Collaboration model is set to transform the industry

Skanska Costain Strabag Joint Venture (SCS jv), working in partnership with HS2, has developed a groundbreaking collaborative culture model to embed inclusion across the team. This is also aimed at becoming the blueprint other organisations and companies will adopt.

The pioneering initiative places diversity and the way teams work together to adapt to the challenges placed in front of them, at the heart of the project. The team at SCS jv has been developing the culture model since they were awarded HS2’s main works civils contract in area south over two years ago. 

The model has been designed so that it can be easily replicated in any major project team and hopefully lead to a sea-change within our sector. Isabel Coman, project director, who was recently named among the top 100 most influential women in engineering said: “Now we have successfully developed our collaborative culture, we plan to roll it out across our work sites. We think the culture will thrive and the benefits in employee engagement, well-being, diversity and staff retention will speak for themselves. 

“The recommendations are designed so any major project leader will be able to pick them up and focus on them in their own organisational design. I hope this will set the direction for the industry for many years to come.”

A new standard in infrastructure delivery

SCS jv’s collaboration lead, Wendy Westerhoff explains that a collaborative culture is needed to develop true collaboration between client and contractor. The culture needs to be robust enough to withstand difficulties and remain the default approach when faced with challenge. 

Westerhoff says HS2 Ltd set out to achieve a new standard in infrastructure delivery and outlined a clear intention to develop a collaborative approach with their contractors from the outset: “This was outlined in the tender documents and was scored as part of the formal process. The client specified a requirement for a collaboration lead within the JV and for the development of a collaboration implementation plan. But contractors were given the freedom to interpret those instructions and define their own roles and methodologies.”

Communication central to collaboration 

Communication is central to SCS jv’s collaborative culture, ensuring a regular two-way dialogue that is constant and consistent and does not shy away from negative information. This has been achieved through a variety of ways including:

  • Weekly staff inductions 
  • Fortnightly team briefings
  • Weekly updates delivered by email and intranet
  • All staff off-site conferences
  • Platform South, a fortnightly staff magazine

Equally important is planning and ensuring there is communication between the teams so everyone can see how their work affects and is affected by others. 

The other key elements of a collaborative culture include:

  • Having the right physical environment to support the development of collaboration and excellence
  • Creating an environment where relationships and internal communities develop and flourish to help people feel part of a supportive, inclusive team
  • Recognising that developing a project organisation requires investment and attention, so being prepared to commit resources 
  • Promoting excellence and innovation

Coman said: “We have established a strong, collaborative culture on the project which is underpinned by an internal communications drum beat. Our communication is two-way and regularly seeks feedback from the team.” Coman believes communication should take place all the time and not just when there is time. She says: “taking time to talk to people ensures they feel valued.”

If you would like to contact Andy Walker about this, or any other story, please email awalker@infrastructure-intelligence.com.