A government transportation agency received $800 million in federal funding for a portfolio of projects to upgrade a major road artery between two heavily traveled cities, with funding contingent on specific completion dates. The project would require a significantly more accelerated program of work than the agency had historically been successful in delivering. The organization had traditionally executed conventional contractor projects, but with mixed delivery in terms of overall performance, timelines, and costs. Given this history of mixed results and deadline pressure, the agency decided to take an alliance approach to a significant section of the highway project.
There were numerous logistical challenges, including a six-month delay in breaking ground on construction, federal heritage and environmental restrictions, and poor ground conditions exacerbated by a severe drought. To deliver on the alliance’s commitment, the key partners and a network of specialty subcontractors would have to collaborate and coordinate on large-scale earthworks, drainage, concrete paving, bridge-building, environmental management, and traffic management of one of the country’s busiest road freight routes.
The agency contracted with JMW to: (1) design and facilitate the selection process through which the alliance’s consortium of design and construction companies would be established; and (2) post-selection, to coach and facilitate the alliance team in the development and delivery of the project itself all the way through to completion and handover.
The JMW engagement involved a combination of work with key groups including the Alliance Management Team responsible for overseeing the delivery of the project, the Alliance Leadership Team composed of executives from each of the alliance partner organizations, and Senior Project Managers responsible for essential operational aspects of the delivery of the project such earthworks, paving, bridges, and structures.
JMW also conducted a series of workshops for members of the broader team. At the front end of the project and regularly as new people came on board, JMW worked with alliance participants to cultivate a shared context and understanding of the project and to build a shared frame of reference around alliancing and the language of commitment. In addition, JMW provided regular on-site coaching from start to finish, an average of four days a month.
Far more significant than the structure of the work was the difference it made with the alliance participants, who became equipped to have the critical conversations necessary to resolve all issues within the alliance, making a regular practice of listening to and respecting the views of others, honoring commitments, and fully sharing knowledge, risk, and reward.
With a new, commonly held understanding that “the only way we can achieve outstanding rewards is by outstanding performance,” the project team made decisions and arrived at solutions intended to satisfy all of the committed results and objectives without compromising one for another.
The alliance performed beyond all expectations, meeting every requirement by broad margins. The project was completed well ahead of schedule, performing at levels that demonstrated approximately $37.6 million in savings for the federal government that would not have been realized if the agency had not utilized the alliance delivery method. Additionally, the project teams used recycled water from a nearby paper mill for 50% of construction needs and rehabilitated a former landfill.
“We quickly formed a single, integrated team whose members developed their expertise and embraced new perspectives by collaborating to resolve challenges. The culture engendered trust and open communications through a no-blame, fix-it-first, best-for-project attitude.”
The alliance’s unprecedented performance outcomes included:
“Less than two years after a federal government agency decided to take its first-ever alliance approach to a high-profile $800 million road project, despite deadline pressures and unexpected challenges, the alliance delivered award-winning, defect-free performance under budget and more than four months ahead of schedule.”