ECC sponsor only virtual meet discusses dealing with the unexpected and moving from talk to traction

By Sumedha Sharma, Technical Editor, Hydrocarbon Processing

The ECC hosted a pre-conference Sponsor only event on September 23; a week ahead of the Annual ECC PerspECCtive Conference. Don Heimbach, an ECC Board member from LyondellBassell, delivered a welcome address and opened the event for its first session.

Greg Sills, President for Leading Projects, LLC, provided the attendees with an engaging  presentation on “Unprecedented: Managing the Unexpected in a Complex World.” Greg opened with a jibe on how the word unprecedented has made its way in to our lives this year. The session focused on deriving learning inputs from Highly reliable organizations (HROs), explored and discussed ideas via live attendee polling, and outlined effective ready-to-use tools as takeaway lessons.

Mr. Sills talked about how HROs operate under most unforgiving and unexpected situations yet manage to function more effectively and over longer periods of time. He used the success of HROs as the key example to elucidate that the unprecedented requires a specific set of skills to conquer. He attributed the success of HROs to six unique behavioral traits or what he called ‘six muscles’:

  1. Preoccupation with failure
  2. Reluctance to simplify
  3. Defer to expertise
  4. Sensitivity to operations
  5. Build resilience
  6. Plan

He provided the attendees with a unique opportunity to contribute to the discussion via live poll and curated the discussion around the poll results. He also used a diverse set of complex scenarios to explain the need to exercise the six muscles and focus on the main achievable goals for any organization.  

The event continued with an informative discussion on “Simplified Contracting – Changing Behaviors to Improve Project Delivery.” The discussion was moderated by Warren Kennedy, Senior VP of Oil, Gas & Chemical, Burns & McDonnell. The panelists included Sam Reaves, VP of Construction and Projects Counsel, Albemarle, Ryan Hopkins, Partner, Construction, White & Case, and Jude Leblanc, Partner, McGuire Woods. The discussion focused on industry trends, contractor selection guidelines, contract terms &conditions. The panelists agreed that the COVID-19 crisis has increased possibilities for disputes and hence increased the value for early dispute resolutions. They also acknowledged that the industry is embracing early dispute resolution, as evinced in the Global Construction Disputes Report (GCDR) for 2019.

Sam Reaves emphasized the importance of contractor selection stating that “ EPC services are not commodity and should not be treated thus.” He also highlighted the significance of contractor experience, team expertise, training, owners’ past experience and relationship, and contractor technology as key selection parameters. Sam also advocated for team selection, early involvement of lawyers, and detailed scrutiny for successful contract negotiation.

Jude furthered the discussion by speaking about change management and recommended a collaborative approach to maximize project success rates, avoid delays, and most importantly avoid litigation through open communication and collaborative dispute resolution.

Ryan elaborated on contract terms and conditions and discussed contractors’ and owners’ rights to change or terminate contract while defining liquidated damages and liabilities for each party. He advocated the ‘learn the risks’ model and discouraged lawyers to make contract highly punitive. The stressed that establishing communications routes, finding the balance in contract are early interventions to avoids delays and are critical for successful completion of a project.

The panel closed with key takeaways on importance of contract scrutiny, training of project team on contract, and project control dashboards for easy availability of information and data.

The event provided exclusive networking opportunities, breakout sessions, and future leadership discussion forums. As a precursor to the upcoming conference, effectively initiated the discussion on “Moving from Talk to Traction.”

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