Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The ‘Adaptive Integrator’ and Efficient Project Delivery

We read and enjoyed the excellent book Designing Greenways: Sustainable Landscapes for Nature and People and came across the notion of the “adaptive integrator”. For a large-scale public works design project, this key individual can function both inside and outside the traditional “collaboratory” environment surrounding the project. The integrator straddles the boundary between those project personnel performing the planning and engineering, and the regulatory agencies who work in a more compartmentalized and process-oriented fashion, and interfaces with a range of stakeholders as well. Using a new greenway design project as an example, and quoting from pg. 22:

“Although collaboration is useful and important, also needed are broad integrators (our emphasis) who see connections and relationships and who can envision futures that combine the best aspects of a range of issues. Because greenways combine social and natural objectives and because they frequently sit within highly disturbed settings, visions for their future need to be integrative or creative.”
The individual who can best work with the various stakeholders to bring the project to fruition may actually be a non-specialist without previous ties to the project, one who can be seen as an objective party by others close to the project, whether advocates, opponents or project-neutral. What is crucial, we believe, is that the individual should have a strong background in project as well as process management, and be given responsibility to develop and adhere to a schedule-tempered project management plan that allows regular assessments of a project’s progress in light of its goals and objectives.

Most if not all municipal or special purpose public agencies have (perhaps infrequent) experience managing larger, more controversial projects that test the limits of in-house staff. We’d be interested to hear from agency staff, as to what kinds of challenges these projects bring in terms of finding the right match between project and key personnel. Does your agency handle large-scale project management in-house? At what point does the agency bring in outside consulting help, versus recruiting from within the department? If looking outside of the agency, what qualities are sought?

As always, your opinions are appreciated.


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