Your browser is no longer supported

For the best possible experience using our website we recommend you upgrade to the newest version of your browser.

Your browser appears to have cookies disabled. For the best experience of Construction News, please enable cookies in your browser.

Welcome to the Construction News site. As we have relaunched, you will have to sign in once now and agree for us to use cookies, so you won't need to log in each time you visit our site.
Learn more

How to make partnering more real

The rhetoric and the reality of partnering are far apart. CWC studies of ‘partnered’ and traditional projects too often show little improvement.

All too often clients or their advisors continue, through their actions, to ensure that design teams are not integrated, site teams are procured on lowest price, and personnel at all levels of the process -continued to work as they always have.

Despite this the vast majority of public sector procurers questioned by the National Audit Office declared themselves fully satisfied, and the picture is similar from CWC research.

Our detailed analysis of over 50 local authority clients confirms that when clients are unsatisfied with performance they too often delude themselves about their impact on the project performance, usually blaming the contractor.

Client leadership is key. Heads of client departments with responsibility for project delivery need to create a personal role in the change process, build effective communications and remove barriers to collaboration.

Leadership is vital

Really changing an organisation involves active engagement and experimentation by the people involved. CWC has found that most clients have failed to deliver real supply collaboration because it has been seen as a procurement issue and long-term contract leadership and direction is lacking.

Both clients and contractors looking to manage the change to collaborative working with their suppliers must be committed to long-term leadership. In particular they must:

  1. Be clear of the business strategy for improving efficiency.

  2. Appoint a manager responsible for project managing the change programme. A senior appointment is required to cultivate the internal team and the supply chain development.

  3. Develop the internal culture and skills. Communication skills are essential for ensuring trust and openness in the relationship. Facilitation skills are required to get the best out of suppliers at all stages.

Working with local authority designers, CWC found they were very reluctant to form integrated teams, and felt threatened by the involvement of contractors, suppliers and even the client. One solution was to appoint stronger managers to the design function, able to manage a ‘gateway’ process.

Detailed change planning is required to help client and contractor senior management understand what can be changed, when it can be changed and their role in the change.

CWC adopt a systems approach to change management that was successfully developed with the MoD and has since been used with clients and their supply chains.

The approach requires careful design of the change, sets the pace, assesses the risks, allocates resources and ensures that the pace of change is consistent with the organisation’s ability to absorb it.

Changing the culture

The first task for clients is to review the suitability of the existing organisation structure. Two major tasks are to agree the optimum organisation structure to support the process. And agree how change and efficiency will be spread through the new structure e.g. design catalogues, process improvement teams etc.

Having defined a structure, the next task is to gain the support of staff. There will be a great deal of internal resistance and culture change is always a major problem for any client.

To address these concerns clients must ensure that top level leadership is fully committed to the change and were communicating this to lower levels of the organisation.

Also, the message should be put across that budget cuts are a driver and future job security depends on the improvements.

Client Leadership challenges

  1. Clarify objectives. Objectives must be shared at both organisational and individual level. Link performance measures at strategic, team and individual areas and reward systems to efficiency.

  2. Understand current client delivery processes. These are key to managing the change to collaborative working, so first establish a process.

  3. Develop more efficient standard processes. Develop a design which best meets the client’s needs.

  4. Understand costs. Transparency on costs is essential if teams are to work together to reduce them.

  5. Communicate. Ensure frequent, informal contacts between all partners and encourage the sharing of information.

  6. Change behaviour – starting with the client team. Clients need to get used to collaborative working. Both parties must negotiate new role boundaries for integrated decision making.

Neil Jarrett is chief executive of CWC