SmartStart® Renews Commitment to Longtime Rail Partner

by Balfour Beatty

November 14, 2023

Whether our relationship with a client spans two months or 20 years, Balfour Beatty teams strive to continually deliver greater value, develop custom and innovative project solutions and continually align with their evolving business needs and goals. In other words, we build relationships to last.

Throughout our 14-year history with the Southern California Regional Rail Authority (Metrolink), Balfour Beatty has delivered over 250 successful contract task orders that have exemplified our commitment to operational excellence, safe work practices, cost-effective solutions and many more successes. But we understand that in the complex and fast-paced passenger rail service market, there is no room for complacency.

When Metrolink awarded our team a $60 million on-call service contract earlier this year, we recognized the opportunity to reinvigorate our relationship and refine best practices before the project even begun.

Establishing Team Culture

In July, we conducted a SmartStart® with key team members from Balfour Beatty and Metrolink. Just as the name suggests, this proprietary, lean framework helps accelerate the creation of high-performing teams united under a shared project strategy, vision and goals.

During the SmartStart®, our team explored a full spectrum of factors that will enable successful project delivery, including:

  1. Creating behavioral understanding and alignment between team members
  2. Optimizing value, including decision-making criteria and metrics
  3. Establishing an agreed upon model to maintain communication and accountability
  4. Assessing and addressing technical requirements and potential challenges

“SmartStart® got this contract started off on the right foot,” commented Aaron Azevedo, Metrolink assistant director, rehabilitation. “The program was really valuable for our staff, and we now have a better understanding of our capabilities and the procedures we can take moving forward to be successful.”

Executing the Game Plan

After discussing individual skills and behavioral assessments, Balfour Beatty and Metrolink team members developed an actionable plan to execute timely project requirements.

As a result of these discussions, the team realized the need to realign strategic project team leadership roles and establish clearer reporting lines, thereby creating more direct lines of communication and ensuring minimal outages and downtime on an active commuter rail line.

“It was nice to look back on what we’re doing well but to also brainstorm where we can improve,” noted Andrew Althorp, Metrolink assistant director, construction. “The best contracts are the ones where you are able to plan, communicate, coordinate and work together knowing you have each other’s support.”

Balfour Beatty developed SmartStart® in 2012 to proactively address the challenges of projects across our industry, including budgetary, scheduling and administrative. Since that time, our teams have conducted over 100 SmartStart® sessions nationwide across all business units that have delivered tangible value to major clients, including the U.S. Navy, the General Services Administration (GSA) and Penn Medicine.

“SmartStart® helps us get not only to the root causes of those problems, which tend to be unclear decision-making protocols, lack of alignment and even interpersonal conflicts, but also get out ahead of them,” said Sarah Brand, Balfour Beatty US Civils vice president, national business acquisition. “We bring our project team, designers, owners and key stakeholders together so that we can all be on the same page from the start.”

The Metrolink project team plans to build on their SmartStart® success as the project progresses. Construction and rail maintenance services work began in July and is expected to conclude in June 2028.