Graham Continues its Legacy of Collaborative Partnerships

Graham brought its “one project, one team” philosophy to the Regina Bypass.

Graham is well known for its more than 90 years in the construction industry, always working to create collaborative partnerships and forging solutions. With this legacy, the company came to the Regina Bypass project with its “one project, one team” philosophy, which enabled the entire public-private partnership (P3) team to deliver the massive amount of work on schedule. It wasn’t easy, but Graham takes a lot of pride in how it got done. 

Graham is one of the leading fully integrated construction companies in North America. The $1.43 billion Regina Bypass was Saskatchewan’s largest infrastructure project, involving 40 miles of four-lane highway running along the city’s west, south and east sides. It is expected to improve safety along the Highway 1 East corridor between the town of Balgonie and the city of Regina, while also reducing congestion along Victoria Avenue East, as 70 percent of truck traffic will be diverted to the bypass. Additionally, the project is expected to improve connectivity of the Canadian highway system and other provincial highways. 

This was an important project for Graham, not only for its scope, but because Graham was founded in Saskatchewan in 1926, and it enjoys working in its own backyard. The government of Saskatchewan estimates the P3 delivery model saved $288 million. The project was delivered by the “one team” of Regina Bypass Design Builders, a joint venture made up of Graham, Parsons Canada, Carmacks Enterprises and Vinci Canada. Financing and development were led by equity investors Graham Capital, Parsons Enterprises, Vinci Concessions and Connor, Clark and Lunn. 

The Regina Bypass was opened to the public in late October, on schedule and on budget. Recently, Construction Best Practices spoke with Project Director Justin Churko and Executive Vice President of Infrastructure Ian Dickinson about the project’s teamwork and how this cohesiveness allowed the team to succeed.   

Construction Best Practices:
Now that substantial completion has been achieved, how would you say the project went? 

Justin Churko: It couldn’t have gone better. The nature of major projects and P3 projects, in general, are of the highest complexity and difficult to achieve, but we finished on time and on budget. It’s been over four years of work, where numerous factors can negatively influence the project, so it is quite an accomplishment.  A lot came together to make it happen, but we achieved every milestone and fulfilled what we set out to do. 

Ian Dickinson: Since winning the project, this has been incredibly successful, and I would say it is one of the most successful projects in our history. This is all because of teamwork we could bring about with the partners. It was a P3 project, but we created a really seamless project delivery culture with the “one project, one team” philosophy. This philosophy drove the whole delivery – we broke down barriers between partners and created one team. No one really would have known which partner each staff came from – the team was a project team. The philosophy broke down barriers between partner companies, and that included the owners as well. That is where you always want to get to on the projects but very rarely do. It enabled the successful delivery of project with no politics and no bull. We were all solely focused on the project.

CBP: How did One Project, One Team come about? Why do you think it was so successful?

ID: I put it all down to leadership. Whether it was good fortune or good planning, we put good leadership into the project, and they recognized from the outset that would be the key to success. We put a lot of effort into that philosophy. In the construction industry, people are proud of individual firms they work for and their culture, so it takes a bit of a leap of faith to set some of that aside and say the project team is more important. It’s almost counterintuitive, but it took inspired and committed leadership to set out that goal and vision for the team. 

JC: I have to chalk it up to the team. What we did at the onset was say we were going to team up between joint venture partners and also with the client. It was not just a façade – we truly wanted to work as partners, and spent extra effort developing a culture. We came up with the One Project, One Team slogan to describe what the culture on the job was going to be – individually successful and successful as a group. That gave us the best outcome for the project.

CBP: How did this culture expand to outside stakeholders? I know you had to deal with a lot of utilities and landowners. 

JC: The stakeholder component was huge. Almost every major utility went through the project, and that affected stakeholders, landowners, municipalities and interest groups such as Indigenous communities. We established goals at the start to reach out to stakeholders and engage at the beginning. The utilities are an external party and not subject to project timeline constraints, so we spent a lot of time in the community and in working sessions with all stakeholder groups. With our goals in mind, we tried to establish a mutual understanding of what it would take to get there. 

We engaged with the utilities and found economic opportunities for the Indigenous community. We also engaged with local landowners to ratify mutually beneficial agreements. Early and often is how we chose to communicate – we were consistent and persistent. Often with issues on projects, there’s a perception that a difference of understanding that sparks a problem. We were deliberate, honest and communicative with stakeholders, and that helped us avoid problems. It takes more effort but the payoff is there.

CBP: What are the main takeaways you have from this project?

The project really validated the One Project, One Team philosophy as the most efficient way to deliver mega projects. If we want to repeat our success on similar projects, we need to focus on the selection of the team and how the team is put together. It needs like-minded people and like-minded companies who want to work in that way. That is the enabler of the success. In some ways, cultural fit on a project is more important than technical capability. It allows you to get people to work together quickly and effectively.

JC: The right people and right organizations make all the difference when it comes to achieving something that is complex in nature, large in physical scale and has a lot at stake.  Partnering with the right organizations, such as Graham and the other joint venture partners, along with a client who is reasonable, practicable, and shares the same approach will garner great results like what we achieved with Regina Bypass. 

I am particularly proud of what was achieved from a safety perspective. Our performance was industry leading and we set a new target for what the industry can achieve on major projects. More than 5 million man-hours of work went into the project and most importantly, everyone went home end of the day and there was no loss of life. A job is not successful if someone doesn’t go home at the end of the day.  I also believe that bringing and giving trust at the beginning of a project will accelerate the learning curve, remove barriers and create a successful culture for all parties.  Leadership must be consistent through the project lifecycle to ensure the culture is maintained. 


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