How to Launch IPD Teams Like a Rocket

Four secrets to accelerated performance.

While working with an IPD team on a large microchip plant a few years ago, we were feeling pretty good about their progress. A group of us from LeanProject were discussing the team’s progress with the owner, the contractor and several trade partners over lunch and described the team as an airplane gaining speed down the runway, nearing lift-off. The group was truly beginning to behave like a high-performing IPD team. A colleague sat down and quietly listened to our conversation before he interrupted, saying, “This airplane idea is nice, but what we need is a rocket!” He was right.

On project work, we don’t have the luxury of building teams over a long period of time. We needed a way to accelerate our progress as a team and shorten the time to high performance.

At LeanProject we’ve worked with many IPD teams and organizational transformations since and have developed several approaches to help launch teams like a rocket. Listed below are four ideas that can help teams change to new behaviors quickly, reducing the time it takes for the IPD team to achieve lift-off.

Use visual management to engage the team and establish standards

Visual management is more than just posting information on the wall; it’s a way to clarify standards, establish team norms and to get members to interact with the information every day.

Start with simple things like posting meeting agendas on the wall and asking one of the participants to act as a timekeeper for the meeting. The timekeeper helps ensure that the important topics get covered and the meeting starts and finishes on time. Use the same approach to bring transparency to key project indicators like progress toward the target price, or achievement of the team’s conditions of satisfaction. Making information public gives accountability to the team and teaches everyone that discussing these topics openly is not only acceptable, it’s expected.

Effective use of visual management can quickly change old habits and bring about the new culture required to make an IPD team behave like an integrated team.

Leaders must model the right behavior

Effective IPD is much more about a behavior/culture shift than it is about the contract itself.When introducing new behaviors, the leaders have to set the tone and demonstrate the new behaviors that are expected by the team.

I worked on a project where the leader for the general contractor sat in the back of the room working on her computer any time she was not part of the immediate conversation. Her apparent disengagement spread through the team and set an atmosphere of passive participation. We changed the process by modifying the meeting agenda so that the leader’s portion happened in the first 15 minutes. If the leader had to work on other priorities after that, she could leave, but if she wanted to stay, she agreed to put the computer and phone away. The result was that she started staying for the entire meeting most of the time and become more engaged with the entire conversation and the entire team. Her behavior shift quickly increased the engagement level of the rest of the team.

Followers are the key to adoption

If leaders are the spark for behavior change, followers are the ones who fan the flames. When respected individuals show their support for the new thinking and, more important, demonstrate the new behaviors themselves, the rest of the group quickly picks up on these cues and begins changing their own behavior.

Here’s the trick: Don’t leave the role of the followers to chance. Select a few influential people who will fill the role of follower and get their commitment to take the role seriously. I’ve seen this be incredibly effective when the follower is a senior team member who is following the lead of a junior member. It immediately brings credibility to the ideas being proposed and helps the team quickly coalesce around new behaviors. After a couple of team members join in and start the new behaviors themselves, you’ve created a quick culture shift of the entire team.

Onboarding on purpose

Many IPD contracts describe some process for onboarding new project participants, whether they join at the start of the project or somewhere along the journey. Just like new crew members need to understand the safety risks and policies of the project, new IPD members need to understand the rules for governing, decision-making and cost tracking.

The onboarding process doesn’t take long, and we encourage teams to offer quick IPD introductions on a regular basis. This proves helpful when there are new companies joining the team or when an existing company adds a new person. Onboarding provides a chance for those individuals to get answers to their questions and recognize that they are in a new world. Once developed, the training responsibility can rotate among PMT members and avoids much of the confusion and missteps that we otherwise see new IPD members making.

A big part of creating a successful IPD project team is about leading change and creating a shift in the culture of the project. These simple ideas can make a big difference in the speed at which IPD teams adopt new behaviors and shed old habits. Give them a try on your next IPD project and see if you can achieve a more vertical take-off.


Klaus Lemke

Klaus Lemke is the Managing Principal of Lean Project Consulting, a firm specializing in the application of lean thinking and practices to the building industry. Klaus has supported dozens of lean transformations from the project to corporate level across the country and internationally. His new book, “Better Building; Lean Practice for the Project-Driven Organization,” will be available this summer.


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