Improving Owner/Contractor Relationships in a Complex,
Multi­ Culture Mega-Project

The Challenge

Prevent further project delays and cost escalation due to miscommunication and unclear performance expectations between owner company and prime contractor.


The owners of an Australian mega project of over $20 billion TIC were detecting signs that an adversarial culture of finger pointing and blaming others was beginning to take hold as project delays and costs were rapidly mounting. Their major concern was potential further decline in project performance unless something was done to address it.

TerconPartners Actions Taken:

Using TPl’s Performance EXCELerator methodology and tools, TPI interviewed key leaders and stakeholders in the owner and prime contractor organizations to uncover distinct areas of misaligned communications and unclear performance expectations suggesting that strategic level action needed to be taken quickly.

TPI identified 4 primary areas of concern

Cultural differences among involved parties were contributing to miscommunication, conflicts did not get timely resolution, there were unclear performance expectations, and low morale was reported among project team members.

TPI recommended a sequence of specific and comprehensive actions to address performance outcomes, cultural differences in communication and team alignment challenges: To Ensure Alignment of Senior Stakeholders on critical strategic performance outcomes; a meeting was held with Senior Executives of the owner and contractor organizations to test for alignment in critical strategic areas including: objectives, KPl’s, success measures, and communication protocols and to endorse a plan to address misalignment down through their organizations. Align Senior Level Leaders from the owner, prime and sub-contractor organizations at the project operations level in facilitated workshops using the EXCELerator methodology. Created alignment around project goals, roles/responsibilities, schedule, deliverables, and communication protocols including the commitments and previously communicated down through all organizations.

Reduce Cross-Cultural Breakdowns by providing EXCELerator tools for increasing understanding of how different cultures represented on the project prefer to communicate, resolve conflict, and make decisions about trusting others ( or not). Ensuring commitment to improvement was critical; and included agreeing on the requirement that all essential information provided during meetings and one-on-one conversations be provided in a written format as well as orally to ensure mutual understanding.

To maintain commitment and sustain performance the Executive Sponsor Team committed to facilitated quarterly meetings to review project performance, engage in joint problem-solving, anticipate potential challenges over the next quarter, and identify ways to improve collaboration vertically and horizontally across their organizations.

Outcomes Achieved

Improved communications practices are now in place to address identified issues and create sustainable project performance. The organization has embraced more proactive communications practices which include frequent reviews, structures and communication processes to address KPl’s, success measures, project goals, roles/responsibilities, schedule, deliverables and communication protocols.