The primary disconnect on this project was that one of the groups believed that perfect safety was the reason for the project and the other group believed that getting the project done on time was the reason. They were both partially right and partially wrong. Once they got clear about the owner’s view of the project, and connected with what was important to all of them (quality, safety, performance), they could begin working together again.
Reflecting on our work with this company, there were a few steps that we provided that got the teams working again, and which are repeatable with any company struggling with this issue or with other similar ones:
The work didn’t end with everybody thinking exactly alike or agreeing about every detail of project execution. But it did result in people engaging in one conversation about the project, about their Why, and hence, what they were doing there in the first place. From this sense of alignment, a centre of gravity was formed around how the project’s success can be built upon. The most important result was that the key people on the project’s leadership team stopped sabotaging each other and started looking for ways to help each other win. Without this context of a shared purpose, the project would almost certainly fall back into fragmentation – and non-performance.
Given where things were at the beginning of the work, it was not predictable that this project team would right itself and complete the project successfully. It was more likely that the construction manager would be fired, or possibly even the project manager. At the rate that incidents were increasing, it was also getting more likely that a serious incident would occur. Or, I was told by a senior executive who was watching over the project, that if things didn’t turn around pretty quickly, they would pull the plug on the project altogether.
WhyNot Partnering is designed to address situations just like this, or those where people have come up to their limits and need a breakthrough. In our work, we understand that breakthroughs most often occur when people get motivated to go beyond their limited beliefs and mindsets and cause something to happen that wasn’t predictable. Why-based Safety is about returning safety to its rightful place, in support of a company’s real purpose, its Why.
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