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University of Washington

How the University of Washington Transformed Their Decision-making Process With Paramount Decisions

The CBA model helped us work with the governing body to select the best value option for the project. Since price is considered at the end of the decision, we were able to look at value first and then the cost.

The University of Washington (UW) is one of the top public universities in the United States. Founded in 1861, University Washington’s campus encompasses over 500 buildings and 700 acres. In 2016, UW President Ana Mari Cauce brought together the University community and others to create a groundbreaking Population Health Initiative to advance the health of people around the world by leveraging capabilities and opportunities at the UW and beyond. The UW defines population health by three major pillars — human health, environmental resilience and social and economic equity — and that our work must address the challenges that arise where these pillars intersect.

In October 2016, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation announced a transformative gift to the University and donated $210 million towards a Population Facility. The facility will serve as a powerful catalyst for the University’s new Population Health Initiative and be an idea laboratory and collaboration incubator for students, faculty, staff, and visitors from a wide range of disciplines in the region, nation and world to address global health concerns. The total project budget for the construction project is $230 million.

Starting in March 2017, the University of Washington’s Capital Planning & Development Group began to use Paramount Decisions to help them make better project and investment decisions using the Choosing By Advantages (CBA) decision-making process. UW has been on their Lean journey for several years. The Capital Planning & Development Group has previously been trained in CBA but have only applied the methodology on a limited number of decisions prior to using Paramount Decisions. Recently, the group has realized the need for having a standardized decision-making process. The University as a whole wants to document key decisions in a A3 format so that they can reference them in the future. Additionally, they are moving towards a more integrated project delivery process and CBA fits well with their more collaborative governance structure.

We interviewed Jeannie Natta who is a project manager at UW. Jeannie has been working in construction for over 17 years and has spent the last 7 years as an owner’s representative. Jeannie spoke about two recent decisions that have gone through the Paramount Decisions software. The first decision involves choosing different classroom programs for the population health project. The second was to decide whether or not to have child care services onsite at the new Population Health Project.

In the first decision, they had several different options for the classroom program: 1) 4 classrooms and no 300 seat lecture hall, 2) 5 classrooms with a 300 seat lecture hall, 3) 2 classrooms with 80 and 150 seats respectively, and 4) 3 classrooms with 80, 50, and 50 seats. This was a complex decision that involved many different departments, user groups, and stakeholders at the University.

Using Paramount Decisions, the stakeholders were involved in the process of developing the key factors and criteria. CBA helped organize the decision so that the team can see the distinguishable differentiating factors. The weighing of the importance of advantages allows the governance team to work with the designers. The Paramount Decisions software allowed the team to go through the process in a consistent and organized manner.

Jeannie remarked: “One thing that we talked about is how to get the University departments to work together effectively. The other is for us to help the trades and contractors. I thought the software was very user-friendly. It really helps to narrow down the differentiating factors as opposed to being bogged down looking at a list of pros and cons.”

Jeannie added: “On one of our decisions, the site location and walking distance was considered important. Once we did the analysis and found that the walking distance was less than 2 minutes apart, we were able to separate the noise. The CBA model helped us work with the governing body to select the best value option for the project. Since price is considered at the end of the decision, we were able to look at value first and then the cost. We could see where the alternatives stand on the cost versus value chart and make a proper evaluation with all the data in one place.”

In addition to these two decisions, the UW team used Paramount Decisions to review a variety of decisions including: electrical service configuration, HVAC design concepts, HVAC delivery process, overall massing, LEED targets, and structural system. The design builder and the risk reward trade and consultant partners are using CBA and Paramount Decisions software for all major design options.

As a new process for the University, Jeannie also mentioned some resistance that came with introducing something new. As an owner’s representative, she collaborates with many stakeholders at the University. Some groups had their own system for decision-making; for example, using plus, minus, or neutral labels next to each factor. Since the group is new to Paramount Decisions and CBA, they needed training to effectively use the tool. For this reason, we have been working with the University and collaborating with the project team’s Lean Coach to provide multiple training sessions. Our training covers an introduction to Choosing By Advantages, fundamental CBA concepts, decision-making vocabulary, and how teams can most effectively work together using Paramount Decisions. Jeannie is optimistic about the University’s continual use and expansion of Paramount Decisions. “When complemented with the appropriate theoretical training, Paramount Decisions software will allow the Capital Planning and Development to make decisions efficiently and effectively.”

You and your team will make better decisions with Paramount Decisions