If you ever played on a seesaw in your younger years, you know that it helps to have a partner of approximately equal weight as yourself on the seat facing you. This way, the seesaw situation attains a kind of dynamic equilibrium, and both partners get to enjoy the pleasant sensation of being airborne for an equal amount of time. I would call this situation a “win-win.”

However, if your partner’s weight differed significantly from your own, one of you remained pleasantly suspended in mid-air, while the other spent their time with feet planted firmly on the ground. I would call this situation a ”win-lose.”

Unfortunately, in life, the latter situation is more common. People have to invest real energy to achieve win- win results, so it’s rare that two people spontaneously achieve equality and reciprocal satisfaction. More often than not, the conflict between their different attributes and abilities leads to a “win-lose” situation (as in the motionless seesaw), or a series of such situations.

After a certain length of time riding the seesaw, the friends may move on to other playground pursuits: the swings, the slides, the rings, the jungle gym (assuming this equipment still exists in today’s playground’s—it’s been awhile for yours truly). Each new game(s) may reverse the positions of the partners—unlike the seesaw, the heavier, stronger individual may now have the advantage. As the two partners pursue different activities, they will move through a cycle of “win-lose” situations. Ultimately, this may lead to division and conflict, as each reacts against being the “loser,” and strives to remain the “winner.”

In building, our contractual and working relationships often take the form of “win-lose” rather than “win-win.” Parties within the project team use their inherent advantage at different stages of the project to extract a short-term benefit, or to seek retribution for a perceived injustice experienced earlier in the project. This approach does not benefit the project or the project team.

Perhaps everyone will agree that, whenever possible, work environments should be structured to maximize “Win-Win” situations. Although this may sound idealistic, in light of our current professional culture, I would argue that promoting “win-win” scenarios should be our guideline for organizing and executing our contractual relationships. This will help us make building more efficient, our work more fulfilling and our bottom line more profitable! , In fact, I would argue, that we cannot  achieve “High Quality and High Performance Buildings with shorter building schedules and lower budgets” unless our industry learns how to transform itself and create consistent and dependable win-win relationships. Over time, increasing opportunities for “win-win” relationships will reduce conflict, increase efficiency and quality and bring parties together to share a larger pie of rewards.

Powerful new technology entering the building industry can help us create a “win-win” culture. The new tech promises to change how we:

  1. Create and share data
  2. Develop and execute digital and physical construction work-flows
  3. Develop and execute communication and project management protocols
  4. Share future financial rewards

A very simple example of this is the increasing ability of technology to share project data with the entire project team. The tools already exist, the weak link is us, the professional that make up the building industry. Our companies and projects teams, have to learn how to “develop and share” the protocols, standards, template, files structures and workflows that everyone will implement together. Certainly, no small task!

If we learn from the experiences of other industries that have embraced innovation—a short list would include; aviation, automobiles, electronics, telephony, technology. We may very well carve out a new paradigm that creates many, many more successful Win-Win projects and relationships, expand the market, build many more jobs and improve profitability. Seems like a worthwhile go to me.

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Steve’s career in architecture, construction and development, always remained focused on the enormous potential and challenge of fully integrated project delivery.

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