The commissioning process is leading to changes in the way the construction industry delivers buildings. As with all change, there is anxiety over what change will bring, how change will affect the industry and organizations involved, and even some fear. Fear arises because organizations have ownership in the way things were and, therefore, feel fear that what was being done will be found to be wrong. And, in so finding, they will be blamed for being a part of what is now seen as wrong.

As a third-party commissioning provider working directly for the building owner or operator, I find myself presented with the opportunity to influence the organizational changes which inevitably follow the changes in the construction industry. I am in a position to observe organizational behavior and "see" situations that, due to organizational structure, culture, politics, or just plain inertia, are not visible to the building owners or operators. By virtue of my independent status, I am able to make frank observations. The challenge is in influencing organizational change without making members of the organization feel stupid or offended for not seeing that change was needed, or for being part of the old way of doing business.

Fabled Vision

To help illustrate my point, let us recall the story of the "Emperor's New Suit" by Hans Christian Andersen. The story is about an emperor whose only ambition was to be always well-dressed. He commissions a pair of swindlers to make him a suit from a material that "... possessed the wonderful quality of being invisible to any man who was unfit for his office or unpardonably stupid." The emperor thought that with such a suit he would be able to "... distinguish the clever from the stupid." He paid the swindlers, in advance, to make the suit. The swindlers asked for the finest silk and gold cloth and then hid it away while they worked on empty looms. All in town were anxious to see who amongst their neighbors would be unfit or stupid.

Soon, the day arrives, and the emperor is presented with his new suit. Of course, he can't ‘see' it - but he undresses and puts on his new suit. He is thrilled and sets out on a procession to show off his new suit to his loyal subjects. Everyone seeing the emperor, though attired in only his nightdress, complements him on the new suit, for no one wanted to appear "... unfit for his office or unpardonably stupid." Finally, a little child said, "But he has nothing on at all." Then, one by one, they hear what the child had said. At last, they all cried, "But he has nothing on at all." The emperor knew it to be right, but he thought, "Now I must bear up to the end." And he continued along with even greater dignity, wearing nothing at all.

I find, like the little child in the story, the third-party commissioning provider is able to see (and say) what the building owners or operators are unable to say due to a fear of making others in the organization look "unfit for his office or unpardonably stupid." Because the commissioning provider is independent, he or she has less at risk if deemed "unfit for his office or unpardonably stupid." (However, diplomacy and interpersonal skills are obviously required if the commissioning provider is to maintain a respectful relationship with the owner/operator.) Thus, the commissioning provider can be the building owner or operator's "agent for change," to be a catalyst for meaningful organizational change, so that the gains of the commissioning process are carried forward into the post construction operational period.

However, even clearly necessary change is not easy. As in the story of the emperor's new suit, even when presented with clear indication of the need for change, some organizational behaviors are hard to change. In addition, the larger an organization or industry, the harder it is for meaningful change to take place. The commissioning process is different from business as usual, but without meaningful organizational change, the effects of commissioning will soon fade. I see helping building owners and operators achieve this meaningful change as one of my primary goals as a third-party commissioning provider. ES