The field of construction is known for conflict. To many people, a construction project simply MEANS conflict. This conflict is just taken as a given for so many people.
Horror stories are endless. Bitter dispute, protracted and COSTLY litigation, ruined relationships and associations, time lost from productive work and damaging heartache which may actually contribute to health problems; unfortunately, this is common fare! Boy, sign me up for some of that, right?
So, is there a better way? There is. It is possible to come together at the beginning before any contracts are even signed to formally agree to work together in a cooperative fashion. Such an initial meeting of minds and hearts, to the best extent possible, can be done in different ways.
I have been honing my Conscious Cooperation approach for years, whereby all key parties involved agree to work together in mutual cooperation and support, with some training and guidelines provided at the outset. This calls for honesty and forthrightness, clarity and the realization that working together actually benefits everyone.
I am not naively saying that all players can simply magically sign an agreement to cooperate, and all is solved. A little interactive and even fun training and gathering together is called for. Statement of individual needs and wishes are called for. Such an establishment of the intention to work together for the good of the project and everyone involved, and some simple processes to translate the intention into action can be absolutely invaluable.
Think of situations of conflict in your work. They likely trigger strong discomfort and powerful emotions. Now think of situations where there are an atmosphere of mutual concern, friendly cooperation and a commitment to produce something great together. Which do you want to show up for every day?
This is a bit of a simplistic description in this article, but it works. The trainer/mediator can then stay on, available for issues that probably will arise that can be addressed immediately instead of letting them fester.
Mediator Dena Schechter from California wrote an excellent article on what she calls the “embedded mediator” on construction projects. This mediator is present from the beginning and available if dispute arises. http://www.mediate.com/articles/schechterD1.cfm
Initial training and conferencing around cooperative effort from the outset are priceless, as is the availability of a mediator or team of mediators as needed.
The fact is, construction is almost by nature a potential breeding ground for dispute. For years I have told my construction customers that I think we will do great together and I really want them to be happy, and still some conflict or misunderstanding could arise. Sometimes it is just the sheer pressure of the projects, all the decisions to be made, details to work out, and unexpected occurrences beyond anyone’s control that can fray the nerves of even the nicest people. I tell people we can get through it together. I am on their team.