3 Invaluable Lessons from Jeanne Kuttel

  1. Bringing together a strong team is one of the most rewarding things you can do.
  2. You need to have a holistic and broader view while also providing details.
  3. Keep succession planning in mind and start thinking about who a good candidate could be to take your place one day.

This week, host Sue Dyer speaks with Jeanne Kuttel about The Oroville Dam Project, how to partner on a complex project with a tight deadline, and why succession planning is so important.

About Guest Jeanne Kuttel (1:08)

Jeanne Kuttel is the Chief of the Division of Engineering for the California Department of Water Resources. Jeanne has a BS and an MS from UC Davis and is a licensed Civil Engineer. She’s been in her current position for the last six years.

Jeanne’s Journey to Becoming the Chief of the Division of Engineering for the CA Department of Water Resources (2:15)

  1. She started working at the DWR straight out of school
  2. She started as a designer doing different types of projects including restoration
  3. She became more focused on overall project delivery and building good teams
  4. She was selected to lead the Division of Engineering and has about 350 staff that reports to her in a broad spectrum of positions

About the CA Department of Water Resources and the Global Outlook  (4:40)

  1. The department is diverse with a lot of amazing opportunities
  2. With water there is generally too much or too little, so the department oversees all water resource functions for the State of California
  3. They have one of the largest water projects in the world
  4. The department does both drought and flood work

About Winning the International Partner Project of the Year Award  (8:40)

  1. They got significant rainfall in Oroville, CA and the spillway was used
  2. They discovered a huge crater in the spillway and they had a short amount of time to fix it
  3. Jeanne kicked off a team and brought people from all over to get the spillway functional for the next year
  4. They shut the spillway off for the 2017 season and began to demolish it
  5. The Executive team partnered every two weeks
  6. The teams worked 24/7 and completed the project at 10:00 am on the deadline day
  7. In the winter they came up with more plans and in the Spring of 2018, they worked to complete the rest of the projects

About Jeanne’s Partnering Steering Committee (16:30)

For most of 2017, she was working almost exclusively on running the Oroville program. Prior to that, she was developing plans to start a robust Partnering Program. They started a Steering Committee to better understand the perspective of the industry and change the culture internally.

About the CA Department of Water Field Guide (21:00)

  1. The Field Guide includes many best practices and how to train staff
  2. The Guide helps get the word out to Partnering Facilitators and set a baseline for what is expected for partnering at DWR
  3. Having the Guide allows the staff at DWR and the contractor staff all have a consistent Field Guide
  4. The Field Guide is always a work in progress and being improved

The Role that Partnering Played in the Oroville Spillway Dam Project (24:03)

The commitment to partnering goes on the department side, with the contractor, and regulatory agencies. Having everyone be a participating in their partnering meetings allowed the fast-paced project to be a success. Having the Facilitator kept everyone accountable to their commitments.  Partnering allowed them to focus on what was in the best interest of the project.

What Will Change on Other Projects Based on What Jeanne Has Learned on the Oroville Spillway Project (26:55)

  1. Failure is not an option
  2. Have robust contingency plans
  3. Contingency planning can be applied to nearly every project and partnering meetings are a big part of that

The Biggest Challenge Jeanne Has Ever Faced (29:12)

The biggest challenge was tied to Oroville because they had such a huge list. Throughout the state of California, there was a lot of other flooding at the same time. Bringing together an amazing team was extremely rewarding.

Jeanne’s Greatest Strength as a Leader (32:22)

She has a diverse amount of project experience and the people who work for her appreciate that she understands all the facets of the work. She has a sense of compassion for all the challenges that people may face in a project.

The Best Advice Jeanne Has Ever Gotten (34:30)

Plan for your retirement. Make an investment in yourself so that you have options when the time comes.

Jeanne’s Favorite Piece of Tech (36:34)

Jeanne uses her cell phone and always has Bluetooth in her car.

Resources for Listeners (37:47)

Recommended Video: Oroville Dam Spillways Fast Facts

Contact Jeanne

Jeanne’s Parting Advice (41:13)

Take a long and hard look at succession planning and start recruiting people now. Educate people about what you do and create interest. Figure out who your successor will be and then teach people and mentor them.

Construction Nation! Dream Teams don’t just happen they are built one step at a time.  Check out Constructiondreamteam.com/Resources to see all of the books, websites, etc. that our guests have recommended.Remember…Construction Dream Team drops every Monday morning at 4 am PST. Please join us next week when Sue will interview another industry leader or expert so you can learn how to create your Construction Dream Team! Please head on over to ConstructionDreamTeam.com to sign up for our newsletter and don’t forget to subscribe on iTunes, Stitcher, Google Play, or Spotify!

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