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What is Partnering?


While implementing construction contracts, adversarial relationships between government

individuals and contractors have traditionally been a problem. Such relations lead to

unresolved conflicts, unnecessary delays, and even costly litigation — circumstances both

sides want to avoid.

One solution is Partnering: a structured approach to working together in the interest of a

project. The idea was first introduced in the Corps of Engineers by Dan Burns, former

chief of Construction Division in Alabama’s Mobile District (current chief of Construction,

Operations and Readiness Division at the Headquarters). It has quickly spread throughout

the public and private sector and has placed the Corps on the foreground of dispute

avoidance and resolution. While the concept was originally applied to construction

contracts, it is now being used to improve business relationships across the broad spectrum

of Corps work.

Key Points

    Partnering’s advantages

  • The primary aim of Partnering is to encourage a change from traditional adversarial

    relationships to achieve a cooperative, team approach and to avoid disputes. Partnering

    nurtures trust, open communication, collaborative problem- solving, equity, and a common


  • The advantages are a marked decrease in litigation costs, financial and performance

    advantages as a result of teamwork, and greater job satisfaction. Partnering is also seen by

    many as a more ethical way of doing business.

    STEP 1: Partnering preparation

  • The concept is introduced to bidders, stressing a voluntary relationship designed to

    improve cooperation and communication.

  • Securing support and personal commitment of the top management from both the

    government and the contractor.

  • Next, leaders are identified to foster the new relationship. An effective program needs

    a top management person on both sides to instill the Partnering ethic throughout and a

    “managing partner” to nurture cooperation from the bottom up.

    STEP 2: A Joint Partnering Workshop

  • Key stakeholders attend — participants who have a vital interest in seeing the project


  • Neutral facilitators guide the participants to discover for themselves the benefits of

    cooperative action.

  • The workshop is used to develop team spirit, plot project goals, identify critical issues,

    develop dispute resolution methods, and get buy-in to the implementation plan. The

    workshop must strengthen the ability of participants to communicate as a team. Conflict

    management and problem- solving skills are included.

    STEP 3: Follow through

  • Regular follow-up meetings keep the Partnering agreements and goals on track.
  • The success of Partnering efforts are judged periodically with a jointly-developed

    evaluation form.

  • Other activities to enhance Partnering relationships include follow-up workshops,

    awards ceremonies, and debriefing sessions.


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