July 2, 2020

10 Most Common Mistakes Owners Make

Right People Mistake: Focusing on What rather than Who  Many project sponsors are so focused on the What of their project, that they neglect to fully consider how critical the Who is to making it happen. It is usually not the ideas that are scarce. It is the great Teams who can actually execute on them, in the right […]

Right People Mistake: Focusing on What rather than Who 

Many project sponsors are so focused on the What of their project, that they neglect to fully consider how critical the Who is to making it happen. It is usually not the ideas that are scarce. It is the great Teams who can actually execute on them, in the right Way. 

Once you have an idea of a set of plans, hiring whatever low bidder can convince you they can do the job will not lead to sustained success over time. Identify the very best Team you can find. Identify the very best Process you can find. Build a transparent system of trust. Align incentives. And succeed again and again. 

Follow the timeless wisdom – if you focus first on Who, then the outcome of the What will be assured. 

With the right Team and the right leadership, any What is possible. 


Right People Mistake: Hiring a “Company”, rather than a Team. It is the People that matter. 

If there is one thing we have seen time and time again, it is that it is the individual human beings on a project that create success or failure, not the “Company”. It doesn’t matter how much experience a company has if the people who did those amazing big projects are not on yours. People come first, the company that equips and empowers them second. Every project is an adventure, and challenges are inevitable. Make sure that you enjoy, respect, and trust the specific human beings you are entrusting with your project. 

Do not fall into the trap of hiring a large Company who will assign whatever junior person is not currently busy to your new project. Hire a specific Team that you trust and respect. 

This is of utmost importance. 


Right Process / Way Mistake: Turning our backs on Hammurabi – No single point of responsibility 

When it comes to responsibility and accountability, the ancient Code of Hammurabi provides us with some instructive wisdom. When someone built a bridge, they and their family would have to sit under it as the first procession crossed it. This put significant “skin in the game” for the master builder, and ensured that builders couldn’t make a quick profit while exposing others to harm. Although a bit draconian, the principle is valid – They who design and build should be responsible and accountable for that which they design and build. 

As a result of division of labor, scale, and fear / mistrust, this important principle got lost over the years. 

The process of Co-Creation results in a single point of responsibility and accountability for the integrated and successful design and delivery of the project.  When things go wrong, far too often everyone stands back and points fingers, while the project owner is stuck with the problem. Don’t let this happen to you! 


Right Process / Way Mistake: The Design. Then Bid. Then Redesign. The Re-Bid… debacle 

It is shocking to us, but we see this happen far too often. Project owner / sponsors will hire a designer and spend months or years making “progress” and sitting in endless meetings, only to then “go out to bid” once the drawings are “ready” and discover that they are over-budget. Back to the drawing board. Re-design (at the owner’s time and expense), re-bid (at the owner’s time and expense)… This is a horrible and frustrating misuse of time.   

Co-Creation uses short, interative design cycles and feedback loops, with cost estimating integrated into every phase, to ensure that the design is done right the first time, saving time and money in both design and construction. 


Right Process / Way Mistake: The Contractor-led “Design-Build” Trap (“Free” Design!) 

After it become obvious that the industry was shifting away from the immense waste and inefficiency associated with the “Design, then Bid, then Build” process, “Design-Build” emerged. Design-Build is an amazing and valuable step forward for the industry, when it is done right. Many projects and their sponsors end up hurt by contractors who offer “design-build” services, often by hiring an outsourced designer-friend to draw up what they can make the most money on. 

We cannot overstate the importance of having an integrated team of Co-Creators who are truly understanding your vision, needs, hopes, and dreams, and forging the best and highest Way to make that a reality for you and the Community we serve. 

Be especially aware if they offer the design for “free”. Don’t be a sucker for a contractor to make money off of. Be a Co-Creator! 


Right Process / Way Mistake: Pitting the Architect / Engineer against the Contractor 

Often, the way contracts are set up pits the contractor against the architect / engineer from the start. When there are issues, the Contractor has to prove that the designer is at fault in order to get paid for what is actually required, and the designer is forced to defend an flawed design for fear of an E&O claim. This results in significant wasted time, energy, and stress that could otherwise be productively applied to value-engineering and discovering great solutions at every phase of the problem. 


Right Process / Way Mistake: Values in the Marketing-Sense of the Word Only 

This is closely related back to the first issue of hiring a Team that you respect and trust, not a Company. The “Core Values” of many companies were written by marketing people or consultants. 

Don’t fall into the trap of companies who sugar coat their practices wth values marketing. 

Every worthwhile project will encounter challenges. It is the real values and character of the human beings on the project and in management that matter when the challenges arise. 

A values-aligned team working in harmony towards a common goal can accomplish anything. 


Right Process / Way Mistake: Hiring experts who have to prove their value by X 

Too often, owners who are scared and do not trust the Team they hired for the project end up making things worse by “hiring an expert”. If you have made a bad Team selection and are at risk, this may be necessary, but it is very destructive to the working relationships on a project. Experts have to demonstrate their value by surfacing “errors” greater than or equal to what you are paying in order for them to have value. 

This is only necessary if the Process / Way / Team you chose at the beginning is wrong. 


Right Process / Way Mistake: Mis-aligned Incentives 

Incentives are a powerful motivator. While we like to think that everyone does the right thing sacrificially no matter how it affects them personally, the reality appears to be that we are substantially more likely to get the results we want if we properly align incentives to lead people towards those results. Most standard contracts and methodologies are rooted in mistrust and therefore pit the parties against one another from the start. This is not a recipe for success.    

Start with the right Team. Select the right Process. Then align the incentives of all project stakeholders so the team can work together in harmony towards the Common Goal. 


Right Process / Way Mistake: Not Continuously Eliminating Waste When 50% + of Labor is Waste! 

It is amazing how in an industry where waste has been so carefully studied and defined, project sponsors continue to set up projects in the same failed ways to produce the same wasteful results. Waste cannot be eliminated in a single step. It is a process and a Way, defined and deployed from the earliest stages, that produces the end result through the Way the Team works together every day. 

Make sure that whatever Team and Single Point of Responsibility you select understands how Lean principles of quality and waste reduction apply to design-build, and is capable of operating a Repeatable System that Produces Success and Avoids Failure every day from earliest level concept, to project completion, operations, maintenance, and lifecycle optimization. 

Discover the value of Co-Creation

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