Debbie van Noort, SPC director at Strukton Integral Projects, emphasises the importance of good cooperation on all fronts.

Strukton is partner in several DBFMO projects. Together with our consortium partners, we are responsible for every aspect of such a project. Everything from the drawing table to the coffee, the heating and all other facilities which ensure that people feel comfortable in a building. These contracts run for 25 years, a very long time. So good cooperation is very important. Lots of things obviously change during the contract as a result of technological developments, new wishes and building functions. Of course, there's a big, fat contract too. People's natural tendency is to get lawyers and contract managers to sort out all that paperwork, but I'm mainly appealing for people to act in the spirit of a contract.

‘In the construction sector, you're weak if you show your vulnerability. Nonsense’

Show understanding for each other

An example. In Utrecht, Strukton joined forces with Facilicom and Ballast Nedam to convert the former Knoopkazerne in Utrecht into modern government offices. From next year, various government organisations will be working in that building. The contract states that we are obliged to draw up a monitoring plan for De Knoop and submit it to the client. Instead of drawing it up and sending it ourselves, we consulted the client about the content in advance. We explained our goal and how we thought we could achieve it. In turn, the client told us what they felt was important and points of attention. The result is a monitoring plan that holds no surprises for the client and which they have already approved. I like that. Show lots of understanding for each other and avoid wasting time and money. How else would you do it?

We are one team

Such a smooth cooperation with the client requires smooth cooperation between the consortium partners. Our motto for De Knoop is: we choose the best man or woman for the project, for the role we play, regardless of the consortium. We are one team. The consortium companies, for the sake of convenience I'll call them the mothers, must trust that this approach works. That's a task for the project management which has to inform the mothers of the stakeholders and win their trust. Because there's a risk that the mothers will try and push all kinds of people in through the back door. For example because those people are currently idle and they want them to do some work. Or because they're afraid that the other consortium members have more people in the project than they do and so have more power. The task of the project manager is to keep the back door shut.

‘Show understanding for each other and avoid wasting time and money. How else would you do it?’

Be willing to ask questions

If we go a step further, we come to cooperation between colleagues. I'm going to make a bit of a statement here: I feel that improvements could be made at Strukton. We're too isolated on our own island. That means that we don't know half of what our colleagues do and are capable of, even though we have so much knowledge and expertise in the company. It would be good to know more about each other.

Furthermore, I don't think it would hurt to show our vulnerability a bit more. I know that it's not done in the construction sector, because then everyone regards you as weak. Nonsense. Be willing to ask questions, be willing to say you don't know. Other people like to help and you can learn a great deal from them. I speak from experience.

Enjoying your work

I think it's all about trust. That's the key word when it comes to good cooperation. Trust between colleagues, between consortium partners and trust between the consortium and the client. Wanting the best for each other, not just yourself. Without that trust, cooperation can be difficult. Then things get hard: lots of awkward discussions, people who work to the letter of the contract and time lost on processes which aren't relevant for the bigger picture.

Once such a situation exists, it's hard to break through. If you do, it firstly saves a lot of time. And just as important: the project members have more enjoyment in their work and are more engaged. If a project runs well and smoothly, I get a lot of energy. I can really enjoy it.

Debbie van Noort

‘In the construction sector, you're weak if you show your vulnerability. Nonsense’

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