Partnering is a formal management process in which all parties to a project voluntarily agree at the outset to adopt a cooperative, team-based approach to project development and problem resolution to eliminate -- or at least reduce -- conflicts, litigation, and claims.

While partnering can be applied to any working relationship, it has become a common practice on large construction projects both within and outside of government. Agencies or owners, architect-engineers, construction managers, building contractors, and subcontractors all have their own priorities -- providing a potential breeding ground for conflict. Partnering helps avoid unproductive 'positioning' by generating an environment of cooperation and trust.

The Public Buildings Service (PBS) of the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) has adopted partnering as a standard business practice for its nationwide design and construction program. Partnering has been of proven benefit to PBS in improving the quality, cost effectiveness, and timeliness of projects in the program.

PBS began to apply partnering to all new construction and large modernization projects in January 1994. Partnering is encouraged on smaller projects as well, especially if they are complex or controversial.

Key Partnering Elements

  • Use of formal facilitator
  • The initial partnering session will introduce all entities to each other (A/E, CMa/CMx, PM, GC, etc).
  • Executing a Project Charter and a process for resolving issues will assist in managing communications, expectations, and relationships.
  • Partnering should not be just a one-day session at a project’s onset, but rather an ongoing process that stewards excellent working relationships
  • The project team should participate in partnering sessions with openness and candor, to establish a positive working relationship with the entire team
  • Project team members should participate in 360 reviews at critical milestones, and make ongoing use of reviews’ feedback to improve project performance.
  • Committed use of the partnering process can reduce or eliminate issues reaching the level of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) or court action.
Last Reviewed: 2023-01-30