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Partnering in Quality: Getting Back to Basics

Shared by: Bruce Spracklen, Beyond Engineering & Testing Vice President of Business Development

Partnering, as defined by 2014 Specification Item 4, states “the intent is to promote an environment of trust, mutual respect, integrity, and fair-dealing between the Department and the Contractor.”

The Informal Pre-Prepave Meeting is an informal partnering meeting, not required by specification but will allow stakeholders to come together and set the expectations for the project including the Prepave Meeting. This is not an adversarial conversation, rather one that sets the tone for the project. 

How engineers can set the tone during the Pre-Prepave Meeting:
  • Let the contractor know that this is an opportunity for open and honest discussion regarding challenges to quality delivery. This sets the tone for trust, mutual respect, integrity, and fair dealing.
  • Change the narrative by using the word “we” instead of “you.” 
  • Discuss challenges the project presents both from an owner and builder perspective.
    • A best practice is to have your own list of challenges you see the contractor faces and some ideas on how “we” can overcome these challenges. This is a great tool to increase CEI personnel development by asking each key team member what challenges they foresee, list of past lessons learned, and any equitable solutions. (e.g. 11.1.3 Construction Superintendent/Chief Inspector states ADT in project limits coupled with TCP could lend to delivery issues and frequent paver stops, potentially causing areas which have low in-place density and rough ride.)
  • Inform the paving contractor the following is done at the Prepave:
    • 2014 Specification Item 4.2.1 Project Pledge. Item 4 requires a project pledge from the foreman and above be signed and submitted.
    • Quality Control Plan (QCP) – Project Specific: Discuss in detail what you are looking for at the informal meeting, because frequently the submitted QCP's are static documents used for all projects due to amount of time a properly drafted QCP can take. Set the expectation of what is required and what they can count on as far as support to help deliver a successful project. 
How contractors can set the tone during the Pre-Prepave Meeting:
  • Honest dialogue:
    • Express commitment to the project and set the expectations the engineer can count on.
    • Focus on results desired by the owner and understand the “whys.”
    • Change the narrative by using “we” in place of “you.”
    • Openly discuss any challenges which may occur.
    • Openly discuss potential solutions and be willing to table a topic if there isn't an easy answer.
    • Include QC Management in the meeting.
    • Take items discussed and address them in paving and QC plans.
    • Develop project-specific Project Commitments for each of the employees performing work from the top down. Although the specification requires it to be Foreman and above, a best practice is to have each employee sign a project pledge specific to their job. (Example: As laborer, I am committed to ensuring any mix overflow from MTD is removed from the track or wheel path of paver to do my part regarding a smooth ride for SH XXX.)
Industry Leader Catherine Hejl, P.E., of HNTB, credits this approach as a cornerstone in building the mutual respect and trust needed to truly partner in quality. 

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