Contributed by Marvin Kemp
I use this line frequently with my children: be a part of the solution, not a part of the problem. The lesson is to solve problems, not point fingers. Think about this: when pointing your index finger at someone else, your other three fingers are pointing back at you. The other lesson of this message, though not overt, is to communicate to solve problems. Learn from your own shortcomings and work to correct them.
I attended a meeting this week with a client who we designed a building for, but they were unable to secure funding for construction once the documents were complete. The project sat for 2-1/2 years and now about 80% of the funding is available, so we are being asked to re-program the building to eliminate about 20% of the square footage. In the room at the meeting were 20 people, some of whom were involved in the original design and some of whom were not.
There was much discussion of what should happen, but no offering up of solutions. There was a lot of "cloud talk" with little substance. I find this a lot with design and construction projects: people around the table that either do not understand the design and construction processes or understand a very limited swath of the process. How can we overcome this? Communicate, educate and collaborate.
Nearly every problem in life can be solved by clearly, openly and honestly communicating. We all have sensibilities and needs that we bring to our work and to the projects we are involved in. Guard that those aren't turned into hidden agendas. Trust and communication break down when someone feels they have been wronged or not treated fairly. Be timely in how you communicate with your teammates and always be open and honest. More often than not, that honesty will be reciprocated.
Since many clients will build one, maybe two buildings in their lifetimes, we should first and foremost educate our clients about the process, the pitfalls and the opportunities for success. There is a trust factor built in here: your clients will only be educated if they trust you and allow themselves to learn. Part of that trust is rooted in believability. Your explanation of process must sound believable and should not include phrases like "this is how it is done" or "because we have always done it that way." Trust is best built when all questions are answered and concerns are eased.
We are stronger as a group than we are as individuals, so collaborating and utilizing everyone's skills and strengths to the fullest helps ensure success of the group. Collaboration is not easy; it is unlike any other relationship: it takes time to develop and it is built on trust. Honesty, confidentiality and accountability are the paving stones that collaboration is built on. Transparency is the glue that holds the collaboration together.
I'm sure many of you try to practice these things in your dealings in our industry. Writing a blog post focused to members of our industry may be a bit like preaching to the choir: if you are out looking for help, you are probably already a part of the solution! Hopefully, this post gives you some vocabulary to use.
Let's Fix Construction is an avenue to offer creative solutions, separate myths from facts and erase misconceptions about the architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) industry.
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