More trust in construction

The Dalton Company, based in Toronto, Canada, have trust as a core value in their business. I was introduced to them by Stephen MR Covey, author of the Speed of Trust. This what they said about how they do business (when I interviewed them for CICES back in 2017).

Trust-based collaboration

Our methodology is built on collaboration, which in turn is built on trust,” said Dalton’s CEO, Andrew Dalton. “Effectively structured, trust-based collaboration encourages all team members to focus on project outcomes rather than project goals.”

Dalton’s Alternative Approach to Building was specifically designed to improve these aspects:

  1. Scope: get involved early in a building project to understand a client’s purpose, vision, objectives and their limitations, while also taking the time to understand the architect’s and consultant’s ideas and concerns.
  2. Trust: strengthen relationships with suppliers, customers and employees – based on trust.
  3. Aims: improve their understanding of their clients’ motivations – including defining what success means for a specific client, which is not fixed and will evolve during the project.
  4. Risks: identify risks early and resolve them quickly and fairly to head off issues before they arise.

Dalton also decided not to bid for work where the tender would be evaluated based on lowest-price criteria. This reflects its core values, is based on data, and enables it to continuously improve its services to clients.

According to Mr. Dalton, the company developed this approach in response to the extensive collaboration that complex buildings require:

Our Alternative Approach has a structure focused on collaboration, while at the same time eliminating the adversarial nature of traditional models. Strong leadership replaces reliance on one-sided contract terms and keeps the project team on track. Our approach encourages trust, candour and transparency to introduce new viewpoints and add options for collective consideration.

People manage risk


The company’s vision is to provide leadership by ensuring a multi-disciplinary project team helps one another meet a client’s goals to increase efficiency, add value and build better buildings. A key aspect of this approach is managing projects proactively and with full disclosure without relying on lawyers to bail out the project team.

All my years of experience have taught me that contracts don’t manage risk—people do,” said Mr. Dalton. “That’s where the collaboration becomes vital. You need your project team working closely together to identify risks and resolve them so they don’t become problems.”

By adopting a proactive approach, Dalton works closely with its clients to ensure a project’s goals are realistic and attainable at the conceptual (planning) stage before building starts. This means asking tough questions and challenging a client’s perspective or expectations when they are not aligned with a project’s schedule and budget.

Andrew Dalton explained that his colleagues “are strong believers in engaging in ‘healthy conflict’. This means empowering our staff to speak up when a contentious issue arises, which is inevitable during any construction project. By addressing issues directly and objectively with the client’s best interest in mind, healthy conflict cuts through politics and tension and frees our talented staff and partners to do their best technical work. Most importantly, this approach consistently delivers best results for our clients because it helps to prevent small issues from festering into big problems.”

What should you do?

Consider whether your contracts truly reflect your values as a business. Adopt clear consistent communication with clients. Build empowered collaborative teams.

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