This page is part of our decommissioning toolkit.

  • Regular relationships assessment
  • Clear information & clarity of purpose
  • Fully share processes and measurement
  • Combine hard and soft data reports
  • Build challenge and big-picture into processes
  • Harness innovation available from whole team

Foremost in our research was to understand the role of relationship measurement systems in support of the Gold Standard enabler, “Regular assessment of client contractor relationships”.

The results are mixed but do overall point to an important contribution on those projects that had made good use of measurement.
However a number of interviewees stated that they didn’t measure relationship issues because “it’s not possible”. Many people are so used to measuring quantitative data that gives perceived facts that they are not able to see that behavioural data can be equally beneficial.

For those projects that did measure relationship issues (five out of the nine projects) the benefits came from the process of being open about the messages contained in it, discussing emerging issues and planning actions together.

The benefit is building a relationship of openness and trust that makes doing business together easier and more productive.

Managers believe in the link between collaborative relationships and project results but don’t attempt to correlate the two. Direct correlations of investment of time and money and quality of relationship and eventual impact on project results were not attempted.

However there were a number of specific quantitative improvements attributed to improvements in relationships including:

  1. Level of innovation
  2. Industrial relations climate
  3. Number of “aspirations” achieved at no extra cost
  4. Amount of conflict dealt with locally rather than referred up the management chain

These benefits were in addition to improvements in the key performance indicators of cost savings, quality and safety, and completing ahead of time that respondents believed were attributable to investments in relationship management creating conditions for success.

One senior project manager from ConocoPhillips we spoke with stated, “We know it makes a difference. Why would you need to measure that difference; if we weren’t certain, why would we keep investing time and money to get the relationships working?”

The best practice process based on this research and wider experience follows a simple pattern:

  • Measure – Collect a little data regularly from the whole population concerned. This involves listening to people widely and is better than collecting a lot of data from just a few people.
  • Review – Take time together with all partners to understand the messages in the data – good and bad – and their impact on the relationship and on the ultimate project aim.
  • Act – Make a joint commitment to do the things that will have the most impact on the health of the relationship and project aims – and communicate what has and will be done.

Our study also showed how companies adapted processes to enable collaborative relationships to develop. This means bringing cultural aims such as “challenge”, “no, no-go areas” and “no surprises” to life through project processes such as the performance review process.

In practical terms this changes for example, the way leaders ask questions in project reviews and the ways meetings are run. Benefits can include for example building challenge into project processes to enable continuous improvement and encouraging people to lift their sights to the big picture by linking issues to overall project aims rather than remaining in the local comfort zone.

A key element in this area was the process of fully sharing processes whether these were developed specific to the project or shared from different companies within the relationship.

  • Terra Nova – Innovation and cost control was needed to exploit a marginal field in hostile conditions. The scope of change progress challenged the team to consider the impact of change on the whole project, not just the module individual teams were working on.
  • ETAP – Making risk management focus on impact on overall project rather than specific modules (Building two very large modules and hooking them up at sea).

Table of contents

Decommissioning toolkit: Table of contents