FAILURE!  According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the design and construction (A/E/C) industry is the only industry that has become less efficient and productive since 1964. It is one of the most important drivers of current and future success of the U.S. economy. It’s still the one of the best ways for someone to start their own business.

Construction jobs have great home-field advantage that can create the infrastructure foundation we need for future success. But, if we don’t get out of the old ways of doing things and get better, we will lose a golden opportunity.

 

Wrapped in legal battles

The A/E/C industry is fragmented and slow moving. The legal industry, which drives the structural relationships in construction contracts, is even slower. The combination has us stuck in contractual silos that create confrontation. Some follow hundred-year-old paths to mountains of case law dissecting the corpse of dead projects gone wrong. This is all done in the name of one party protecting the other. But the studies demonstrate that this leads to busted schedules and costly overruns, followed by claims and litigation. Success in today’s world requires communication and collaboration; fortunately, things are changing, but too slowly.

A better foundation to build requires three things — trust, collaboration and innovation.

Fueled by frustration with current results, a desire to improve and technological revolution, the industry is trying new things. The hospital market, the most expensive and complicated construction currently, has been a leader for change. And it all comes from true collaboration.

 

Stay true to your word

A better foundation to build requires three things — trust, collaboration and innovation. There isn’t anything without trust. To build trust you need to be understood and act according to what you’ve agreed to in letter and spirit. Your word is your bond, so use them wisely. Good legal writing is simply good writing. Don’t try to address all contingencies or you are likely to confuse things. Vague and broad responsibilities that place all the risk on parties is the antithesis to trust.  Ambiguities will naturally arise. Don’t hide in your turtle shell when they do. Communicate constructively and avoid the blame game.

 

Speak straight to each other

Lack of communication is a common excuse for failed projects. Contracts normally pass information and decisions through the architect. It is more effective to have parties communicate directly and positively. Empowering people in field who are most familiar with the information can be transformational. Creating a structure in which parties must talk to one another about issues that arise in a timely manner before claims become intractable unsurprisingly leads to less litigation.

 

Believe in high-tech options

Innovation is what is really driving a great opportunity to change. There has never been a time when there was a greater incentive to build more efficiently. Execution is so much better, safer and more valuable to the end-user when you maximize the impact of technology. To deploy these technology tools, it is necessary to build better teams early; schedule them to collaborate to measure twice and cut once. Treat a project as an opportunity to learn and gain efficiency each step of the way, rather than avoid the blame game.  Then, and only then, can you yield the most out of the today’s wave of incredibly powerful and time-saving construction technology devices.

To build a better way, you have to try something new. Structure your next project to truly collaborate by building trust, encouraging the flow of timely information and embracing the maximum power of technology. Don’t just pull out the same contract from the drawer and sign it without thought. Use the contract as an opportunity to memorialize a business relationship gets that gets better results.