COAA-TX Fall 2023 Workshop Recap

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COAA Texas Fall Conference Recap

More than 100 folks joined the COAA Texas Chapter in San Antonio, the home of the Alamo, for one and a half days of education, networking, and socializing. Check out the conference highlights below. 

Pre-Conference Tour: School of Data Science at University of Texas at San Antonio’s Downtown Campus. The four-story, 84,500 SF facility houses the university’s School of Data Science and a National Security Collaboration Center (which was off-limits for tour participants as it contains a sensitive compartmented information facility (SCIF) which handles classified information for the federal government). About 30 conference attendees joined the tour, including eight students from San Antonio area high schools who are engaged in the ACE mentor-protégé program.

Post-Tour Happy Hour: With cocktails and hors oeuvres in hand, attendees were treated to an “inside the actor’s studio” style conversation with two retired executives who spent their careers managing capital construction programs for serial institutions – Sid Sanders who retired from Houston Methodist Healthcare System, and Jim Shackleford who retired after a career with the University of Texas System and University of Texas at Austin. Key take-aways from their session included:

  • Communicate issues early (such as budget/scope conflicts)
  • Have the competence and confidence to acknowledge when you’re in over your head
  • Don’t undervalue the importance of move management and activation. Make it  a formal part of the process
  • Delegate to people you know, trust, and have the skill sets
  • Never meet a stranger and never burn bridges.

Trust-Building Workshop: Ripple Intent founder Kyle Majchrowski, and Stephen Powell of Meadows & Ohly, facilitated a thought-provoking conversation about trust and building strong connections to improve communication and collaboration among project teams. Attendees further explored the topic through small group discussions. Topics explored included:

  • Defining trust: Do you naturally trust people or is trust earned? In Joseph Myers book Trust Me, he says, “We decide to trust and we feel distrust.”
  • Brain science: Our executive brain (the prefrontal cortex) operates as our “guide dog” that operates with curiosity and cautious optimism. Our primitive brain (the amygdala) is our “guard dog” that leads with distrust and safety first.
  • Be aware of biases and don’t let them get in the way.
  • More information may be needed before making a decision to trust.
  • In The Thin Book of Trust, Charles Feltman explores four distinctions of trust:
    • Care: “We’re in this together.”
    • Reliability: “You can count on me to deliver what I promise!”
    • Sincerity: “I mean what I say, say what I mean, and act accordingly.”
    • Competence: “I know I can do this. I need to learn to do that.” 

Start/Stop/Continue: A Retrospective Dialogue on Project Management Best Practices: This session divided the participants into three groups: Owners (and Owner reps), Architects/ Engineers, and Contractors. The engaging exercise was designed to solicit constructive feedback through candid conversations. The groups took about 30 minutes to brainstorm their advice to the other two groups to start doing/stop doing/and continue doing. Then a representative from each group shared their takeaways. The information from these sessions will be collected and developed into a white paper that will be shared back out to participants for Owners, Design Teams, and Contractors.

Building Bridges, Not Barriers: Fostering Collaboration between Owners, Contractors, and Cx Providers in MEP and Life Safety Systems: The panel, featuring Greg Norris from UT MD Anderson Cancer Center, Joshua Barnhart from Engineered Air Balance, Inc., and Corey McCutchan from McCarthy Building Companies, highlighted the challenges and collaborative efforts necessary for successful MEP system installation and commissioning within modern buildings.

Panelists helped the audience recognize how commissioning adds substantial value not only to the Owner but to the entire project team. Through discussions on roles and responsibilities, it became evident that close collaboration among commissioning providers, Owners, and general contractors is essential to delivering complete systems that meet project requirements and design intent. Furthermore, the session offered valuable insights into how these key stakeholders can guide the construction process efficiently through scheduling and coordinated assistance to various trades, ultimately mitigating delays and issues in the commissioning process. Overall, this presentation emphasized the importance of fostering a close working relationship between Owners, contractors, and commissioning providers to achieve seamless integration and success in MEP and life safety systems within construction projects.

Lessons Learned from the Activation and Move Management of a Level One Trauma Center: Our last session of the day featured the dynamic duo of Taryn Burnett, Director of Campus Planning for Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center, and Renee McNiel, President of Corporate Move Consulting, Inc. Their case study highlighted the importance of constant communication of go-live dates, move plans, issues resolution, etc. Taryn particularly stressed how they built a team culture by using inventive key words and phrases like “scurvy” when there was a lack of vitamin C for clarity; or “extra crispy” when tensions were high. Highlights of their Activation Tool Kit included a 559-item activation activities list, a 1519-line-item schedule, and meeting notes for 147 meetings with an average of 41 attendees each. They also discussed plans for mock moves, which was particularly important for relocating 110 patients (some in critical condition) in 8 hours.

COAA Cares Partners with ACE Mentor/Protégé Program: Eight San Antonio-area high school students participated in the conference, engaging with professionals to ask questions and learn about the profession.