Ideal HC Team: Bad with Orders, Good with Questions

Posted on July 22, 2011


A good consultant knows you cannot advise a solution if you do not know the cause and effects. In healthcare speak, no prescription before diagnosis.

Yet, how many times has a design or construction team given you a design concept or schedule before fully listening or understanding what you want? (This is where the RFP process short-circuits a proper project start, but that is a post for another time).

Or perhaps as problematic (yet not so obvious to you), has your design or construction team simply taken your direction carte blanche?

A design-build team must understand the full scope of performance goals, both from an aesthetic and business perspective. First, this is a good business practice. Second, because there is no one to pin blame on or hide behind in a project as a design-builder. A bloated scope will be exposed by a design-build team because the budget is the responsibility of the team, not the owner. This is why accurate estimates play such an important role.

Successful healthcare partnerships between design-builder and client are similar to close friendships:  no secrets between you, and always tell the truth even if it hurts. I have been in a room during a very frank ‘you can’t afford it’ discussion with a client, where the client’s status quo solution simply will not work. It is not fun, but necessary.

A hospital’s ideal healthcare team should not be order-takers. This does not mean they should not execute. But there is a difference between understanding and accomplishing a directive, and blindly following orders.

As appealing as it may sound from a power-play standpoint for the owner, deep down an owner wants to know what they are doing is right. Yes-men consultants sound like a good idea in theory, but that is not why they are hired. Professionals are hired to analyze a situation, provide advice based on their experience, and tell it like it is.

Inherent in the analysis, and prior to advice, is asking a lot of questions. And the answers to these questions help inform the solutions to come, whether that comes in the form of a more responsive design, more accurate estimate or more functional detail. No worries: it is not exactly the Socratic Method in action, but it takes some probing, and owners need not feel defensive. Understanding ‘why’ is important. The success of the project is at stake and Q&A with the design-builder is a check and balance to decision-making in the system.

Design-builders are hired for creativity and ideas—to give you, the client, as much of what you want as you can afford. No one wants to be a robot, a pawn in a predetermined “solution”. A design-build team takes all the responsibility for project success, so it needs to understand—which is done with a lot of questions.

Posted in: Design-Build