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Importance of Teamwork in Construction
One team, one goal
Teamwork is defined as "cooperative effort by the members of a group or team to achieve a common goal" (Webster's 1984). Team work is used in all different aspects of life. If we try to analyse any situation or task that involves more than one person: in almost all cases, positive outcome will be sufficient if team work is used. A simple example from real life is, a marriage will only work if both partners put in some effort, a business will not survive unless all members work as one team and a building will not be built on time if only one person is doing all the work. What is needed to be realised, that any work that involves teamwork, requires complete trust in the other members of the team to work together and achieve one common goal.
Philip (1991) mentioned that having many workers at a construction site, each waiting for another worker to finish off another job is not what is meant by teamwork. Teamwork is having several workers (or contractors) doing one job together to accomplish a certain stage of construction. The first step in teambuilding is to assembly the team and define mutual project goals. This can be as simple as a preconstruction meeting or as formal as a facilitated partnering session (AGC 1991) Construction work is strongly attached to teamwork. Starting from the beginning, construction needs several things to get started such as; designs, engineers, workers and materials. Designers would have to work together with the engineers to get to the right design that looks good, and has no complications regarding building it. Workers, who are actually doing the construction work, would need to look at the designs, and take advices from the engineers on how to build certain things and what to be made from. This small procedure starting from designing and ending up with construction is an example of how teamwork is very critical in construction. A client needs to reach to an agreement with a contractor, who will need to reach to an agreement with other contractors. For example, a person goes to a construction agent to get his house built. The construction agent gets several designs for the house from the designers to let the client choose the best one. After that, engineers will look at the capability of making the design come true. The construction agent contracts with other companies to get the materials needed for the construction. This keeps going until a full team is created to build what is required from them. Companies which have reorganised their workforce into teams in this way claim substantial improvements in morale, job satisfaction, productivity and quality. These claims have resulted in interest from other organisations keen to share in the possible benefits. At the same time there is confusion over what exactly is meant by team working and concern on the part of managers, employees and their representatives over the possible drawbacks of embarking on what may be a radical change in work organisation.
The construction team is often thought as comprising the architect or engineer (design team), owner (owner's representative), and contractor (builder). The design team is made of architects, engineers and consultants that make the construction designs for the owner. The owner can be a public or private body that provides the project needs and funding for design and construction. The contractor typically builds a unique project in an environment that is very competitive and challenging.
The whole construction process is a very competitive environment for the owner, design team, and contractor. The owner wants the best value and highest quality for his money. The design team struggle to achieve this for the owner and is under the constraints to operate a successful business. The contractor works in a very competitive industry where profit margins are low and risk are high. This competitive nature may cause a breakdown of the teamwork crucial to a highly successful project. This breakdown causes; early information flow, doubt, extreme documentation, massive delays, very low quality, and very huge impacts to the cost and schedule of a project.
Teamwork involves certain activities that are typically part of the construction process but are performed with the intention to create a team. The objectives of these activities are to promote communications, encourage cooperation, avoid potential problems, challenge and keep morals high.
Teambuilding requires a tremendous effort on someone; this is normally performed by the owner representative or a Construction Manager. The owner's representative or CM normally has construction contracting experience and their background is either from the design professional's or builder's perspective. These members should make it their own personal issue to get the work done with create the best team for construction. This leadership cannot work as a top down mandated approach but should be more of a coach or even cheerleader working as the role model and providing the wanted tools to foster the teambuilding. The leader of the teambuilding efforts should know the strengths of each one of the team and the capability of the organizations and use this to make the team more efficient.
To get the best teamwork in construction or any other area, each one in the team should be aware of his duties and responsibilities. This will make the work much more organised and will avoid problems. Team members must understand their legal responsibilities as well not only for their protection but to avoid unwanted miscommunications.
At the beginning of the teambuilding process, team members should be aware of their duties, responsibilities and authority levels to the other members. This will make it easier for the team members regarding who to work with and where to solve their issues. Members need to know why they have certain duties and given responsibilities. For example, the design engineer is does not have to go to the construction site for general inspection only, but to make sure that the construction work is going according to the design accurately.
To sum up, teamwork is important for the successful accomplishment of any project. The goal of the team is to deliver a certain project that completes on time, is not over the budget, is profitable to everyone who participated in accomplishing the project, cancellation of claims, and most importantly it satisfies the owner.
The owner should have a leadership role in fostering and maintaining the team environment. Building and keeping the team maintained is in this member's best interest. Methods of teambuilding begin with having common goals, understanding and having mutual respect among team members.
Methods of assessing risks on projects have been introduced. To make sure that proper team balance risk should be assigned to the ones who can control it. It is the effectiveness of the team members on how to communicate with each other that will determine the quality of work done for a project. Which everyone hopes to be fun and profitable to work on.
- AGC (1991). Partnering A Concept for Success, Associated General Contractors, Washington, DC.
- Philip, R., and Hector, J., (1991).Teamwork1.London: Blackwell Publishing.
- Webster's (1984). The New Riverside University Dictionary, Houghton Mifflin, Boston, MA.
- Dr. Bingu Ingirige