A client in the water infrastructure business recently approached me to talk about how the team can learn to work together with their contracted construction partners as they deliver a massive bit of infrastructure. They told me that the relationship between them and their delivery partner is good but that, in a competitive world where margins are slim, they would only deliver on budget if their partnership shifts “from good to great”. They needed to shift their collaboration to a new level or risk their profit margin.

With the growth of alliance contracts and governments’ preference for outsourcing service delivery to contractors, this is an increasingly common scenario. Yet while it is one thing to be a contractual partner, it is another thing altogether to develop the collaborative mindset and behaviours that make these contractual relationships hum. How does my client move from an ‘us and them’ mindset to a ‘we’ mindset, and do so in the high-pressure world of project delivery? It isn’t easy, but here are three things I’ve learned:

  1. A partnering contract alone does not a partnership make. Behaviour and, most importantly, thinking has to shift in order to give the contractual aspiration a chance.
  2. A commitment to working on relationships and a process for doing so is critical. You can’t just focus on doing the content work better.
  3. To build collaborative muscles we need to go to the collaboration gym, so build in a way for practice, reflection and learning.

To support clients on their partnering and alliance journeys we have developed our unique and coaching process. We will be talking through key aspects of the approach in our . We hope to see you there so you can take your contractual partnerships from good to great.