Thursday, 4 January 2018

Is “Process” creating a culture of mediocrity?

In today’s business culture we integrate and utilize technology into our daily processes and procedures. The use of computers and software is ubiquitous in our daily lives, both personally and professionally, over the last 20 years computers have revolutionized our daily lives.

In the design and construction industry, we use computers and software for all aspects of our processes and have developed standards to ensure consistency, quality and develop a level of efficiency which is a requirement of today’s client expectations and project demands.

Over the past number of years, as technology has developed and became a standard in everyday business, the focus has been on teaching software and the associated applications and processes developed to take advantage of the software. Our focus has shifted to learning the tools and not what we use the tools for. Basic skills are diminishing, having a negative impact on the quality of the deliverable, which we are using technology to help us deliver.

“Is the development of processes creating a culture of mediocrity?”

Through the development of these processes are we stifling ingenuity and the opportunity for innovation, are we eliminating the need for team members to take on responsibility and ownership of their tasks and responsibilities? Processes should balance between providing quality and efficiency, our goals when developing processes are to minimize risk and liability by controlling the outcome, resulting in risk mitigation and quality through consistency.
However, is this preventing innovation and improvement? By demanding rigidity through the development of processes are we limiting the opportunities to finding new ways to complete tasks and make changes for the better?   

The design industry is notorious for this conflux, we expect a high level of creativity and innovation combined with a need for high quality (risk mitigation) that utilizes digital tools and associated processes with the intent to create efficiency. However, with the focus on learning the tool, we are finding that we're losing the simple knowledge and skills that new employees desperately need.

“We do a great job teaching the tools but we're losing sight of why we use the tools.”

Do we want to get to the point where we are providing a “caution content may be hot” type label due to over processing? When developing processes we need to be aware of the fine line between limiting the ability to think for ourselves and the benefits of efficiency and quality control. We need to balance the need for standardization and risk mitigation with the freedom to change the process when required allowing for innovation and improvement. Let’s not bog down the process of creation by stifling creativity with overly constraining processes.

Review your process on a regular basis with your team and look for ways to streamline and make improvements. Consider changing processes to “guidelines” and look for feedback from the users. Let your team know that at any point they can reach out to you to discuss in an open and constructive manner any possible changes to the process that can make improvements. You will not only gain the respect of your staff you will also have improved adoption rate of any processes you implement. Don’t be strict on the enforcement of process, use processes as a guideline and reference to complete a task, this will give your team the confidence to propose changes for the better and the flexibility to make any necessary changes confidently to ensure the success of the project and the team.

There will be areas of any process that are required to be enforced, where projects cross international borders or between offices standards need to be consistent, enforcing these requirements will be respected as long as you make it clear why they are required and all involved understand the necessity and function of the processes. Standing behind these requirements will also gain you the respect of your team.

When we receive proposals for Architectural projects we accept the project requirements and find unique ways to incorporate the client's desires and project requirements all the while looking for opportunities to improve the ascetics, functionality and efficiency of the design, resulting in the best possible outcome for the project. To be successful you need an equal balance of innovation and the structure of processes.  

Thursday, 30 November 2017

Shaping the Future of the Construction Industry

Recently I read an article in the October CanBIM newsletter by Mark Chidwick from Scius Innovations titled Shaping the Future of the Construction Industry.

I've had the opportunity to speak with Mark on a number of occasions on the state of the Architecture Engineering Construction Owners Operators industry. Mark has a unique perspective on the challenges we face in the AECOO as he comes from the Oil and Gas industry, which faced similar challenges a number of years ago.

I’ve discussed with Mark on the correlation between the Oil and Gas Industry and the AECOO industry. 

You wouldn’t think the two industries are related but the challenges faced by the oil and gas sectors are similar to the AEC sectors, the regulations, processes, and challenges in working collaboratively are similar.

Check out Marks Article here in the latest version of the CanBIM newsletter.

Mark Chidwick is a certified management consultant providing consulting services to a variety of industries in the energy sector. For over 25 years, Mark has provided services including program and project management, change management, thought leadership, technology leadership and development and market research.

