How Does a Partnering Workshop Assist Stakeholders in Achieving their Goals

Agree has facilitated Partnering workshops in construction, all levels of government, military, IT, financial, social services, transportation, labour relations and health care sectors.  Agree has adapted the Partnering model to relationship management in joint ventures, union/management relationship building and public/private partnerships (P3’s).

Partnering is a facilitated process for aligning the business interests of the firms involved in a project to assist them in leveraging their strengths and mitigating the effects of competing interests.  Win / win relationships do not just happen.  Collaboration does not occur naturally.  Organizations that need to leverage off of one another in order to succeed, require a process to follow to both protect them and to unleash the synergies that caused them to go into the relationship in the first place.  Partnering workshops provide a structure, a deliberate and disciplined set of principles and stated and met expectations that allow organizations to take measured and proportional risks together.

Workshop Design

The Agree Facilitator will conduct a Preliminary Alignment Meeting (by phone) with leaders from each organization. In a construction setting this will usually include the Project Manager for the general contractor, owner and design consultants and perhaps the senior site supervisors from subcontractors and suppliers. At the Alignment Meeting, the facilitators will gather information about the project and the parties working relationship and come to alignment on logistical issues and the agenda, customizing it to meet the needs of the project and the participants. They will also discuss who needs to be at the workshop.  For remedial workshops, the Preliminary Alignment meeting can take the form of individual phone calls with leaders within each organization in order to uncover the hot issues on the project and potential solutions.

Alignment of Ambitions

Most partnering agendas are designed to incorporate interactive exercises that introduce participants to one another and throughout the day provide opportunities for them to interact and talk candidly about concerns they have that are specific to the project and challenges that they anticipate along the way. In a more structured way, during the workshop the parties, working in their organizational teams (in a construction context the general contractor, consultant team, sub-trades, regulators, owner and operator), identify their expectations of the other teams.  They discuss any misconceptions that one may have of the others’ roles and clarify or qualify expectations. Organizations, as a group, commit to meeting the others organizations’ expectations of them.

Other exercises lead the partners through a process where they work together to identify an over-arching vision for the project and a series of specific, time measurable goals for accomplishment of various tasks.  These goals can focus on such areas as substantive results, business relationships, external goals (amelioration of environmental impacts, minimal disruption of existing operations, for instance), profit and quality benchmarks.  These goals are identified in the workshop, and recorded in a workshop report.  On large projects where new members join the project team mid-stream, it is often helpful to convene periodic, seasonal workshops to realign expectations and deliverables. 

Leveraging Key Challenges and Hidden Opportunities

During the workshop, participants identify specific risks the project team faces as well as opportunities that the partners wish to benefit from.  The workshop provides an opportunity to brainstorm potential solutions and identify task teams and time-lines for moving these items forward effectively and collaboratively. 

To set the stage for collaborative problem solving, participants are educated about competitive, collaborative, compromising, avoiding and accommodating approaches to conflict resolution, and the merits and dangers of each when over-done.  Exercises in communication and problem solving skills, with real-life examples from other projects, highlight the value of collaborative approaches and how that differs from debate or win/lose orientations.  Many of the tools used during the workshop act as a model for effective skills going forward on the project, and from a broader perspective provide growth experiences for individuals within each organization. 

Building Issue Resolution Pathways: Making the Difficult Conversation Safe to Have

All large projects will experience conflict throughout the project.  During the workshop a stepped negotiation protocol, called an Issue Resolution Ladder (IRL) will be developed.  This is a simple communication protocol to empower the people closest to the problem to resolve issues and to escalate problems quickly if their efforts fail.  The IRL accelerates the recognition and resolution of difficult issues, by escalating them cooperatively and to the appropriate level within the respective organizations.  This prevents “end-runs” and encourages timely problem solving. 


Creating Legacy Structures that Sustain a Collaborative Approach

Whether the setting is a construction project, a joint venture or a department within an organization, the relationships that exist are a microcosm of strategic partnerships.  Partnering allows the individuals with these organizations to recognize their interdependent relationships and create durable and value-added business relationships.  An Evaluation Team, “The Partnering Champions” from each stakeholder are chosen by workshop participants to move the project forward with a collaborative orientation.  This group advocates for an authentic win/win approach to address problems directly and with respectful communication.  The Champions conduct ongoing evaluation of the Partnered business relationship, suggesting incremental adjustments (or significant re-alignments) to ensure that the joint goals remain on target and in focus. 

A Workshop Record is prepared by the facilitators, identifying any decisions arrived at by the group, as well as identifying any task teams, conveners, mandates and timelines agreed to during the Partnering session. 

Partnering offers great value and yet, like any good design, the beneficial value is greatest when it occurs early in a project when problem solving patterns are not yet set and the relationship is not burdened with a history of stress and strain.  Where this is not possible, or when challenges arise mid-project, Agree can assess the working relationships and design and facilitate remedial partnering workshops to get things back on track.

Some projects lend themselves to workshops at key milestones.  For example partnering workshops for complex P3 projects, Agree recommends workshops at key stages of the project, such as design/finance, construction, commissioning, transitioning and operations/maintenance.

The Next Best Step:  We invite you to call our office to discuss your facilitation needs – 1-800-524-6967.