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7 Ways to Prevent Delivery Method Paralysis [Design-Build Advantages]

Congratulations! You have been selected for an amazing design-build project. You are also excited about the team. Both the contractor and the architect are known for collaborative practices, and the owner is known to be a good and thoughtful leader on projects. This should be a positive experience … if only everyone will make decisions when they are supposed to.

Nothing can be more powerful than a project where decisions are made quickly and effectively, yet, we have all seen great projects fail because decisions were mired in the quicksand of debate, insufficient information, or, simply, lack of will. Nothing can be more frustrating.

Design-Build Advantages

Featured Resource: Design-Build eBook

What can a sub-contractor do to change or even prevent decision paralysis occurring? Here are seven decision-planning strategies you can use even if you don’t have a great team or a great leader with which to work:

  1. Earlier the better - Make every effort to discuss decision-making at the start of the project. Creating decision norms, frames, and tools will serve every team member and will prevent misunderstandings.
  2. Yours, mine, and ours - Make it clear to your team what decisions you believe are your decisions to make, what decisions aren’t yours to make, and how you want to handle decisions that have multiple stakeholders. Try to push decisions to the ideal, most effective location in every team. Discuss strategies to make sure that decisions quickly flow even if you are not sure who owns the decision.
  3. Lean in – The best Hypertrack (not fast-track) decision processes encourage teams to schedule all significant decisions at the beginning of a project and to schedule who will need to be included in those decisions. This process is like creating a Lean Pull Schedule for decisions. Even if your entire design-build team does not buy into this strategy, you can lead with your decision pull schedule. This way, you have informed the whole design-build team when you will be making crucial decisions to keep the project on track.
  4. Be decision-ready – Once you know when decisions will be made, even if it is just for your own work, you can plan to prepare decision-ready information. This often means informing the rest of the team of the information they need to prepare so that your decisions can be made. Recognize that decision-ready information means that you inform the contractor and the owner of all costs related to a decision when that decision is being made. Revealing a hidden cost later does not help the team, and it does not help you.
  5. Ask…don’t tell – When you aren’t in a leadership position on a team, it is sometimes tricky to raise new ideas. The best way to bring others around to your way of thinking is to ask thoughtful questions about when and how decisions will be made on a project.
  6. Explain the downside – The best value you can provide when a client or team is tempted to delay a decision is to explain the consequences of delay in that moment. The consequences must be tangible and quantifiable. Merely saying it will cost more won’t cut it. Stating that a delayed decision costs $1,000 per day will get an owner’s attention.
  7. Stay on it – The most successful teams recognize that projects can go wrong in a moment. When surprises occur, find ways to help your team make corrective decisions quickly. Setting a team norm that states that you will never leave a meeting without getting the project back in budget and in schedule helps with that discipline.

Design-Build Projects

Related Resource: Design-Build Infographic 

Remember that decision-making is an essential element to success on any project. It requires discipline and focus. Even though the owner and the contractor will be responsible for most decisions, you can help lead your team to better, more successful decision-making practices.

Barbara Bryson is the associate dean for research and academic affairs at the University of Arizona. A former architect, Bryson has led construction efforts at the University of Miami and Rice University. She co-wrote “The Owner’s Dilemma: Driving Success and Innovation in the Design and Construction Industry.” She is also a member of TD’s board of directors.

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