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Explaining the Benefits of Team Goals to Support Collaboration



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Schöttle, A., and Tillmann, P.A. (2018). “Explaining the benefits of team goals to support collaboration.”
In: Proc. 26th Annual Conference of the International. Group for Lean Construction (IGLC), González, V.A.
(ed.), Chennai, India, pp. 432441. DOI: Available at:
Annett Schöttle
and Patrícia A. Tillmann
The importance of a collaborative environment to achieve success in projects has been
widely discussed in the literature and different mechanisms have been developed and
introduced to support a collaborative approach to construction projects, i.e. new forms of
agreement, new office arrangements, financial incentives, a shared risk and reward
approach, the development of shared goals, etc. However, the literature related to these
mechanisms is predominantly prescriptive, with little evidence and justification on why
some of these mechanisms might be important to support collaboration. In this paper, we
focus on discussing the development of shared goals as a means to support collaboration.
We collected findings from two case studies in which an explicit process for goal setting
and tracking was used to emphasize a collaborative environment. The technique used in
these projects are not new and have been documented elsewhere. However, the benefits
of these kind of techniques to support collaboration have not been fully explored in the
lean construction community. Thus, the intent of this paper is to report some of the
benefits that a goal setting exercise brought to two construction projects while having a
theoretical discussion to explain why such process can be beneficial and should also be
considered - along with other mechanisms - as an important element to support
Collaboration, commitment, goals-setting, process, vision
Collaboration can be understood as an “interorganizational relationship with a common
vision to create a common project organization with a commonly defined structure and a
new and jointly developed project culture, based on trust and transparency; with the goal
to jointly maximize the value for the customer by solving problems mutually through
PhD Candidate at Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), Institute for Technology and Management
in Construction (TMB), Advisor: Prof. Dr.-Ing. Fritz Gehbauer, M.S.& Senior Consultant at Refine
Projects AG, Stuttgart, Germany, +4915156561529,
Senior Lean Manager, University of California San Francisco, California, +1415-279-9102,
Explaining the Benefits of Team-Goals to Support Collaboration
People, Culture and Change 433
interactive processes, which are planned together, and by sharing responsibilities, risk,
and rewards among the key participants” (Schöttle et al 2014).
Past research advocates that to support collaboration, teams should share a common
vision and define shared goals (Appley and Winder 1977, Mattessich and Monsey 1992,
Schrage 1995). Past studies within the IGLC community have demonstrated that
continuous improvement efforts that include an explicit goal-setting and progress
tracking process can support the establishment of team priorities, enable candid
conversations and collective problem solving, as well as improve interpersonal
relationships (see Tillmann 2014a, 2014b). However, those studies do not explicitly
highlight the contributions of a goal setting and tracking process for collaboration from a
theoretical standpoint.
Thus, the aim of this research was to understand the theoretical contributions of an
explicit process for goal setting and progress tracking to support collaboration. To answer
this question, a literature review was carried out to explain the theory of collaboration.
Then a framework with the key characteristics of collaboration was developed to support
the analysis of empirical data. Two case studies that used a similar process described in
Tillmann 2014a and 2014b were analyzed. Findings are presented in this paper with the
accompanying theoretical discussion.
Schöttle et al. (2014) analyzed the literature between 1977 to 2014 to understand the
difference between cooperation and collaboration and concluded that cooperation and
collaboration can be described as a continuum where cooperation is on end and real
collaboration on the other end. Between both ends different concepts exists, which
weren’t further detailed. Their conclusion relies on the Wood and Gray (1991) definition
that collaboration requires “shared rules, norms, and structures, to act or decide on
issues” and on the approach of Denise (1999), Sioutis and Tweedale (2006), Camarinha-
Matos et al. (2009), and Podean et al. (2011) that collaboration is a “shared creation.”
Besides, collaborations are temporary (e. g. Schrage 1995, Kumar and van Dissel 1996,
Denise 1999, Sioutis and Tweedale 2006, Garmann Johnsen and Ennals 2012), because if
the purpose is fulfilled the collaboration ends (Schöttle et al 2014), and fragile, because
of the development process which usually contain complex dependencies (Wood and
Gray 1991, Kumar and van Dissel 1996, Thomson and Perry 2006, and Huxham 2006).
