Trying to conduct business through email can often lead to misunderstandings and working across cultural barriers can complicate matters further, even when participants have a common goal.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Middle East District, has a solution to ease this difficulty. During the recent Maritime Traffic Coordination Center post-award conference, which took place March 15-17 in Kuwait, the team dedicated one morning to a formal partnering session.
The MTCC, a project for the Kuwait Navy worth nearly $40 million, will be a platform supporting a lighthouse about 15 miles off the coast of Bubiyan Island in Kuwait.
Approximately 40 conference attendees from USACE, MED, the customer (the Kuwait Ministry of Defense) and the contractor (TOA Corporation) gathered to build positive business relationships and discuss ways to work together effectively.
The group agreed on common goals such as safety, high quality work, pride in the project and doing business together in the future.
Brian Ball, the project manager, explained that a partnering session can help create a team atmosphere among USACE, the contractor and the customer who are all collaborating on the same project.
“When we don’t have the opportunity to put a face to a name, we sometimes tend to build walls between ourselves and the customers, and between ourselves and the contractors, which can lead to adversarial relationships,” he said. “A formal partnering process reminds everyone that we’re on the same team and re-emphasizes to the customer that we have their best interest in mind.”
Some of the tangible benefits of partnering include enhanced efficiency and cost effectiveness, improved quality performance, and increased customer satisfaction.
Ball said he feels that meeting each other face-to-face makes it easier to give one another the benefit of the doubt in future communications.
“It’s easy to misinterpret tones and intents when you’re only communicating by email from different locations,” he said. “But after you’ve met somebody, you’re more likely to understand their intent.”
Ball said the contractors were initially concerned that the partnering session would affect the existing contract, but they were reassured that partnering does not change the contract. It simply creates a better relationship to accomplish the contracted tasks.
“Because we want to be proactive and stay highly engaged with our contractors, the project has a series of face-to-face meetings built into the contract,” he said.
At the end of the session, participants signed a charter stating “We, the MTCC partners, are dedicated to success of MTCC project and working together as a friendly and trusting team.” The charter detailed their commitment to completing the project on time and within budget, being technically superior and producing exceptional design. They also agreed to work together in an atmosphere of team cohesion, enthusiasm and fun.
For more information on the MTCC: