3 Invaluable Lessons from John Thorsson
- A lack of communication and wanting to understand each other drives us apart.
- Most conflicts on a project start with financials and economical situations.
- Put in as few barriers as possible so you can spend your energy moving forward.
This week, host Sue Dyer speaks with John Thorsson about partnering and what you could do to improve your projects and the way that we collaborate.
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Welcome to episode 23 Construction Nation! This is Sue Dyer, your host of Construction Dream Team; where I interview industry leaders and experts so you can learn about the people side of construction and build your construction dream team based on OPE – Other People’s Experiences. Accelerate your success by learning from those who have been there and done that!
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About Guest John Thorsson (1:20)
John Thorsson was the Partnering Manager and now the Business Manager for the second largest construction firm in Sweden. John has taken partnering not only in NCC but in other parts of the world to help others learn to improve their projects.
John’s Journey to Becoming the Business Manager at NCC in Sweden (2:30)
- How a teambuilding exercise changed John’s mind around partnering forever (3:45)
- John began to study social psychology and interaction with language and between people (6:20)
- The construction industry got a hold of him to help implement partnering (7:10)
John’s Strengths as a Leader (10:35)
- He’s never had leadership through mandate, he’s always lead through influence (10:50)
- He’s never been viewed as a threat – he doesn’t yell, he listens and inspires (11:15)
- In every situation try to find how people are viewing the project differently and make sure that everyone gets what they need (12:00)
What Excites John Most About Partnering on Projects (13:30)
- It’s amazing to get a client, contractor and subcontractor to work together on a project (13:30)
- He wants to help contribute to projects getting completed every day (13:45)
- It’s about getting people to work together in a more productive way (14:00)
What’s Different in the Way Partnering Occurs in Sweden vs. The United States (14:30)
- In Sweden, Partnering has been pushed on the market from a contractor perspective (15:40)
- It’s important to develop things from one joint economy for the project (16:00)
- We work together as one team; a common organization working toward common goals (16:15)
- 90% or more of construction projects in Sweden use one of two standard contracts: AB or ABT (Design/Build and Design-Bid-Build). The contracts are used as a base agreement, and then you go in and add the concept of open books and workshops, building the culture (16:30)
- Working on cost plus overhead and profit takes the question of whether someone is trying to earn more than necessary off the table will allow us to focus more on the project and less on the contract administration side (18:00)
The Situation That John Encountered in Building a Railway (20:30)
The team learned that the contractor is responsible for the design, but everyone is in the room to contribute, not to silently correct mistakes. People’s belief in what their roles are often create friction points.
Partnering in the United States is about the culture, not as much about the contract or method of building. We are working to build one team. In Sweden, John is trying to get his teams to not collaborate on a fixed price, instead keep their books open and build trust in your team that is necessary, then you will get more value on your project.
How Internal Partnering Can Help Change the Inside of the Organization (26:00)
When a team comes to an organization that has done internal partnering it helps mitigate culture clash and promotes congruence across organizations.
What’s Happening with Partnering in Other Parts of the World (27:25)
- The definition and execution of partnering varies in different areas of the world (27:40)
- Over time, the teams would say they were partnering but they were just following the same old approach (28:25)
- In the UK they stopped calling it Partnering and started calling it Collaborative Working and in Denmark they abandoned the notion of Partnering and started focusing on Private-Public Partnerships (28:40)
- Later, in the UK later, there was a drive to do real Collaborative Working (29:00)
- ISO 44001 has a big following in Italy and some other parts of Europe but partnering is largely in part of Europe, Sweden, and the U.K. (30:20)
- In Malaysia they are following ISO 44001 in Production and Hong Kong is using what is happening in the U.K. (Collaborative Working) (31:48)
- Australia and New Zealand have their Alliancing Models (33:00)
What are Some of the Barriers to Creating Strong Teams (34:20)
When a client takes an initiative for a partnering project it’s too often because one project leader advocated for the idea. Partnering doesn’t resonate with management or politicians, so it’s time to get this way of thinking higher up in the value chain. It needs to be in the culture of the organization so that, if someone leaves, the process remains the same.
The Reality of Collaborative Partnering (39:00)
The reality of collaborative partnering is that it’s really hard and you should only do it if you believe collaboration will really provide a big benefit. There is a lot of education that has to happen amongst leadership to make it work. A lot of people lack the tools that they need, but everyone will benefit when collaborative partnering is done right.
Resources for Listeners
- Book Recommendation – Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us (affiliate link) by Daniel H. Pink
- Dan Pink TEDTalk
John’s Parting Advice (51:10)
In the lifecycle of a business relationship you always exit at some point but don’t wait until the end to discuss how to disengage
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