In a time when we rely so heavily on innovation and technology to support a predictable project schedule, have we lost sight of what strengthens a team and what’s needed to make that deadline when push comes to shove?
My 18 years in this industry have afforded me many opportunities with larger-scale projects around the globe, from Ireland to Canada and Kazakhstan back to the Americas. As an I&C technician up to Commissioning Manager, I’ve seen vast strides in project execution technologies through the introduction of some incredible digital innovations.
Some of these steps include Building Information Modeling (BIM), allowing digital representation of a building, infrastructure, or equipment to allow for more efficient collaboration. While Augmented Reality (AR) facilitates remote workers to access real-time data and issue instructions to on-site personnel.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) helps in analysing substantial amounts of data, helping to identify potential problems before they occur, or Predictive Maintenance (PM), utilising data from IoT devices and AI to predict when equipment and systems will require maintenance or repair.
All these advancements are undoubtedly a welcomed reprieve from numerous obstacles faced during the project lifecycle.
Still, none of this can be successful without trust within a team. I’ve been exposed to both negative and positive team cultures, and the effects of either can have a dramatic impact on the success of a project.
Coming from a background of predominantly integrated teams, where both contractor and client assimilate to form a “one team” approach, one can assume that the early stages of formation demand extra attention to allow for a speedy and effective integration.
With time being of the essence when dealing with a commissioning schedule and it also being a key component of building trust, the more time a team gets together, the better the project’s chance for success.
The only way to achieve this is by the early introduction of commissioning resources, ideally at the design stage or initial planning stage at the latest. This early adoption allows for opportunities in schedule efficiencies, data validation, and digital work pack generation leading to cost savings, not to mention team development.
Too often, I’ve seen material disruption caused to a project’s schedule because of delays in mobilisation of commissioning personnel. In turn, I’ve also seen the benefits realised in the acceleration of major milestone dates, which can only be attributed to an early presence of a commissioning organisation.
This extended duration accessed at critical stages before site execution leads me back to my first point, trust.
By the time this integrated team expects to receive its first MC, each member clearly understands the role they play in achieving start-up and the plan that needs to be implemented to do so.
One might argue that the cost of establishing this team before the availability of scope in the field is premature and unnecessary. Still, experience has taught me that time and money spent at the beginning of a project is significantly cheaper than time and money spent on delays at the end.
Yes, the latest tools and software are needed to complete a project successfully. But it’s ultimately people and teams that execute projects on time. The value of mature, trusted, and collaborative relationships cannot be understated. I have had the good fortune of working in many integrated commissioning teams and have witnessed the power of synergy amongst peers.
Of course, many are aware of Tuckman’s concept of team development and its 4 progressive stages to optimum maturity. These stages are commonly known as: Forming, Storming, Norming, and Performing. The model explains that as the team develops maturity and ability, relationships establish, and leadership style changes to more collaborative or shared leadership.
Still, when a team demonstrates unequivocal trust in each other, they go beyond the stage of performing and into a phase of surpassing what was initially perceived as attainable during formation.
This phase allows for genuinely innovative, big-thinking ideas to flourish. When deadlines are front and centre and the schedule has been compressed, this group of individuals forms to become a more significant sum of their parts and excel in all facets.
I in no way intend to dilute the significance of recent industry developments, but should we question whether the age of digital innovation has potentially reduced our exposure to our human capabilities and, therefore, in theory, indirectly hindered the process of building trust within a team?
With that said, I’ve learned to appreciate the application of effective team cohesiveness built on the fundamentals of trust and respect. I will continue to emphasise its importance as we navigate this ever-changing environment of project execution.