Teamwork yields on-time, on-budget USACE project delivery
By Jennifer Aldridge
WIESBADEN, Germany — Building the new mission command center on the Wiesbaden Army Airfield was an exercise in complex construction and teambuilding for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Europe District and its partners. The completion of the 285,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art, environmentally sustainable MCC was accomplished on time and on budget by a project delivery team with common goals and a shared vision.
The need for a strong, cohesive partnership was identified from the outset of this project in 2009. The PDT anticipated a number of challenges, including managing expectations from numerous stakeholder organizations, which could stand in the way of a timely turnover.
In order to mitigate potential roadblocks a traditional pre-construction meeting was followed by a non-traditional two-day partnering event. Representatives from all stakeholder organizations including USAREUR, USAG Wiesbaden, USACE and M+W were present.
"It was a very good idea to have a partnering event," said Gerhard Braun, M+W project manager. "We now have a trusting relationship. The partnering event developed that."
In addition to relationship building, the group used their time together to set objectives.
"In the partnering event, we developed common goals for the project," Bryce Jones, a district civil engineer and MCC team leader said.
The goals, including synchronized communication and systematic process development, were captured in the two-day event and used to guide the behavior and activities of PDT members throughout the duration of the project.
"We did not write our goals on a sheet of paper and throw them away," Braun said. "We lived what we put on paper and kept our promises."
After the partnering event, project stakeholders met on a weekly basis to measure their progress against the agreed upon goals.
"The meetings were used to hold team members accountable," Jones said. "But we were always conscious to maintain a partnering environment."
From time to time, visitors or representatives from outside the PDT would attend weekly MCC meetings.
"We made a point to emphasize we are all on one team working together," Jones said.
Respect and trust characterized this team and made it special according to Jones.
The on-schedule, on-budget delivery of the MCC can be directly attributed to the teamwork put forth by this PDT, George VanCook, a USACE resident engineer said.
"This is a textbook example of what partnering should be."
The exemplary partnering was a driving force in the team's ability to confront and solve challenges throughout the course of the project.
"The partnership helped us overcome challenges that would normally be massive roadblocks," Jones said.
A huge construction project, like this one, can present many obstacles, Braun explained. Issues arise each day that the team must resolve.
In order to preempt some of these issues, the PDT instituted two unique processes.
First, the team retooled USACE's standard red zone meetings. Red zone meetings usually begin at the 80 percent construction completion milestone. The meetings are held to capture all of the final activities that need to be accomplished to bring the project to 100 percent completion.
"In this particular project, we moved them [the red zone meetings] back to the 50 percent completion mark," VanCook said.
The MCC red zone meetings started an entire year before the anticipated completion of the building, Jones explained. The adjustment allowed time for key stakeholder input within the constraints of the contract.
"Now we are not hearing from stakeholders who are dissatisfied," VanCook said. "We are hearing good things."
In its end state, the MCC is visually and structurally phenomenal, explained David Fulton, the Wiesbaden Mission Support director and USAREUR Relocation Task Force deputy.
"I am in awe of the Corps [of Engineers] and M+W for their perseverance," he said. " When we presented challenges they listened and offered solutions."
The red zone meetings gave USAREUR the foresight to see what decisions needed to be made to finish the building on time, Fulton said.
Another unique process initiated by the MCC PDT was a weekly information technology coordination meeting.
"The WAAF resident office started out as the chair, but recently USAREUR has taken over," VanCook said. "It has helped tremendously."
IT is complex because technology is ever-changing, Fulton said. It is crucial to hold IT meetings. There are so many players from different organizations with different expertise involved in this project.
"The IT meeting is a subset of the red zone meeting," he said. " It is a chance to assemble the right group of experts to assess requirements and plan how to make the building functional with IT."
The consolidated operation center in the MCC will feature state-of-the-art security, technology and communications infrastructure.
"The most important element of the MCC is its ability to communicate on multiple networks," Jones said.
For this reason, the IT stakeholders come together every Thursday, according to VanCook. They meet to iron out issues and changes to avoid time-consuming and costly modifications to the contract.
"There were over 50 change requests on the project," Jones said. " But there were over 100 requests that we were able to work out with no change to the contract."
The team avoided quite a few potential roadblocks that could have derailed the project by tweaking the construction management processes.
"It facilitated progress," Jones said.
COMMUNICATION AND CO-LOCATION
The PDT made tremendous progress, on an accelerated project timeline, by sharing information and workspace. USACE Europe District and M+W team members co-located in a temporary office on the project site.
"Being co-located was essential to the success of the project," VanCook said. "There is nothing that cements a relationship like talking to people face-to-face."
Partnering took place on a daily basis, and problems were resolved immediately, Braun explained.
"We saw both parties as one team. We never had the impression we were separate. In the end, this approach is proven. It works."
For example, close quarters enabled the group to synchronize communication and make decisions as a team, Jones said.
"In one word, we were successful because of partnership."
The PDT includes a USACE resident office created and staffed for the sole purpose of managing and executing the MCC construction contract. The resident office is the on-site face of USACE comprised of architects, program and project managers, engineers, lawyers and construction representatives from the Europe District.
While the USACE team played a vital role in the success of this project, it would not have been possible without the formation of a larger partnership including the customer and contractor.
"We have a great partnership with our stakeholders -- USAREUR, U.S. Army Garrison Wiesbaden and our contractor, M+W," Jones said.
Our team is satisfied with what we have achieved, Braun said.
"I can say I am proud. I am happy to have this experience with the Corps [of Engineers]."