Leadership is Key on Design-Build Projects

A design-build team must communicate effectively to build trust and achieve results

The design-build delivery method demands people from various backgrounds, companies, and professional expertise work together to deliver a successful project that benefits the entire team — owners, contractors, and engineers alike. Leadership from all members of the team makes the difference in delivering great results; however, how does such a varied team ensure that each member contributes elite leadership? How does each member of the team be the best version of themselves and contribute the most?

Now, consider this: a team of well-qualified professionals with a well-thought-out project approach attempts to deliver a quality design-build construction project. Assume the collective team has limited experience working together and don’t kick off the project with any kind of team-building exercise. Can a team that doesn’t develop a cohesive and collaborative working relationship deliver excellent results? Can a team function at a high level under an adverse or even an average environment?

Effective leadership in any team setting can be the deciding factor between success and failure. Effective leaders engage, inspire, and energize other team members to accomplish goals individuals would not have accomplished on their own. Leaders establish a positive shared environment that promotes and encourages team members to be better today than yesterday and break through the personal barriers that are holding them back. Teams that achieve great success understand that leadership is not limited to an authority figure or position, but based on the trust the leader has earned with the rest of the team members. This kind of leadership is required at all levels and throughout all aspects of the project.

Leaders are accountable for their actions or inaction, and recognize that it is their response which will work to influence the outcome they desire.

To become an effective leader, individuals must build trust through being a person of character, having technical expertise or competence, and forming a connection with their team members. A team must, however, do more than simply trust each other. A team must also achieve results through clarity of communications. A team must hold each other accountable and provide support for the good of the team.

Kokosing Industrial conducted an abbreviated version of our company’s Operate with Leadership (OWL) program at the start of our design-build project for Great Lakes Water Authority at their Springwells Water Treatment Plant to provide sedimentation basin improvements. Our entire team was mostly new to working with each other — new client, engineer, labor market, etc. The OWL program assisted our team members in getting to know each other and focused on giving team members tools to be better leaders. The ultimate goal was to help the team build trust with each other and achieve results. The program served as a forum where delivery benchmarks were established for all team members. Project goals were established and incorporated into the project design criteria and our team is committed to delivering on those goals. We are currently about 90% complete with pre-construction, including design, and our focus has been on delivering a safer facility to operate and maintain. We have completed some initial construction activities that have improved the project schedule and increased quality of the sedimentation basins. Our team has supported each other to overcome a few hardships such as a few cost overruns and changing work activities due to COVID-19. All team members are actively engaged and performing well.

We are happy to report that our client shares our positive thoughts regarding the innovative approach to building a collaborative team. Pete Fromm, the GLWA management professional, said, “Kokosing’s Operate With Leadership (OWL) program allowed the design-build team the opportunity to learn about each other on the team and to develop a culture blueprint for the project. This program allowed us to start building a team relationship with each other while showing the importance of communication, honesty, and trust, etc.”

Kokosing is looking forward to a successful season at this project, as well as implementing the OWL approach on other projects.


About Dennis Tinkler, PE, Senior Business Development Manager, Kokosing Industrial

Dennis Tinkler is a senior business development manager at Kokosing Industrial. Dennis worked for over 25 years as a consulting engineer providing innovative engineering solutions for both water and wastewater facilities and, in the last decade, Dennis has led business development on collaborative-delivery projects working for a general contractor. Dennis focuses on good communication and fairness between team partners to achieve results and build trust on collaborative-delivery projects.
Topics: Design-Build, Kokosing.