Thus, collaboration “emerges over time, while actors interact formally and informally
with each other to create new rules and structures” (Schöttle et al. 2014 based on
Thomson and Perry 2006, and Thomson et al. 2009). Therefore, to develop collaboration
many authors argue that common goals are required (Appley and Winder 1977,
Mattessich and Monsey 1992, Schrage 1995, Kahn 1996, Huxham and Vange 2000,
Huxham 2006, Camarinha-Matos and Abreu 2007, Camarinha-Matos et al. 2009, and
Garmann Johnsen and Ennals 2012). For example, Mattessich and Monsey (1992) state
that beside others “concrete attainable goals and objectives” as well as a “shared vision”
Annett Schöttle and Patrícia A. Tillmann
434 Proceedings IGLC-26, July 2018 | Chennai, India
are success factors of collaboration. Also, Schrage (1995) names a shared understood
goal as a success factor for collaboration.
Nevertheless, because Schöttle et al. (2014) point out that the terms cooperation and
collaboration are used interchangeable, the purpose of this paper is not to make a
distinction between these two terms nor will this paper define the degree of cooperation
or collaboration the teams of the two cases achieved. In accordance to Schöttle et al.
(2014), we argue that full collaboration is the perfection of working together; a target
which teams strive to achieve, but never totally achieve. Therefore, the object of this
paper is to justify the use of tools which help to develop collaboration
Widmeyer and Ducharme (1997) define goals as “guides for action.” Johnson and
Johnson (2009) agree with Widmeyer and Ducharme (1997) and explain that beside that,
goals are important, because they motivate behavior, provide the basis for conflict
resolution, and prerequisite for assessment and evaluation. Latham and Locke (2006)
define goals as “a level of performance proficiency that we wish to attain, usually within
a specific time period.” Furthermore, they state that goals regulate behaviors, increase
efforts, encourage the search for strategies, and give a meaning to a task as well as
accomplishment and therefore goal-setting gives direction and affect action (Latham and
Locke 2006) and specify goal-setting as a “discrepancy-creating process, in that the goal
creates constructive discontent with our present performance” (Latham and Locke 2006).
Latham and Yukl (1975) define goal-setting as a mean to improve performance. Then
again, setting goals is based on importance and self-efficacy (Locke and Latham 2002,
Latham and Locke 2006) and affected by leadership (Locke and Latham 2006).
By reviewing the literature of goal-setting theory Locke (1996) argue that the more
difficult and specific goals are the more critical is the commitment for achieving the goal,
but the higher is the performance if the commitment is there. The commitment in turn
depends on the importance and the attainability of the goal for the individual commitment
giver as well as the self-efficacy to accept feedback that helps to set and perform goals
(Locke 1996). Therefore, Locke (1996) defines goal commitment as “the degree to which
the person is genuinely attached to and determined to reach the goals.” This in turn
depends on whether or not goals are assigned or self-set. Hinsz (1995) summarize that
goal commitment is assured if individuals feel somehow involved in the selection of
assigned goals or if it is ensured that self-set goals are specific and challenging and e. g.
Locke (1996) and Locke and Latham (2006) explain that assigning goals without
explanation result in less commitment. Thus, goal commitment is important link goal and
behavior (Klein et al. 2001). Besides, when implementing a goal setting and tracking
exercise it needs to be considered that the process is influenced by past experience and
affected by direction, persistence, effort, and training to not fall back to old habits (Locke
Johnson and Johnson (1987) define a group goal as “a future state of affairs desired by
enough members of a group to motivate the group to work towards its achievement.”
Explaining the Benefits of Team-Goals to Support Collaboration
People, Culture and Change 435
Zander (1971) explains that although an agreement among the group exists, team goals
consist of four types of goals (1) group goals, (2) group goals for members, (3) members
goals for self, and (4) members goals for group, and that those individual and group goals
are in a circular relation to each other. Team goals help the group to stay focused
(Johnson and Johnson 1987), can increase team cohesion (Johnson and Johnson 1987,
Widmeyer and Ducharme 1997) and team effectiveness (Widmeyer and Ducharme 1997).
To achieve commitment regarding group goals Johnson and Johnson (2009) identified
two ways: (1) goals have to be specific, trackable and measurable, achievable and
challenging, relevant to the members, and transferable to other situations, or (2) goals
need to be formed together by the group. Besides, the desirability of a goal and the
relation of the team impact the commitment (Johnson and Johnson 2009). Pritchard et al.
(1988) argue that systems which are developed by their users are much more effective as
systems which were imposed top-down, because involved participants are much more
aware about their issues and needs to design a functional process. Durham et al. (1997)
suggest that “teams engaged in new, complex tasks should be allowed to set team goals,
even if formal goals are assigned. Team-set goals are more likely to lead to effective
performance, because they take into account what teams believe they can achieve.”
Furthermore, Seijts and Latham (2000) found that the larger the group the more important
it is (1) to align individual and group goals, (2) fostering the collective beliefs of efficacy,
(3) to increase the belief that collaboration results in positive outcomes, and (4) to
develop commitment to group goals to avoid the occurrence of social dilemma.
