Improving alliance projects through facilitation

Facilitation is a way to promote good collaborative work practices between construction project parties.

Alliance and other collaborative project delivery models such as integrated project delivery (IPD) represent a solution to decrease the fragmentation in the construction industry. New technology such as building information modelling (BIM) is also claimed to introduce more integration into the design and construction processes. However, intensified collaboration is required for successful alliancing and BIM processes. The intensified collaboration does not seem to occur automatically after committing to a contract but often requires help in the daily project activities. Facilitation is an activity used in other industries to help in accomplishing tasks by concentrating on the social processes of groups performing the activities.   

Kokkonen et al. (2016) studied facilitation practices taken place in two types of meetings in a Finnish alliance project. One was a formal, official design meeting held bi-weekly and facilitated by the project manager from the general contractor. The other was an informal, designer collaboration meeting for designers on an as-needed basis and facilitated by the project engineer from the general contractor. (Figure 1) The results show that facilitation created more effective meetings. Also, facilitation seemed to influence the aspects of collaboration and trust, which are needed in alliance projects. The findings also show that facilitation of collaborative work took place through three types of facilitation practices: 1) the management of group process, 2) the management of content, and 3) the facilitator’s substantive expertise.

The findings show that the management of group process was mostly about managing group interaction and creating a participative environment as well as applying technology. The management of content in the meetings was mostly about leading the conversation, clarifying and integrating knowledge. This area of facilitation concerns what is discussed in the meeting. The findings on the facilitator’s substantive expertise show that the facilitator in both meetings had expert knowledge and could intervene with this expertise to decisions.

The findings suggest that facilitation methods depend on the purpose and context of the meeting. The study reminds that the facilitator role should be given to a person who is skilled in enhancing collaborative practices that are socially structured.


Figure 1. An informal meeting facilitated by the project engineer from the general contractor


For more information contact Anne Kokkonen 

Kokkonen, A., Lehtinen, T. & Lavikka, R. (2016) Improving alliance projects through facilitation. Proceedings of the CIB World Building Congress 2016: Volume II - Environmental Opportunities and Challenges. Constructing Commitment and Acknowledging Human Experiences, Tampere, May 30, 2016. Prins, M., Wamelink, H., Giddings, B., Ku, K. & Feenstra, M. (eds.). Tampere, Finland, Vol. 18, p. 498-509.  

The research reported in this paper has been conducted in RYM PRE Model Nova and CoCoNet research projects. RYM PRE Model Nova research project “New Business Model based on Process Network and Building Information Modelling” belonged to the Built Environment Process Re- engineering research program, coordinated by the Strategic Centre for Science, Technology and Innovation of the built environment (RYM Ltd.) in Finland. CoCoNet research project “Co-creation and Coordination in Emerging Value Networks – the double role of ICT-enabled modelling tools and methods” is conducted by the Enterprise Simulation Laboratory SimLab, Department of Industrial Engineering and Management, Aalto University School of Science, Finland. Data for this paper was collected during the Model Nova project, whereas the paper has been written during the CoCoNet project. The Academy of Finland (for CoCoNet project) and the Finnish Funding Agency for Technology and Innovation Tekes (for RYM PRE Model Nova project) with partner companies have financially supported the research, which is gratefully acknowledged.

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