An Overview of Project Partnering

Partnering is a voluntary, organized process by which two or more organizations having shared interests perform as a team to achieve mutually beneficial goals...

Partnering has been defined in a number of ways. The booklet, "Partnering: Changing Attitudes in Construction," published by the Associated General Contractors of America says: "Everyone involved in the construction project agrees to treat everyone else as a partner. It's all based on the premise that working together creates success. And the benchmarks of success are determined at the beginning... Partnering creates a team approach to the effective and efficient management of a construction project."

The American Arbitration Association in its publication, "Building Success for the 21st Century: A Guide to Partnering in the Construction Industry," states: "Partnering is a voluntary, organized process by which two or more organizations having shared interest perform as a team to achieve mutually beneficial goals... Partnering is also a collaborative process that focuses on...[the] good faith joint resolution of problems."
The Construction Industry Institute, a leader in the research and implementation of construction industry Best Practices, defines Partnering in its "Partnering Tool Kit:" "Partnering is a proactive management process that integrates and optimizes the value-added services of each party to best achieve the business objectives of all parties within the relationship... Partnering utilizes the concepts of teamwork, trust, and honesty in order to promote the common goals of the partnering relationship and to develop a win/win mentality and atmosphere for all parties involved."

History of Partnering

Partnering, as a formal process, began in the early 1980's when the Army Corps of Engineers adopted it as a means of alternative dispute resolution. The Corps' philosophy was that the best dispute resolution is dispute prevention. Not only was Partnering successful as an alternative dispute resolution strategy, but the Corps found that Partnering also improved project control and safety.

In 1991 the Associated General Contractors of America endorsed the Corps' concept of Partnering and began to publish literature and promoting the Partnering process. Also in 1991, the Arizona Department of Transportation became the first state agency to adopt Partnering as a strategy for managing construction projects statewide. The Texas Department of transportation followed Arizona's lead and initiated Partnering on 5 pilot projects. Based on the success of these pilot projects, the Department expanded the use of Partnering statewide in 1993.

Since then, the use of the Partnering process has been expanded to include all phases of design and construction. Partnering has proved so successful in the construction industry that the process has been adopted in a wide variety of manufacturing and service industries.

The Rewards of Partnering

On December 13, 1999 the City of Austin, Texas conducted a public Partnering Design session as one step in its development of an effective Partnering program. The December session included 40 people made up of City staff and community stakeholders (contractors, architects, engineers, state agencies, and professional organizations).

The following is an amended list of the Rewards of Partnering generated by the participants at the December 13, 1999 Partnering Design session:

* Builds a project foundation with better planning, creating a better project
* Improved coordination, fewer surprises
* Schedules maintained, on time completion
* Money saving, effective management of resources
* Efficiency and more accurate bids
* Meeting all project goals, quality project
* Realistic expectations
* Time and money savings - better product
* Increased profitability
* New and creative solutions
* Confidence that problems can be resolved
* Creates a feeling of accomplishment because everyone has contributed
* Problems resolved at the lowest level or escalated up an issue resolution ladder
* A methodology for avoiding and resolving disputes, mitigation of conflict, avoiding litigation
* Better understanding of each stakeholder's roles and needs
* Ongoing, constructive relationships
* Better working relationships, builds trust for future projects

In the past, adversarial project environments have encouraged the use of legal remedies to resolve disputes that, in turn, have eroded profit margins, begotten failed projects, and strained or severed relationships among those involved. To combat this, Partnering proactively addresses potential problems by sharing business objectives, encouraging communicating with openness, promoting working together for common goals, and addressing project issues up front. Partnering has proven to be a very cost-effective investment towards the full success of projects.

(Much of this material was derived from the City of Austin publication, "Partnering: A Blueprint for Collaborative Project Management," July 2001)