COMMENTARY | COLUMNISTS | ERIN DOWNING CHUDY

High-performance teams changing the way we do business

The recent variations in the economy have forever altered the way we as professionals conduct business. Companies have found strategies to work harder, smarter and faster, all of which have been a necessity during these tumultuous times. This has driven many of us to change the way we think — including my company, which has spearheaded the concept of the “high-performance team.”

A high-performance team is aligned with a vision, goals and core values. The team pushes aside egos or alliances. Team members are committed to respecting the thoughts, actions and contributions of all involved. In the real estate and construction industries, the vision is to create one virtual company or enterprise chartered with the construction of the project.

The idea of a high-performance team can come across as touchy-feely and, at times, the result of this partnership can inspire these euphoric-type feelings (though this is typically not the case). High-performance team members do not consistently tell one another what an amazing job they are doing; it is a team that gives constructive criticism, pushing one another to be better. Trust is the foundation of a high-performance team in which transparency leads to higher levels of accountability. With the success of the project as the reason for confrontation, parties can discuss any shortcomings openly and honestly. Together these individuals discover a way to combat the situation. Trust and cooperation eliminate the need to point fingers.

Creating such a team is not something that occurs overnight. Multiple hours working with the owner, tenant, architect, engineers and vendors are required. In fact, owner buy-in is extremely important and may be the most important ingredient to this formula.

Just as in any deep-rooted relationship, a high-performance team takes work. This work includes buy-in and commitment to break from our workday to determine what the goals and expectations are from the team. This type of soul-searching does not occur in an hour-long lunch session. Third-party facilitation can be a good strategy to expedite the process, but the process will take time as team members align the vision. What keeps the team progressively moving down this path is the belief that the upfront work will lead to results beyond the team’s greatest expectations.

A viewpoint of “we’re all in this together” can shape the attitude of all involved, creating a positive environment where pride and concern for one’s fellow teammates resonates. This one-team mentality extends from the owner to the journeymen. The power of high-performance teams is taking the vision and alignment from the “board room” to the field. This does not happen overnight and cannot be achieved with a barbecue and T-shirts. While such activities might help, the buy-in comes from tangible results in which the craftsmen realize that the project is different by the way information flows, problems are resolved and their ideas are implemented.

All involved share a commitment to be open and upfront with one another, ensuring the lines of communication are always open and to think beyond our individual companies. In a high-performance team, we are not just an owner, an architect, a contractor, an engineer — we are one team. We strive to be one company working toward a common goal. That goal is the success of our project.

This type of work environment seems almost fictional: a project where an architect and contractor sit side by side bouncing ideas off each other, openly discussing cost and ways to create a better product for our client. This is not fiction, for I have seen it done. I have been lucky enough to experience such a team and see the benefits on a daily basis. Our company has successfully implemented the high-performance team approach on such local construction projects as the UCSD Sulpizio Family Cardiovascular Center, Palomar Medical Center West and the Illumina campus.

The energy that exudes from a high-performance team is contagious. The collaboration, knowledge-sharing and problem-solving create a better product and a broader knowledge base for those involved. New methods are discovered, and road blocks are hurdled at a quickening pace. The most difficult of projects can become prosperous and enjoyable, two words that are often not used in the same sentence. High-performance teams are a positive turning point that will change the business world forever.


Erin Downing Chudy is a project engineer with the San Diego office of DPR Construction and a member of Commercial Real Estate Women San Diego. She has more than 10 years of experience working in interior design and construction.

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