Daniel L. Hightower*
U.S. Public Health Service
This symposium on Partnering is part of a continuing series of Total Quality Management symposiums being sponsored by the FCC Consulting Committee on Architecture and Architectural Engineering. The first in the series was a symposium on New Tools to Achieve Client Satisfaction.
Partnering or Partnerships (other than contractual relationships) are not new:
In 1987 the Department of Commerce invited states to participate in its new federal-state cooperative program. Minnesota volunteered to participate and developed many partnerships. In 1988 Partnership Minnesota was created—with no funding, no authority, and no legislation. It was just a group of people with similar interests who believed in what they were doing—trying to create a more effective government.
In addition, Minnesota has started a partnership award program. Six were nominated in 1990, 21 in 1991, and 58 in 1992.
Historically you can find partnering or partnerships in the form of pacts, agreements, memoranda of agreement, or memoranda of understanding. You could consider the “Bill of Rights” as a form of partnering. The Delaware River Basin Compact's Good Faith Agreement of 1993, a form of partnering, has produced a note of optimism after nearly a century of regional discord, contention, and failed policies. This agreement has been able to achieve results that the Congress and the Supreme Court could not.
While partnering is not a new concept, it can be considered new to the building industry. The concept for facility design and construction was developed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. They defined it as “the creation of an Owner-Contractor relationship that promotes the achievements of mutually beneficial goals. . .Partnering seeks to create a new cooperative attitude in completing government contracts.”
Partnering is a relationship (it is not a contract); it is between providers and recipients of a product or service.
What makes partnering work? Partnering is a way of improving relationships, of developing: Trust, Cooperation, Teamwork, and Attainment of Mutual Goals. Partnering is also a way of achieving the ultimate goal, increasing profits and creating an environment that one can feel comfortable in.
An example of what can be accomplished if a company is based on trust is a manufacturer of dental equipment, the Austin Dental Equipment Company (ADEC) located in Newberg, Oregon. A tour of this company leaves one marveling at how all employees participate in the management of production, from design to material acquisition to manufacture and sales.
Mr. Austin, president of ADEC, founded the company with an emphasis on trust, due to a previous bad experience. He had worked for another dental company until he was let go for making too many suggestions on how to improve the product. Now his firm has literally put the other firm out of business, and is considered a leader internationally.
Partnering is a way of improving communications. Which leads us to the question: What kind of education are we giving our professionals? Are they taught how to communicate with clients, contractors, staff? Do we teach dispute resolution methods in our building design and construction programs?
It is essential that you have GREAT COMMUNICATIONS at and between all levels of planning, designing, and construction. Ron Johnson, past chairman of our committee on Architecture and Architectural Engineering, stated in our 1992 Symposium “To achieve a quality end-product the phases of the process must be linked well through communications, understanding, and trust. Teamwork is the answer.”
How many people have seen a perfect design? It is the nature of the Building Design and Construction industry to expect change. And when you have change you have the potential for disputes.
It is also not uncommon for an adversarial relationship to be developed between the owner and the contractor. Each party establishes its own goals and objectives, regardless of the effect they have on the other party, and accepts litigation as a cost of doing business. We plan for disasters, arbitration, and litigation. Partnering provides a system to solve problems that lead to arbitration and litigation, as well as unforeseen problems.
The Building Industry is a paradox. WE seek to change things (through building) and we also are always seeking to do things differently (seeking the best way). On the other hand, we fight change: examples of this paradox are pre-hung doors and windows, plywood, and the use of plastic pipe.
Currently all technological knowledge doubles every five years. And by the year 2000 that time frame is expected to be reduced to only a single year. We are going to have problems dealing with this unless we develop relationships such as PARTNERING.