Josh Johnson – December 10, 2012
As Virginia construction lawyers, we are often called upon to assist our clients on troubled projects. Almost all of these projects suffer from a common denominator – broken relationships on the project.
It is rare to see claims on projects where the stakeholders (owner, general contractor, architect/engineer, and subcontractors) have effective working relationships, good communication, and are working together as a team.
So, to avoid claims, here is the best advice for parties on a construction project:
Trust and credibility. Relationships on a construction project are like any other relationship. They are founded on mutual respect and trust. Stakeholders need to remember to maintain their integrity – even on the “small” stuff because once trust has been lost, it is very hard to regain. For your organization, create a culture of integrity and teamwork. Over time, your reputation will lead to more work and better working relationships on projects.
Address problems directly. Deal with problems promptly – don’t put it off. When difficult conversations must be had, do it immediately. Unresolved issues can cause the parties to end up on different courses lending to significant issues later that would have been small in comparison if they had been addressed early. So, when problems come up, treat it like a band-aid, don’t slowly pick and pull it off – instead, just rip it off, but do so professionally and in a collaborative manner.
Owner/Architect/Contractor (OAC) Meetings. Go. Period. To have good communication, you have to keep the lines of communication open, and OAC meetings are a prime opportunity for recurring face-to-face meetings with everyone involved in the project. This is, hopefully, obvious to most of you. Regularly scheduled OAC meetings are THE place to have open discussions about the status of the project. Make attendance and OAC meetings, by your project management a requirement.
If communication breaks down on your project, it will cause a more difficult project, but even worse, it can lead to claims and ultimately even litigation. So, the best way to avoid that outcome is to ensure that your corporate culture emphasizes basic teamwork and communication.