Yes, you read that right. It is possible to run an infrastructure project to budget and deadline. So how does Geoff Stricker, Senior Managing Director of Edgemoor Infrastructure, do it?
The founder of the Kansas-based firm recently led a highly successful project to construct a new terminal at Kansas City International (KCI) airport, which opened in February. According to Oxford Global Projects, the project is in the top 0.5% of megaprojects globally that meet expectations in terms of cost, schedule and benefits achieved.
I interviewed Stricker to discover the secrets to his team’s success on the project. Mid-conversation, I discovered that over the past 22 years, he and his team claim to have brought in every project on time, to budget and delivering the expected benefits. So how does he do it?
Did you use a particular approach on the Kansas airport project?
Geoff Stricker: Our approach was not necessarily different on this project versus other projects that my company has developed over time. We’ve been in business for around 22 years and every project to date we’ve delivered on time or early, and on budget or below budget.
That’s impressive. What are you doing right?
GS: A couple of things. One, we are extremely attentive to detail in our approach. We think about all the possible permutations that could play out as a project progresses. We think about all the different issues that could impact the project up front — design, construction, financing, long-term operations, the community stakeholders. We put in workstream leaders, and each person takes ownership and accountability for what they’re tasked with delivering — not only their scope of work, but how that fits into the larger picture.
With the client and with the airlines, we went through a very rigorous planning session, where we sat down and laid out everything that had to happen up until opening day. What’s the critical path? What has to happen first? And by doing that collaboratively with the airlines, the owner and our team, we all bought into a plan that we all needed to agree to be successful.
We didn’t say: “Here’s the schedule and everybody has to live with it.” It was: “Let’s create a schedule together and understand each other.” We knew certain elements, and there were other elements the airlines knew better than us or the aviation department knew better than us. So we factored all that in to come up with a schedule that we agreed on. By being more inclusive, we made the project more successful.
Is there anything else you’re doing right?
GS: The other thing that we’re very good at is collaboration. A project is successful when we sit down with our owner or client and understand their goals and objectives going into the project. Then we make sure that, from day one to the last day, we always have that front and centre. Everybody buys into the process.
On KCI we did some very early-on partnering sessions with the client, the design team and the construction team to outline how we were going to work together, how we were going to treat each other and what the goals and objectives were so that we had common buy-in. Over what was a five-and-a-half-year project, it was a good reminder for all of us of what we were all trying to accomplish and why we were trying to accomplish it.
Can you tell me more about how you treat each other?
GS: It meant treating each other with respect; to respect other people’s viewpoints. To listen and respectfully debate when we had differences of opinions. But at the end of the day, we wanted to make sure that everybody was excited to wake up, come to work and feel like this was a place where they belonged. None of it was ever us versus them. We were all working on this together.
Do you have any tips on making collaboration like this work?
GS: There were certainly instances where some members of the team wanted to zig and others wanted to zag, and then it was about sitting down and discussing the merits of each approach and figuring out what was best for the project.
The reality was that we just set the mindset that we’re all going to work together and figure it out together, and ultimately do what’s best for the project, not what’s best for the architect, or what’s best for the construction company, at the expense of others. It was about coming up with the best decisions for all of us.
I think the respect of others was a secret to getting the project completed on time and on budget. The attention to detail in terms of planning throughout the project was another factor in helping make it successful. We all knew what the plan was at any given point in time and, therefore, we were able to allow the team to execute their piece to the best of their ability.