Why Is it so Difficult to be Transparent in Construction?

At Part3, transparency is one of our core values, and transparency (or lack thereof) is one of the biggest causes of wasted time on construction projects.

On a typical project, when a design-related problem arises during construction, the consultants usually discuss as a group, excluding other essential team members and potentially causing misalignment. If the entire team (GC, Subs, Owner, Consultants) had come together to brainstorm, the chances are that they would arrive at a better solution, faster. As we know, every day that passes where a solution is not found, there are potential cost and schedule impacts.  If only we were more transparent from the beginning!

On average, each construction project team member loses almost 2 full working days per week solving avoidable issues and searching for information.

There are not a lot of construction or architectural tools that can help bring teams together to collaborate and solve problems. Most of these discussions happen via numerous emails or conference calls. The lack of software and the information bias results in team members spending time chasing data and each other. For example, Consultants are not privy to all the GC’s data, such as tender results and financials. For the GC, they are not always included in the design coordination and behind the scenes consultant discussions. The lack of shared information and data across the project team can cause a strain on human relationships and leads to a frustrating work environment.

Is it difficult to be transparent?

In theory, it’s not, but in practice, it’s very hard. Some contract types can discourage transparency out of fear of liability when issues arise. Construction is really about relationships. The better a team works together, the more successful that project is likely to be (this is true across most industries). But that still doesn’t solve the problem of liability.

Why are people scared of transparency?

Most teams believe they are transparent, but when it comes time to show your cards, people are hesitant. Our experience talking to Architects and Consultants reveals a similar trend. For example, the often discouraged use of the term ‘coordination’ when issuing change documents. This can signal to the Owner or the GC that the design wasn’t fully coordinated at the time a consolidated set was issued. The reality is that consultants are human, projects are complicated, and sometimes things get missed or assumptions are made when time is of the essence. The same can be said on the General Contractors side. Sometimes a change is missed, the latest drawing is not used or the layout in the field is wrong. Humans do not like to admit mistakes, especially when it can have a financial or schedule impact.

Any opportunity for a financial or schedule risk has a direct relationship to liability. When a problem arises, sometimes the first thing people do is try to figure out who to blame or how it happened. If the problem has a huge financial impact, figuring out how it happened might be something that has to be determined eventually. However, the first and best thing to do would be to get the entire team together to find a solution. Removing the information bias empowers team members to problem solve collaboratively, instead of focusing on apportioning blame.

How to increase transparency in your project teams

One method is the Integrated Project Delivery (IPD) model, which encourages transparency.  Under this method, the project team consists of Owners, Consultants, General Contractor & Subcontractors, who all work collaboratively and openly from the beginning of the project under one master agreement.  This type of contract also relies heavily on software to support the team collaboration process. The transparency continues across the design to the financials.

Outside of the construction industry software is relied upon as a driver of better communication and collaboration. Examples of these tools include Microsoft Teams, Slack, Trello, Notion, Zoom, etc. A lot of companies have had to make the transition to these tools given the COVID-19 pandemic. These tools and the processes they bring are here to stay, they aren’t just for use during a pandemic.

We know it works!

At Part3, transparency is one of our core values. Any team member can see our open task lists, we communicate in public slack channels and share learnings openly. We even publicize our roadmap for all to see. On top of that, we maintain regular communication with our users, who provide feedback and insights on new features and ideas.

Part3 exists to unite teams and improve productivity. That starts with transparency. Being open and implementing the right tools and technology will have a massive impact to your teams. You will see fewer errors, spend less time chasing people and data, and ultimately create a better place to work.