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Bridging the Expectation Gap

How to Utilize OPR Best Practices to Improve Project Outcomes

Establishing Realistic Expectations

It’s nearly impossible to fulfill the requests and demands of everyone involved, and that’s okay. Some requests are unrealistic or beyond the defined scope, while other requests may lack logic altogether. With that said, simply including all affected parties in the OPR process allows all stakeholders to share their ideas and feel heard—this is a win by itself. It also presents the appropriate leader with an opportunity to either respond to concerns or suggestions in the moment, or follow up with the employee at a later time.

Driving Engagement

Following through and communicating with participants drives engagement in a meaningful way. Even when a strategic capital project takes years to complete, those participants will feel a sense of pride and ownership in the finished product if the appropriate leader communicates in an effective and transparent way.

Executive Team Responsibilities

It is imperative that senior-level leaders involved in the process take the opportunity to explain that not all requests will be incorporated into the design and construction, however it’s important to explain why. At some point during the OPR process, it must be determined whether the project concept and goals can be achieved within the established constraints: budget, timeline/schedule, can operational requirements be met? Transparency during this process is vital.

Designer’s Point of View

Frequently, project designers have their own vision for what the completed project should look like – some wish to leave their personal touch, leading customers down a path that may not be practical or preferred. Many hope their design will be recognized or win awards. It’s important for the client/owner to be explicitly clear about their expectations. Remember, the architect works for the owner.

Real-Life Case Study

During project planning for a nearly $200M project a few years ago, a hospital facilities director expressed the desire to minimize the number of different light fixtures included in the design. When building new or renovated facilities, many hospital facilities teams limit the different types of light fixtures in their facility to a manageable number. 

This particular team requested that the design team minimize the different types of light fixtures included in the design. It was a practical request based upon decades of experience. Stocking light fixtures and their corresponding lamps for maintenance purposes requires a lot of space and significantly drives up storage and operating costs, while standardization significantly reduces operating costs.

During review of the initial design, the client team noticed the plans included between 25-30 different light fixtures; a direct contradiction to their request which was explicitly stated in the OPR document. While the architect was not happy about the denial of this design component, it was an easy conversation to have, as it required a simple reminder about who worked for whom, and the expectations stated explicitly in the OPR document. In this case, both teams ended up compromising by agreeing to cut the different types of fixtures in half allowing plenty of design appeal while also improving standardization and overall operating costs.

Satisfying All Parties

The OPR process establishes the foundation for a ‘win-win’ situation for all involved parties. The customers, affected staff, organizational leaders, and the design team are all given the opportunity to share their opinions and ask questions, however upon final document completion, everyone should have a clear understanding of expectations. Once the OPR document is completed, it should not be changed due to the personal preferences or opinions of any one individual or group.

More from the OPR Series

About the Author: Wes Pooler

Wes Pooler is Pintail Solutions’ Vice President of Facilities Services and offers more than 20 years of experience serving in leadership roles for both for-profit and not-for-profit organizations alike. With nearly 15 years as a healthcare executive, Wes has overseen projects in excess of $150 million, and served as the Operations Section Chief of a hospital incident command system through the first two years of the COVID-19 pandemic.


Wes Pooler | VP of Facilities Services | | tel: 207.660.5352

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Pintail Solutions is a niche management advisory firm focused on enabling overall project and portfolio delivery, developing and deploying new business strategies, and delivering construction projects across life science organizations.

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