[Case Study] MetroHealth Campus Transformation Project: Building a Culture of Collaboration (2 of 4)

The Cogence Alliance Resource Committee has committed to “tell the story,” through various case studies, concerning how the use of collaborative design and construction methods is positively impacting the construction industry. Our second article in this series is an interview with Walter Jones on “Building a Culture of Collaboration”.


By Robert A. Hager, Esq.

August 12, 2019


This is the second of four articles in a series featuring the MetroHealth Transformation project. COGENCE Alliance has been closely following the project with special emphasis on the collaborative and innovation methods used by project management. This article is based on interviews with Walter Jones, Senior Vice President, Campus Transformation and Ellen Burts-Cooper, PhD, Project Team Coach.

Q: Walter, do you believe that MetroHealth has created a “culture of collaboration” on this project?

A: Yes and no. We have pieces in place to allow a collaborative culture to exist. Our team includes people with good experience and high level of professionalism. Our dedication to the success of the project is good. We are a broad group of diverse people with different experiences. Our focus has been to bring all of us together in a singular fashion. The best analogy I can offer is that of an orchestra. We have many instruments to play as we learn to follow along but not with a single conductor—we have multiple leaders. Execution is key.

Q: How does effective communication impact execution?

A: We encourage organic communication across the board. There is a hierarchy, but also the ability to go outside your lane without exceeding your bounds. Dealing with process-oriented people, it’s important that everybody gets a voice. There is a balance between the need to maintain order while allowing organic conversation to happen. We support coincidental conversations in the copy room and hallways, in addition to the formal e-mails, scheduling, etc. Our Big Room is intended to help us get things done in real time.

Q: What are some challenges you have faced in developing a culture of collaboration?

A: People have their heads down and are working hard. They want to produce in a process-driven environment. By nature, collaboration is an organic undertaking and not process-driven. Moving from the design development phase to the construction documents phase, it is important to remain open to creativity. There are traditional project pressures associated with defining project scopes of work and milestone dates. However, creativity doesn’t necessarily work on a set timeframe and our best creativity may be yet to come. It’s like changing a from liquid to Jello to ice. We strove to maintain the ability to create and collaborate with other while we bridged over from the design development phase to the construction documents phase.


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