A case study approach was chosen for this research as it allows for a deep understanding
of the subject (Yin, 2014). The aim of the case studies was to collect empirical data that
could support the evaluation of a goal-setting mechanism and its contribution to the
different elements that constitute a collaborative environment. Two case studies were
carried out. Both cases had limited ability to introduce other mechanisms to support
collaboration (i.e. multi-party agreements, shared financial structure). However, in both
cases, a goal setting and tracking exercise was utilized.
In order to support data collection and analysis, an analytical framework was
developed based on the reviewed literature (Table 1). Data was mainly collected through
interviews. The interviews were carried out in November 2014
. Participants of the
interviews were the owner, general contractor, and the architect in case 1 and project
manager and general contractor in case 2. Open-ended questions were asked regarding
the project delivery system, implemented methods and tools as well as about the working
environment. Afterwards the interviews were transcript and based on Mayring (2010) and
Kuckartz (2014) qualitative content analysis used to analyze the interviews.
The interviews were collected, transcript, codified, and analyzed by the first author as part of her PhD
Annett Schöttle and Patrícia A. Tillmann
436 Proceedings IGLC-26, July 2018 | Chennai, India
Table 1: Observed collaboration characteristics
Observed characteristics
Case 1
Case 2
Inter-organizational relationship
Common vision
Common project organization
Commonly defined structure
Jointly developed project culture
Jointly maximize customer value
Interactive processes, which are planned together
Sharing responsibilities
Sharing risk and rewards
The two case studies in which a goal-setting and tracking exercise was carried out were
both Laboratory renovations. The first project was the renovation of an anatomy teaching
lab on the 13th floor of an occupied building (US$ 7.4M, substantial completion in
August 2012). The second case was a project to remediate the existing plumbing and
electrical system underneath the first floor (US$ 21.4M, substantial completion June
2014). In both cases, a traditional construction management at risk contract was used,
with no arrangements to share risks and rewards, no multi-party agreement and no co-
On both public projects, different tools and techniques were implemented by the
general contractor (which was the same in both projects). Those include: Last Planner
System, Building Information Modelling and a shared goal-setting and tracking exercise
to support collaboration. The participants of the self-setting goal and evaluation process
are summarized in Table 2.
Table 2: Participants of the goal-setting and tracking process
Case 1
Case 2
General contractor
Owner and facilities maintenance
Project manager (external consultant owner)
Design team
Main subcontractors
User representative
Explaining the Benefits of Team-Goals to Support Collaboration
People, Culture and Change 437
The process included a series of workshops to develop an agreed upon vision and a
periodic review of progress towards the goals, in which project participants would discuss
current status and opportunities. Figure 1 shows the PDCA-cycle of the implemented
process. Further explanation can be found in Tillmann (2014a, 2014b).
The vision established by the team reflected specific goals that needed to be achieved.
These included project goals such as to be on time and on schedule and to incorporate
built in quality. Besides the typical project goals, the team set specific goals to support
the working environment. For example, one goal was “having fun”.
Define counter-
measure jointly
Define counter-
measure jointly
Setting goals
together Identify drivers
Define indicators
Adjust goal
Adjust goal? YESYES
Goal remains?
Remove goal NO
Figure 1: PDCA-cycle of goal-setting and tracking process
To track progress, team used both quantitative (i.e. expected vs. actual costs, expected
vs. actual schedule performance) and qualitative data. Qualitative data was gathered
through surveys and focused on the opinion of team members, especially regarding soft
aspects of project management (i.e. teamwork, fun, building relationships, etc.). In case
that there was a discrepancy between goal and progress, countermeasures were defined
and implemented. If the team evaluated that “having fun” was not achieved one
countermeasure would be to have lunch together and establish a rule to not talk about
work during lunch time, for instance. Instead, people would talk about their private life,
which contributed for increased empathy and stronger relationships.
Interviewees mentioned that some progress measurements should have been defined
more clearly, and that goals such as building new relationships needed to be adjusted,
because they change over time. Figure 1 shows how goal adjustment should be included
Annett Schöttle and Patrícia A. Tillmann
438 Proceedings IGLC-26, July 2018 | Chennai, India
as part of the process. Furthermore, it was stated that the individual evaluation of goals
which were not self-set were difficult. This aligns with the statement of Locke and
Latham (2002) and Latham and Locke (2006), who argue that goals need to be relevant
for the individual. Thus, if a lack of identification occurs, the measurement needs to be
clearly defined and might be adjusted in terms of group evaluation than by every
individual. Despite these opportunities for improvement, project team members
highlighted major benefits of this process for enhancing collaboration. These included:
Open and increased communication among team members;
Aligned expectations and improved team focus;
Possibility to communicate dissatisfaction, talk about frustration and address
Smoother workflow;
Development of an understanding of different personalities, while building
Developing collaboration and building Strengthened trust; and
Influenced the working environment and improved satisfaction.
