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Walker Lee Evey Remembers

Former DBIA President and CEO Walker Lee Evey talks about developing the Owner’s Series of courses.

DBIA: What was it that motivated DBIA to develop the Owner’s Series of courses for design-build?

Lee Evey: The development of the Owner’s Series was driven by the nature of the design-build process itself. We knew that successful design-build demands a collaborative relationship in which all parties have a clear understanding of their roles. At the same time, as knowledgeable practitioners, we knew that some design-build projects were uniquely successful. DBIA began to closely examine the circumstances under which design-build performance excelled. As we began to better understand those situations, it soon became clear that it is especially important that owners master the unique skills required on their part. We began to believe strongly that a better understanding by owners of their critical role in design-build would yield great performance dividends. We set about to create the educational environment necessary to support that goal and to develop courses that would best educate practitioners in that process.

DBIA: How did you select the specific subjects to be covered in Owner’s Series of courses?

Lee Evey: We looked at behaviors exhibited by the most successful owners in the design-build environment. From those behaviors we distilled a set of skills that appeared to be critical. Observation taught that the most successful owners operated in a manner that we came to describe as “enlightened self interest” and that there were three skills that best predicted owner success. First, successful owners had the ability to capture their requirements and communicate them in performance terms; that is, successful owners defined desired outcomes in terms of the performance they desired rather than describing the method and manner of the performance of work. Second, they wrote contractual instruments, which successfully motivated their partners to provide optimum performance. Key to this approach was their use of positive performance incentives that rewarded their partners for the kinds of behaviors and outcomes that ultimately benefited the owner. Third, the eschewed the selection of partners based solely on low bids. Instead, they looked at a mix of criteria when selecting partners, of which price was only one consideration, often the least important. These skills, which appear simple, are actually quite challenging in their implementation and require mastery of a sophisticated set of behaviors on the part of an owner.

DBIA: What challenges did you face in developing the Owner’s Series of courses?

Lee Evey: Once we identified the critical skills that needed to be taught, we began to look for existing courses that could be used in our DBIA learning environment. We discovered there were almost no existing courses that could be used. While there were a few courses being taught on “Best Value,” the term applied to the use of multiple criteria in source selection, none of those courses addressed the design and construction environment. Instead, they were oriented exclusively toward major systems acquisition in the area of weapons and technology (e.g., aerospace systems). There were NO courses being taught that effectively addressed the incentives to motivate behavior. Reluctantly we came to the conclusion that we would have to develop courses in-house from the ground up for all three of these critical skill areas.

DBIA: How did DBIA go about developing the Owner’s Series of courses?

Lee Evey: To develop the Owner’s Series of courses we set to work with characteristic DBIA enthusiasm. It was an inspiration to watch the process unfold. Ultimately, so many people across the country were involved in course development that it would be impossible to name all who contributed time, effort and talent in this undertaking. Lisa Washington, working closely with Dr. Barbara Jackson of CalPoly, mapped out a plan of action and began collecting talented individuals who would breathe life into course development. Of special note, Mr. Craig Unger and Ms. Diana Hoag worked tirelessly to develop course content and to shape presentation materials that could support effective presentation techniques. Courses were repeatedly field tested and improved until we were convinced they met the high standards for which DBIA educational courses have come to be known. A constant process of feedback and lessons-learned has served to further improve the courses over time. Eventually the Owner’s Series was incorporated into a variety of flexible training environments, such as the DBIA Owner’s Bootcamp, as well as being offered in our program of traditional course offerings around the country. The affectivity of the Owner’s Series has been convincingly demonstrated by the successful completion of increasingly sophisticated, extraordinarily challenging design-build projects across the country.


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