GIRI Design Guide Preview: Collaboration

25 Jul 22

Every project benefits from collaboration, and errors are reduced by collaborative working. GIRI’s forthcoming Design Guide sets out how such an environment creates a teamwork attitude to getting things right and outlines practical steps by which collaborative working can be achieved.

Collaboration is inextricably linked to culture. In a collaborative working environment, team members do their best to help others to fulfil their responsibilities and are open about areas where they themselves need help. Conversely, the conventional transactional approach to procurement consistently struggles to deliver satisfactory outcomes because each party is more focused on protecting its own interests than on the success of the project as a whole.

As well as helping to achieve a successful project, collaboration enables the formation of strong and long-lasting professional relationships; establishes good practice for future bids; contributes to an organisation’s own corporate goals; and helps to reduce site error and improve productivity.

Establishing a common objective

Collaboration implies that all parties share a common objective. This requires alignment of project objectives to ensure that successful outcomes for each party will result in a successful project.

Participants often have different criteria for success, therefore the client brief should set out the requirements and constraints that define a successful project, and all participants must clearly understand their measures of success and how they relate to the brief. Being open and clear about any areas of non-alignment will support the collaborative process.

Participants should agree how the various success criteria can be aligned. This is where collaboration differs from traditional procurement and it demands a level of trust that is uncommon in hard price, lowest cost contracts. It requires analysis of individual motivations and identification of incentives to encourage unity, which will be different for each party.

Working collaboratively – practical steps

Successful collaboration requires that all parties understand the benefits. It also requires active, consistent leadership, and this should come from the client or agents working on their behalf.

1) Adopt an appropriate form of contract or consider a partnership approach

Partnering is one of a number of ways to encourage collaborative working by engendering trust between partners rather than competition. Partnering arrangements can be put in place to positively impact all parties, including the client, contractor, sub-contractors, and consultants.

The key aspiration is that parties act in the common interests of the project and of each other. At its best, collaboration achieves a result that would not be possible through contract arrangements that characterise projects as a zero-sum game.

2) Introduce pre-stage workshops for senior representatives at the design and construction stages

During the alignment process, pre-project workshops between senior representatives can establish measures to support partnering – for example a ‘project charter’ or ‘pledge’.  They help to align success criteria and reinforce the requirements of the brief and project.

3) Introduce behavioural reviews at key project milestones

Once in place, the behaviours of the project participants should be reviewed at regular intervals to ensure the desired culture is being instilled in project team members and the supply chain. These reviews will also ensure success criteria are being followed and respected.

A more detailed exploration of the benefits of collaboration is available in the revised GIRI Design Guide, which will be published later this year. Sign up to our newsletter to be notified once the guide is published.

Other previews

The briefing process


Investing in design

Contractor input

Planning the design work


Design gateways

Guiding the design process

Stakeholder management


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