Hill & Associates
6 chemin du Port-Noir, CH-1207 Geneva, Switzerland
Tel.: + 41 22 840 1021, Fax: +41 22 840 1025
info@hill-a.ch     http://www.hill-a.ch


Avoiding conflicts in large, complex projects

What is "Partnering"?

Partnering is a process of team building and mutual goal setting that promotes non-adversarial information exchange, creative problem solving, and communication and conflict management strategies.  Partnering does not create new legal relationships; instead, it further develops and makes explicit the implied covenant of good faith that governs a contract.

Partnering is all about:

        how team members want the project to be conducted

        developing a level of trust that will allow each person and organization to make the greatest contribution possible to the project

        developing and documenting shared goals for the project

        understanding and empathizing with one another's interests in such a way that all parties measure success based upon the ability of the project to meet the greatest number of those interests

        working together to create procedures and action plans to help realize common goals

        developing together a procedure for resolving disputes as they come up that is quick, efficient, and fair

        evaluating the partnership's effectiveness based upon mutually agreed measures (metrics)

Partnering is not:

        a negotiated change to the contract, tender, or other documents that establish the legal relationship of the parties

        a means of shifting risks or responsibilities

        group therapy.  On the other hand Partnering is about helping skilled and experienced professionals to make the best use of their time, energy, and other resources.

Benefits of Partnering

The Partnering process requires up-front commitment from all stakeholders.  It requires some staff and management time initially in order to make the operating relations between the parties transparent and predictable.  Once this has taken place, team members will understand to what extent they can take responsibility for their activities and for the success of the project itself.  In most cases, routine problems will be solved at a relatively low level, allowing better and more timely decisions to be made at higher levels when appropriate.

Some benefits of partnering as described by various stakeholders:

        open and effective communication

        enhanced communication with sub-contractors, leading to opportunities for innovation and cost savings

        a more satisfying work environment

        fewer cost overruns and delays because of improved scheduling, early problem resolution, and use of "win-win" approaches

        lower administrative cost, because there is less need to execute and document defensive moves

        early identification of technical, process, and other problems or interface mis-matches

        more effective and efficient solutions to problems, including changes in design specifications

        reduced exposure to litigation because most conflicts are settled early

Partnering is based on two key ideas: (1) quality should be engineered-in at the beginning, not inspected-out at the end; and (2) a project-specific conflict management system that recognizes the importance of interest-based approaches, quick and inexpensive rights-based approaches, and loop-back mechanisms will be less costly and more satisfying than a generic, legally imposed rights-based approach or a power-based approach that prevails for want of other mechanisms.

How does Partnering work?

The cornerstone of the Partnering program is a workshop in which key stakeholders and decision-makers come together with the facilitation of a neutral who is experienced in the industry and in conflict systems design.  During this workshop, the parties agree joint goals, individual interests, potential problem areas, measurement systems, escalation procedures, and formal dispute resolution processes (for example, mediation, dispute review boards, or arbitration).