learn more about and adjust accordingly. Tremendous research is coming forward that shows a very consistent and clear picture of the value achieved by this effort. As seen in the chart below, the Lean Construction Institute confirms that the number one contributing factor to project performance, according to Owners, is far and away the “Team”.
How much money will this team alignment save us? This is a question that so many want to have an answer to before they are willing to engage differently. The simple facts are that each and every project has its own parameters of success and opportunities. No One-Size-Fits-All approach will predict savings in time or money based on those unknown variables. However, if the desire is to create more value then aligning knowledge early in an environment of willing collaboration will prove to be positive. If a reduction in wasted effort, reduced rework, better coordination, and an environment of continual learning is desired, then collaboration is the answer. If a more predictable schedule and a team that is better prepared to adjust as curve balls come in, is desired then once again collaboration is key. So is the question about how much money we can save or how much efficiency we can gain with a higher focus on team alignment? Time over time my best projects have followed a solid and proactive effort in the four measures below. The combination of focus at a time when our industry is truly valuing these measures is shifting the understanding and measure of value.
Measures of Accountability
It is the how that many are swinging and missing on. Team alignment and team health take a proactive engagement with a focus on “measures of accountability.”
As shown above, team chemistry, clearly defined goals, team alignment and timely decisions are simply the key. But what are we doing in these specific areas?
• How many of you on your own internal teams see team members that simply don’t work well together?
• What proactive actions do you typically take to better this situation?
• How many of you take your specific project team and engage in conversations about expectations of each other?
• How many of you take those expectations and document them as to pause/measure throughout the journey?
• How many of you take the time to educate others on your team about the “why” in regards to the information that you need?
These are very simple processes and steps that we just don’t value until we look back and say “why didn’t we?” Four simple words – plan, act, evaluate and improve – are the steps that will bring value to this realignment of knowledge. Focusing on the needs of your teams and the environment allows them in some cases to understand, for the first time, what each other does. Most teams that I work with when asked say they are doing a good job planning and acting, but rarely pause to measure, and typically wait until the end to do a Lessons Learned Analysis, if at all. A moment of pause to measure at milestone moments during a project’s journey gives you a wonderful opportunity to adjust when it’s needed most.
Collaborative teams also need leaders who act in this way. Our leaders understand by bringing out the best in others they find the best in themselves. It’s the strength of those who value and understand this who really bring forward the highest level of outcomes and team growth. Collaborative leadership looks like this:
• A commitment to promote and improve common circumstances based on values, beliefs and a vision for change that is communicated by “leading by example.”
• An ability to persuade people to conduct themselves within ground rules that provide the basis for mutual trust, respect and accountability.
• An ability and desire to “respectfully” educate others about the relationship of processes to outcomes.
• An ability to draw out ideas and information in ways that contribute to effective problem-solving rather than ineffective restatements of problems.
• A willingness to actively encourage partners to share goals, responsibilities, resources, and to offer acknowledgments (praise) of those making contributions.
• An understanding of the role of community organizing as the basis for developing and expanding collaborative power.
• A commitment to an active engagement of leadership development activities, both formal and informal as to take the collaborative process to higher levels of inclusiveness and effectiveness.
As we strive to create partnerships with our owners and each other, these aspects of change will continue to mature. This is great time in our industry. I am proud that our industry is re-aligning the knowledge curve as to change the value proposition. However, this realignment takes proactive team alignment, defined measures of accountability, and willingness to collaborate. Purposeful pauses in the journey as to measure/adjust are the real key to predictable outcomes.
About Denton Wilson: Denton has been in the healthcare architectural/construction environment for more than 28 years with the first ten years on the developer/architectural side of the industry, and the last 18 on the hospital owner’s side, most recently as Vice President and Construction for Methodist Health System. An industry leader and proponent of team integration, his collaboration-based approach gathers, develops and strives to hold accountable all stakeholders from start to finish including the project architects, engineers, contractors, trade partners, vendors and owners. Have questions for Denton? He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.