Even though the characteristics of these case studies differed from the projects analyzed
by Tillmann (2014a, 2014b), i.e. no integrated agreement, no arrangement to share risks
and rewards, positive results were found. Teams observed improved relationships, greater
empathy, an enhanced ability to candidly talk about problems and engage in problem-
solving to support continuous improvement. This study provides further evidence that
support the findings of other authors. As different studies point out, a goal-setting and
tracking exercise which is carried out by project teams themselves increased
communication and coordination (Johnson and Johnson 2009) and served as a “guide for
action” (Widmeyer and Ducharme 1997). Furthermore, setting goals motivated the team
(Widmeyer and Ducharme 1997, Locke and Latham 2006) and provided the basis for
conflict resolution (Widmeyer and Ducharme 1997).
Table 3 gives an overview of collaboration characteristics based on the definition of
Schöttle et al. (2014).The authors evaluate the table, based on their observation and on
the interviews. It can be seen that the goal-setting and tracking process impacted
collaboration, despite the fact that not all supporting mechanisms were in place, i.e.
multi-party agreements or shared risks and rewards. Therefore, the goal-setting and
tracking exercises were critically important for helping to align the different parties with
respect to 7 out of 11 mechanisms that are considered desirable for supporting
In the process of agreeing on goals, expectations were clarified, and the team got a
better understanding of each other’s perspective. Moreover, targets were defined bottom-
up, so that the different team members identified themselves within the goals (as
previously observed by Locke (1996). Setting and tracking also social goals helped the
team members to pay more attention to issues regarding the working environment and
Explaining the Benefits of Team-Goals to Support Collaboration
People, Culture and Change 439
define countermeasure for team building on time. Overall, the goal measurement helped
to see if things were going in the right direction or if the team needed to change
something to be on track. Thus, in accordance to the literature review, the collaboration
among the team members developed over time (Schöttle et al. 2014, Thomson and Perry
2006, Thomson et al. 2009), because they shared goals, informally interact with each
other, opened up the discussion about what was important for their performance and
based on that discussion, developed rules and norms to proceed in the right path.
Table 3: Affected collaboration characteristics
Affected characteristics
Case 1
Case 2
Inter organizational relationship
Common vision
Common project organization
Commonly defined structure
Jointly developed project culture
Jointly maximize customer value
Interactive processes, which are planned together
Sharing responsibilities
Sharing risk and rewards
This paper provides greater insight into what collaboration means from a theoretical
standpoint and greater support on understanding why goal setting exercises are important.
Furthermore, it provides evidence that support past studies and reinforces the
understanding of the contribution of establishing common goals in construction projects,
even when companies are not aligned commercially. A goal-setting and tracking
processes makes explicit important issues which are usually not verbalized by project
teams. By clarifying goals and defining actions jointly, individuals focus on problem
solving and achieve a greater alignment among themselves. Thus, the effect of the goal-
setting and tracking process described here with respect to collaboration is high, even in
traditional project arrangements. Some limitations include: the research did not consider
the role of leadership during the team goal-setting and tracking exercises, and it did not
differentiate between assigned, participative, and self-set goals. Therefore, additional
research about goal-setting and tracking to understand and improve the process and to
enhance collaboration is necessary.
Annett Schöttle and Patrícia A. Tillmann
440 Proceedings IGLC-26, July 2018 | Chennai, India
The authors want to thank the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD Deutscher
Akademischer Austausch Dienst), the Institute of Technology and Management in
Construction at Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), the Product Production System
Laboratory (P2SL) at UC Berkeley and the UCSF Capital Program Department
(REPCAPS) for supporting this research.
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... Knapp et al. (2014) proposed that the owner's representative plays a critical role in the active promotion of harmony, collaboration, and cooperation among all entities performing on the project. To support a collaborative approach, Schöttle and Tillmann (2018) collected findings from two case studies in which an explicit process for goal setting and tracking was used. These previous studies suggest that collaboration factors are linked to social and managerial dimensions as detailed in Table 1. ...
... Some tools and techniques outlined here can be applied in one or even all the quadrants. Given the limited possibility to collaborate at the project level, contractors might implement the Last Planner System (LPS) in Q1 to achieve better collaboration with subcontractors at the operational level (Schöttle and Tillmann 2018). Moreover, contractors can create BIM models to detect clashes and for quantity take-off which is sometimes considered as the first step into BIM implementation. ...
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