Alliancing benefits and challenges in infrastructure projects

Alain Mignot
March 31, 2011

Culture: Alliances require a culture transcending the business and corporate culture of those involved in the alliance. The traditional approach to contracting has shaped a more adversarial, master/contractor culture, which cannot work with alliances. The support of a coach can bring the alliance team together and liberate collaborative, innovative and performance potential.

Eliminating discipline demarcation: Every member of the alliance team is responsible for overall performance. There is no ‘it’s not my job’ attitude in an alliance culture, and therefore successful alliances achieve new benchmarks such as record-breaking safety performance.

Trust: A team will need to develop a high level of trust between its members to address tensions and challenges. Without trust, game-play and politics cripple the synergies and undermine the effectiveness of the alliance teaming and processes.

Governance: Complex governance models need to be implemented including multi-level alliance participants’ representation in the ALT, AMT and all sub-level teams.

Client commitment and engagement: When clients have engaged their employees as part of the alliance team, they generally perform to higher standards and with better certainty about the value to be delivered through the project. The client needs to clearly communicate project objectives and the overall value proposition defined in the business case.

Best for project focus: Performance and flexibility comes from a ‘best for project’ focus where all decisions are made for the good of project objectives and deliverables, transcending politics and corporate or personal interests. It is therefore critical for the alliance management team to ensure a common focus on the goal through continuous and appropriate communication.

Organisational capacity: Alliances are suitable for use by informed, mature practitioners or by newer practitioners that surround themselves with the right advice to compensate for their lack of experience. An alliancing organisation must be internally aware of its capabilities, depth of management and leadership skill, internally collaborative and clear about its commitment to a strategic engagement. This is very true for project-based alliances where the most successful organisations happen to be the most mature and best organised. It is very hard for an alliance to perform if employees have to fight internal silos and politics to get anything done inside their own organisations.

Why alliancing?

Alliancing provides a proven, productive infrastructure delivery tool in a project manager’s kit. It also offers opportunities for individuals and organisations to broaden their cross-functional management capability.

Big picture benefits include modernisation of the nation’s infrastructure in an efficient and timely manner. The practice has fostered a fresh industry dynamic and engagement between the value chain participants, creating a more productive interface, even in non-collaborative contracts.

Author avatar
Alain Mignot
Alain Mignot is the executive director and co-founder of the Alliancing Association of Australasia (AAA), a not-for-profit, independent, cross-sector initiative connecting the infrastructure industry to create better projects.
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