Imagine you are the coach of a woman’s college softball team. Even better, imagine you are the coach of an award-winning, championship women’s college softball team.


Imagine you are the coach of a woman’s college softball team. Even better, imagine you are the coach of an award-winning, championship women’s college softball team. You are clearly an excellent coach: people have noticed your knowledge of the game, your team-building techniques, and your leadership skills. Then one day, opportunity comes knocking at your door, when you get the chance to become a manager in the big leagues— big leagues of professional baseball, that is. It’s your dream job! You’ve finally made it to the top, and your very own “field of dreams” is waiting.

But wait a second… are you truly prepared for this dream gig? You are a great softball coach, and you know the game inside and out, right? You have definitely perfected your coaching skills, right? It’s basically the same game, right? Well, not exactly. And this is really not about the difference between men and women’s sports. Rather, this it’s about one game that looks quite similar to another, when in reality, they are actually two entirely different sports.

So the question becomes: How do you jump into Major League Baseball without losing every game, ruining your reputation, and watching all you’ve developed as a reputable softball coach go down the drain? The answer is, training. You need specific training to make this big transition. Since we are operating on a strictly hypothetical basis here, let’s just say that you have Joe Torre, Billy Martin, and Earl Weaver on hand to help you learn the ropes. Yes, I said Earl Weaver—I’m a longtime Orioles fan, and I firmly believe everyone needs a little dirt kicked on their shoes now and then just to keep them grounded!

But let’s get back on point—you’ve got Joe, Billy, and Earl in your dugout, which is like hitting a veritable grand slam! You get to learn from the best, take advantage of their experience and expertise, and their only motivation is to help you be successful (remember, this is all purely hypothetical).

I confess, this is really a story about me. Well, it’s not about me personally, but about my design and construction team from my day job. You see, my organization builds K-12 schools in the Commonwealth of Virginia, which from a procurement perspective heavily favors the “Design/Bid/ Build” (DBB) project delivery method. In fact, outside of rare situations with very specific circumstances, DBB is required by law. In my school system, we open between one and five new schools every year, so over the last 20 years, we have become quite good at women’ softball… err, I mean, Design/ Bid/Build. And at the moment, my organization has the opportunity of a lifetime, as we are currently constructing a Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) Academy. This new academy will have an educational focus that may be the first of its kind (if not the first of its kind, at least the first in the country) at the high school level.

If there was ever a project that screamed for alternative delivery methods, this is the one. This project’s unique nature is unlike our prototypes, and it offers a groundbreaking educational delivery model. The project requires everyone on the instructional side, from the teacher and administrative staff to the school board, along with those on the operations side from the design and construction team, to think outside the proverbial box. The bottom line is that my team needed training, and as the “coach” of this team, I needed training. When it comes to working with alternative delivery methods, we are headed into the “big leagues.” We did our homework, and decided to go with Construction Management at Risk (CMR) as the most suitable method. From there, we quickly learned how very different softball is from baseball.

As the coach of this great team, I did not hesitate to call upon COAA’s Owner Training Institute® (OTI) for help. A few weeks later, Joe, Billy, and Earl arrived at my office doorstep to provide training to my entire team. I invited my architect, civil engineer, and construction attorney, as well as my internal folks responsible for design review, accounting, and construction management, so we could learn together.

The OTI program was perfectly suited for our situation. In fact, take a look at the OTI course offerings on the website, and you’ll see that all of their courses are developed specifically for Owners and their staff. These folks know exactly what we need because they are our peers. Taking that one step further, OTI’s three-person team of instructors actually called me to see exactly what I needed. They asked, “What is your focus?” and then customized the instruction and group discussions to exactly match our needs and level of expertise. The group discussions were perfect because they were initiated by my team, who provided a real-world example of the problem we needed to solve.

In your daily interaction with project team members, don’t you think it would be valuable to know what the guy or gal across the table is thinking? We certainly do. Every course offered through OTI has a three-person team of instructors consisting of an Owner, a designer, and a construction professional. You get to find out exactly what “the other side” is thinking and why. More importantly, you get detailed guidance on why it’s not a good idea to think of those team members as “the other side.” Teamwork and collaboration is as much a theme for the course as is the technical training provided. During the OTI training, my team learned the CMR processes and guidelines, while receiving knowledge of how the relationships differ from DBB. It was an absolutely fabulous example of hard- and soft-skills training in a single two-day course.

As Owners, we all need to continuously learn about and keep up with the industry’s latest developments and practices, and without a doubt, COAA’s Owner Training Institute is the way to do it. This organization has offered me much more than I have ever put into it, and I continue to encourage everyone to get involved and take advantage of all COAA has to offer.

Going back to the hypothetical baseball scenario for a moment, imagine if Tony LaRussa, Bobby Cox, Sparky Anderson, Tommy Lasorda, and Davy Johnson showed up, along with the other three aforementioned professionals to help train your team. That’s exactly the level of expertise provided by COAA’s OTI program. COAA offers the opportunity to learn from the best and brightest in our field, who are all on-hand to help you with your specific challenges. When it comes to COAA’s Owner Training Institute®, if you build it, they will come—to help!

Kevin Lewis 2015
Kevin Lewis, PE