Friday, 24 November 2017

Changing Perspectives: BIM as a Virtual Community

Changing Perspectives: BIM as a Virtual Community

 We are all familiar with using BIM to report on the information it stores; passive data. In the very near future, data will be used to inform designs with the help of advancements in generative design, software algorithms, and robotic construction; active data. There is no doubt that our current information management processes are going to have to change if we hope to leverage this co-creation capability.

  • Have you always viewed BIM as a means to an end? What about BIM as the beginning?
  • Is the current macro perspective on BIM serving us well? Or is it inhibiting innovation?
  • What if we consider the BIM process, from the very beginning to the very end, as a virtual community? A community in which everyone in the process is an active member and the information stored in that community is also an active member.
  • Shouldn’t we all be responsible for making the virtual community better? Don’t you want your community to outlive you?

Come join us December 7th to hear government, business, academics, and students share their perspectives on BIM. Be prepared to have your perspective changed!




brought to you by Calgary BIM Community

Saturday, 11 November 2017

Remembrance Day 2017

There are many battles in too many wars to fully pay tribute to the fallen soldiers of these conflicts.

Earlier this year I was fortunate to be able to tour some of these monuments in the North of France, in particular, my wife and I were able to visit many memorials (there are so many WW1 cemeteries that are so well respectfully kept by the small townships) specifically we visited the Canadian memorial Vimy Ridge, the ANZAC Memorial in Villers Bretonneux, the township of Passchendaele, the Beaumont-Hamel memorial dedicated to the Newfoundland Regiment,and the Thiepval Memorial to the Battle of the Somme where two of my Mum's uncles fought and survived. 

All of which are very powerful, moving tributes to those who served.

Hill 70

We were there to commemorate the unveiling of a monument dedicated to the battle of Hill 70, a pre-cursor to Vimy Ridge and critical in the establishment of Curie's reputation as a strong leader of Canadian forces.

One thing that struck me as I walked by many (too many) headstones was the age of these young men who lay beneath my feet.  18, 20, 34, 17, 21, 18..... and it goes on and on and on....


This Saturday at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month I will be attending our local Remembrance Day event.


If you are able please spend some time to remember those that have sacrificed their lives, whether they were killed in action, wounded or survived and able to come home albeit a changed person.

 Think about those veterans that are come home from our current conflicts, some with visible battle scars, all with the less visible scars of memories of war. 
 Lest we forget.
 Of the Vimy Ridge Monument, Walter Allward once said that his inspiration for the monument came to him in a dream. The two pylons represent Canada and France, the two nations beset by war and united to fight for a common goal of peace and freedom for the Allied nations. 

To some, the pylons seem like twin sentinels, silently guarding a peaceful world, or a gateway to a better world where peace prevails.


Monday, 6 November 2017

What does your future look like?

Earlier this year I had the opportunity to speak to a full class of enthusiastic, engaging Architectural, Engineering Technology students at Thompson Rivers University, it was a lot of fun and I was asked some great questions by the students.

I spoke to them on how BIM has changed the AECOO (Architecture, Engineering, Construction, Owners and Operators) industry and the impact of BIM and technology that utilizes BIM will have in the future. I spoke on a wide range of topics from the transition from the traditional drafting process to the current state of BIM and it impacts on our deliverables including BIM utilization and data management and visualization.

Here are some points I made to the class of young people who are just starting out in their career in BIM.

Diversity is the key, diversity in your experiences and diversity of acquired skills which will lead you too opportunities in the AEC industry.

Specialize, find the one thing you can excel at. If you can specialize and become the subject matter expert (SME) in one application or process, you immediately become more valuable as an employee and you just gave yourself a differentiator on your resume. Could be as simple as knowing how to use Navisworks, dRofus or understanding the workflow into Virtual Reality.

Take opportunities to advance your skills. These opportunities may not be directly related to your field of choice but if you learn more about the downstream or upstream processes you’ll be in a greater position to help facilitate the processes, whether that's in a variety of disciplines such as fabrication, construction, project management or design, well-rounded skills will make you more versatile and adaptable.

