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Collaboration in Project Planning and Implementation

By: Joe Middleton, MPA, CFM

Joe Middleton HeadshotThe tag line for the 2018 New York State Healthcare Facilities Conference is; Healthcare, Winning Together. The emphasis on collaboration across this diverse industry cannot be overstated but, what is true collaboration? Health care organizations, suppliers and contractors alike are often caught up in the competitive nature of doing business. Competing proposals from A/E firms and bids that often focus on the lowest first dollar capital cost are clear examples of competition, often with cursory collaboration. We tend to place emphasis on cost and competitiveness rather than collaboration and total value.

Let’s suspend our traditional thoughts on competition and collaboration for a moment and consider the following quote:

If you want to be incrementally better; be competitive

If you want to be exponentially better; be collaborative

Competition builds skills and develops resources with the goal of being superior to the competition. Improvement through competition is essentially improvement gained in isolation of others. Collaboration is exponentially better because it is based on cooperative development, in effect gain sharing, with our partners.

Collaboration requires a change in our approach and our focus within the industry. We must improve our active listening skills seeking to develop a level of understanding well beyond traditional recognition and awareness of wants and needs of a project and its design elements. We must communicate, seeking to ensure that the other party understands our input, our message. How do we do this, how do we develop collaborative teams?

Collaboration requires that we first understand the environment in which we work including the environment as perceived by our customers. This must begin with the ultimate customer, those receiving the services such as clinical care and support. To achieve this understanding we must assess facilities and work to develop an understanding of the priorities of our colleagues, our project team members. Developing an understanding is not as simple as attending a kick-off meeting or marketing session. The diversity of professions involved in health care project planning and implementation require that we research and evaluate the service and business models of our project partners to achieve a level of understanding to form the foundation for communication and team development.

Collaborative teams challenge assumptions seeking continuous improvement. Collaborative teams seek to and develop alternatives pushing the envelope of “normal” pursuing value, quality and success. To be an effective member of a collaborative team we must each work toward the following:

  • Understand our team members, colleagues and competitors
  • Pursue continuous professional development to maintain technical proficiency
  • Remain open to new systems, approaches and ideas
  • Communicate . . . but only after we listen to others
  • Challenge assumptions
  • Speak the truth, employ honesty in all communications
  • Provide feedback to our peers, team members and clients

The annual healthcare conference provides an opportunity for us to learn together; to network, to connect simultaneously on a peer and team level, to improve our technical proficiency and learn new systems and approaches.

A Certified Facilities Manager (CFM), Joe Middleton brings nearly 35 years of extensive operational, planning, and capital development expertise in healthcare. He has provided leadership for capital development, engineering, and support operations for more than 4M square feet of multi-campus facilities in healthcare, research, and commercial enterprises. In addition, he has led and managed over $1 billion in healthcare construction and renovation projects.