After being a member of our local LCI core group for about five years, we faced the same question at the end of each year, “how can our core group attract more owners to become involved in our Community of Practice?”. Our traditional response was to see if our core group members had owners in their network, or designing events that might interest owners, or other typical approaches. About three years ago, one of our newer core group members suggested that if we are having problems getting owners to come to our events, perhaps we should find a way to take our events to owners. Our group’s first response to this idea was dead silence; you know, the silence that really says “this is a good idea but I have no clue how to start”. We did agree to develop a list of owners to target, a nice and safe response to what seemed an insurmountable task.

One year later, in the same scheduled planning session, I asked the person who brought up the “take our events to owners” idea if she was still interested. She was, so the two of us started a series of discussions to try to find a solution. Our first idea was that we needed to talk to those within the owner group who are involved at the project level, the owner project managers (including owner representatives). Our second idea was that we needed to find out what they might want to learn or try within the Lean/IPD toolset. From this starting point, we decided to design an event that would be open to owner project managers, and the content would consist of multiple discussions on topics that the owner project managers selected.

We held our first event and it was a success! The owner project managers came up with 22 topics of interest, and we had in-depth discussions on the top three picks. This first event attracted 16 owner project managers and was the first of a series of events that we held during 2019 and 2020, interrupted by the Covid-19 crisis early in 2020.

Here are the top 4 topics from the list of 22 generated in our first meeting that will give you additional insight into what they want. The top 4 topics in order of votes were:

  • Last 30 days of the project
  • Education of owners
  • Eliminate VE and use Target Value Delivery
  • Using Lean throughout the life of the project
And here are a couple of highpoints of our more in-depth discussions.

Owner Education
  • Teach owner/team about the delivery method being used
  • Teach the right content to the right people
  • Establish an owner decision matrix (who makes decisions on what items)
  • Develop Project Charter & Guiding Principles (Conditions of Satisfaction)
  • Storyboard to show how the project got to this point
  • Be concise about what you need from the owner
Lean throughout the project
  • When energy behind the effort to learn and change dwindles, we revert to the prior state
  • Continuous training and on-boarding
  • Fog of war when we are in our silos
  • Think of the project team as a “learning organization”
  • Hold each other accountable
Lessons Learned during the series of events:

1. General: What we learned is that owners are totally focused on improving the delivery of their projects, but do not always know where to start among the many options available. Many of them work with legacy contracts and tried and true management techniques that they are comfortable with. Many of them use newer delivery techniques in a trial and error approach. Most of them have seen the successes of IPD used on other projects, which has encouraged their interest even more. And most of them are very involved in their day-to-day projects, have a high level of interest and hope for Lean and IPD concepts, but just don’t have the time or confidence to take a step towards the implementation of their favorite concepts.

2. Simulations: In discussions with the owners’ group, the topic of how to teach content was a recurring theme. It is a common understanding that we all learn in different ways, and this particular group (Owner Project Managers), due to a combination of the level of experience (high in our group), regular higher-order interactions with their owners and project teams, and high expectations of learning content, does not appear to favor the typical learning style of lectures and PowerPoint presentations. We offered Villego simulations to this group to teach the principles of The Last Planner System, and they jumped on the idea both as a group of peers and as individual companies.

3. RFQ/RFP Language: One of the project managers has started including the requirement for utilizing Lean principles in their requests – what a great way to lead a transformation of project delivery! Accessible Content: Also evident in the owners’ questions about how to shift the industry toward the use of Lean/ IPD is a sense of overwhelm and intimidation or fear. There is a wealth of information out there – but perhaps it hasn’t reached the tipping point of change yet because we haven’t figured out how to teach it and how to make it “sticky”.

Our suggestion to you is to talk with the owner project managers on your projects about their interests and questions regarding integrated delivery tools and techniques and offer to help them implement them at a pace that they choose. These conversations are best held outside of the project you are currently working on together, and everyone needs to practice patience in order to allow time for building awareness, understanding, competency, and eventual success. One of the owners expressed it best, “Jump in where you are!”, meaning you don’t have to be a master of the complete kit-of-parts in order to improve your project delivery and its outcomes.

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Managing Principal, KL&A, Inc. Bob Redwine has more than 40 years of structural engineering experience covering a broad field of interests.

C.O.O., Barker Rinker Seacat Architecture. Katie has been focused on public architecture for over 25 years.