Quite often opportunities appear when no one else wants the job. I know lots of Architects that cannot adapt and have limited skills because they have limited themselves in their focus and have not taken opportunities presented to them to learn new skills or improve their knowledge outside of their narrowly focused field.

Branding, you create your opportunities by how you promote yourself, branding is key!
Your brand is your image you present to the industry, keep it professional and humble.

I really enjoyed my time at TRU and hope to visit the class again soon to follow up on their progress.

Tuesday, 24 October 2017

Training within a minimal budget

I recently was asked how to approach training for a smaller firm with a minimal budget for in-house training. 

This is a common issue with smaller firms who don’t have the budget (both time and $$) for training, yet it is critical for their success and continued viability in keeping up with the competition.

Training can be challenging for smaller firms, there is a fine balance in the need and cost of educating your staff for the benefit of the company, however, if you do not have an education strategy for your staff you are inhibiting your firm's growth potential. 

Education strategy does not necessarily need to be onerous and expensive, a balance needs to be met between the needs of the staff and the economic impact, there is a huge amount of benefits to educating your staff including:
  • Staff satisfaction which equates directly to staff retention
  • Efficiency in production
  • Utilization of assets (your expensive software)

Here are some suggestions for an economic strategy towards training.

In-house training: Look for a champion who can take up the gauntlet of improving the skillsets of the office. This individual typically is passionate about the software and wants to improve the process using the software. This champion will be the go-to person for finding the information and facilitate sharing the knowledge, he or she does not need to be an expert…yes, you read that correctly.. they only need to know the basics and where to get the information and have the skills to share the information, once the information is passed on the users will quickly become the experts which you can then draw upon to share their knowledge with any new or less experienced staff.

Make everyone a champion: Look for people who have existing knowledge or expertise, for example, an individual Revit user may have a great understanding of the use of Schedules. Have this person do a short presentation or develop a handout on the topic, you can utilize the existing wealth of knowledge at your disposal.

Keep it current and mix it up: On-demand training is crucial to address a projects immediate needs, select topics that are in need of for current projects, survey your team to see what challenges they are facing and create a session with brief handouts around their needs. When you don’t have any immediate needs go a little “off script”, have a presentation from someone outside of your typical scope such as someone from Contract Administration or Accounting to talk about their aspect of the project delivery process. The sharing of this knowledge helps us all understand why we have to do certain things (like timesheets, ugh!) and it keeps it interesting.

Online resources: There are many online resources available for eLearning from companies that specialize in application training to simply pulling together a selection of uTube videos or web links as a resource for specific topics, if someone comes to you saying they are having difficulties completing a task, for example, Revit roofs, you can direct them to a series of Blogs (ahem) and uTube videos as a resource. You need to be able to direct people to support themselves, even though you may have an “in-house” champion your staff needs to be able to find answers themselves.

Team building: Spend time once a week on team building, this could be as simple as 1 hour a week discussing project challenges. What you will find is that other people will be able to provide their experience or knowledge with the rest of the team, this helps build respect and comradery with your team.

Training and education is a combined effort and involves everyone from management to interns.

Show appreciation: We all appreciate it when we get a pat on the back, you can do this by periodically providing lunch for your staff that attends the training sessions… and use that time to share knowledge. You also get a better rate of participation when lunch is provided. Recognition of individuals for their efforts is also a reward in itself.

Prioritize your staff’s time: Many AEC offices are approached by suppliers to come in and provide lunch and have the opportunity to present their product. Evaluate what is more important, maybe limit suppliers Lunch and Learn in favor of internal training, evaluate which suppliers you want to present to your staff and set a limit to balance your staff’s time between knowledge of products and internal training.

The number one key to success in training your staff is giving them permission to learn, production staff (everyone) feels an obligation to be productive and when we learn a new process or application we get frustrated because of the additional time it takes to accomplish a task that we typically can do in less time. Management needs to give their staff permission to learn and voice the understanding that immediate efficiency will be impacted while learning is taking place, that they accept that cost in the understanding of the overall long-term benefits. Management needs to give their staff permission to learn.