By Ruel C. BinonwanganApril 11, 2019
On 5 March 2019 the Transmitter Project was completed at Yokota Air Base, Japan and turned over to the end‐users. The scope of the project included a new transmitter facility, which is a critical communication/navigation platform for Yokota's air space and the neighboring U.S military installations. This project is a preamble to the construction of the Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC) campus, which is projected to break ground at the end of 2019. It's a part of the growing Military Construction (MILCON) Program under Yokota Resident Office's (YRO) area of responsibility in support of the missions in the United States Indo-Pacific Command (USINDOPACOM) / United States Special Operations Command Pacific (SOCPAC).
I share this invaluable experience to the construction community of practice to document the best practices and lessons learned from this journey. I refer to it as the miracle box because the architectural design of this new facility is simply shaped like a box. The miracle aspect was supported by a robust 6‐month of physical construction period to complete the facility. In terms of execution, this is one of the fastest MILCON that I've seen in my career. Moreover, it's one of the projects in the USACE enterprise that met YRO's 5‐1‐5 metric of staying under 5% cost and 15% time growth. The following are mindsets and practices implemented to deliver this world‐class project.
First, people are the key to success. I recognized that the construction contractor was relatively small and new to the MILCON arena. The critical component of building trust was understanding the capabilities of the team, both personalities and engineering. In partnership with the contractor, a great amount our time was invested up front strategizing, collaborating, and identifying key roles and responsibilities to ensure that the right people were onboard. This was crucially important for a robust project when decisions were time‐driven and backed by smart engineering principles. Especially in a high context culture like Japan, I acknowledged that a transparent and an effective communication conduit must be established prior to execution. An important concept that YRO implemented was leveraging the Japanese Nationals (JNs) in our RO to bridge the communication gap between the U.S. Government and the Japanese Contractor. It has been proven and battle‐tested that a U.S. Project Engineer‐JN Construction Rep team is the right strategic approach to MILCON execution. As a team, we've invested an incredible amount of time coaching and leading our contractors and it has paid high dividends in terms of efficiency and quality end results. I believe this was a small step in the right direction but a revolutionary approach that helped grow the Japanese contractor‐base so they will continue be competitive on MILCON projects.
Second, technical leadership was necessary for both sides, the government and contractor. With the amount of required submittals and technical translations, our RO team have put into action a strategy of dealing with these challenges. As an example, we've established weekly request of information (RFI) meetings with the contractor and their sub‐contractors, which greatly improved our mutual understanding of the contractual requirements and priorities. The results of mentioned example included effective communication and quality engineering. In the RO level, it helped greatly to have a professional Project Engineer and an experienced JN Construction Rep with a clear understanding of local culture and standard construction practices. The contractor's quality control staff brought a wealth of knowledge and experience and was leveraged by YRO that led us to a high‐performing team.
Third, execute and deliver as promised to the end‐users. The best practice realized on this project was the end‐users' engagements with the project sponsor, project delivery team, subject matter experts, and the installation representatives. A safe environment for collaboration was developed and a huge part of our stakeholder engagement strategy was focused on problem solving and execution. The educational site visits during construction led by the resident office and the foot‐on‐the‐ground approach resulted in a positive stakeholder experience.
The core takeaways of this project were mainly rooted not merely on the science aspects but more so in the art of project leadership1. The successful execution was attributed to a solid foundation of mutual trust developed between internal and external stakeholders. Moreover, the key mindset in the timely delivery boiled down to the concept of making the construction contractor successful.
In summary, the miracle box was a successful story because of the team's drive for excellence to deliver a world class project on time in order to meet the project's mission capabilities. Moving forward, the Yokota RO aims to provide our stakeholders with end-results meeting the 5-1-5 metrics as we continue execute and deliver projects in Japan.
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