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Sixth annual design and construction best practices symposium optimizes teams by opening up communication

The Seek Change 2018 Design & Construction Best Practices Symposium went down at the newly renovated Hilton DoubleTree in the Lloyd District last week.

This is the sixth year the symposium has taken place in Portland, and its organizer nonprofit Seek Change newly added the event in Phoenix this year, and added it in Denver last year.

Seek Change defines an environment for learning by changing the way people work together — between the architects, contractors and owners on a project.

It used to be run by OHSU, but branched off as its own nonprofit two years ago, although its board still includes three members from OHSU along with contractors, architects and owners for a total of eight members.PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP: JULES ROGERS - There were 178 attendees at this years Best Practices symposium at the Hilton DoubleTree in the Lloyd District.

Gary Hartill, president of nonprofit Seek Change and president and principal of Orangewall Studios architecture and planning, spoke with the Tribune at the event. Rather than just having an educational symposium, Hartill saw a need for a vehicle to propel Seek Change further, so his team formed the 501(c)(3) to improve delivery of construction projects in the local market.

"The highlight this year is 45 owners and 14 companies they represent are attending," Hartill said. "It comes from the top, the change."

At the event

This year's event included breakout sessions on engagement with discussions on topics including personal awareness; continuity, with collaborative understanding exercises; in practice, with exercises to experience the impact of engagement on team and project continuity; and leadership, with lessons learned and the place of self-leadership.

In the breakout sessions, a few groups of 10 or so collaborated in small rooms to discuss topics such continuity. Mixes of designers, engineers, architects and project managers shared sticky notes and thoughts at the end of a short time for group discussions — and each group came up with a different, lengthy, specific definition to share.

"(This year) is great, we're having fantastic discussions — it's fun to meet different people, branch out and explore," said attendee Laurie Canup, senior associate with SRG Partnership. "It's bigger (this year), it's got broader audience participation — I've met people from Seattle and San Francisco. The conference is starting to have a bigger perspective outside the city."

Canup has been to this symposium for the last four years.PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP: JULES ROGERS - Small breakout groups took time to discuss definitions and communication.

"It's fascinating, we all come from thinking we're speaking English together, but every perspective yields different views," Canup said. "It's important to communicate."

Some of the continuity breakout session topics included: What does continuity look like to you? What does continuity feel like to you? Think of a recent team experience where the team experienced a disruption in continuity. How did the team respond to the disruption? How did the disruption in continuity affect the desired outcome?

"It's good to get input from designers, architects, engineers, it's good to get perspective for team continuity," said Ed Trotter, a senior facilitator of the breakout session and senior project manager at OHSU.

"I've heard a lot of creative ideas I'm thinking about doing," said Paul Leonetti, attendee and associate project electrical engineer at Glumac.

He's been to two Seek Change symposiums before, which have had themes recently: 2017, team initiation; 2018, team continuity; and 2019, team optimization.

"The cool part is seeing it come in three parts, putting teams together," Leonetti said. "It makes you want to go to each one next year."

Attendee Weston York is a senior construction manager at Providence Health & Services.

"For me, it (the symposium) gives the opportunity to look at the current state of how things work, to see if there's a better way to do it — it's challenging," York said. "I focus on engagement, and how individuals are participating."

Attendee Anthony Morton, project manager at Fortis Construction, has gone to the symposium the last four years.PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP: JULES ROGERS - Weston York (left), senior construction manager at Providence Health & Services, and Anthony Morton (right), project manager at Fortis Construction, attend the Seek Change symposium.

"The honest answer, (my favorite part) is reconnecting to others," Morton said.

There were 178 attendees this year, which is fewer than the number registered last year — however, 6 percent more attendees actually showed up. Of those, 45 percent are newcomers, and 35 percent are owners. Seek Change has been working on its targeted audience, according to Seek Chjange organizer Mike Buckiewicz, al+so a design and construction project manager with OHSU.

"We (Seek Change) also host a periodic breakfast club hosted by different architects and firms going forward," Buckiewicz said. "It's smaller and more intimate, which allows it to be more robust and transparent, which is the biggest thing."

The breakfast club gatherings are held throughout the year to continue the experience with hands-on exercises.

With smaller events and the symposium expanding to other cities, the third Seek Change initiator Kyle Majchrowski (construction project executive and senior director with Banner Health) is handling the Denver and Phoenix events.

"We're evolving, it's never enough," Buckiewicz said. "That's why we seek change."

Next year, Seek Change plans to offer sponsorship opportunities for the symposium.

By Jules Rogers
Reporter, The Business Tribune
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