Why not just say Disturbance?
Or Difficulty, Dissonance, Disorder?
Why not just fall back on the old chestnut, Turbulent?
Why introduce a new adjective when an old one will do?
Because the times we are facing as a profession and industry are just that.
Requiring unusual levels of exertion on our part.
Marked by a shifting.
Resulting in displacement or discontinuity.
A break with the past.
A rupture (dis-rupture.)
Interrupting and impeding progress.
Leading to undesired consequences.
Facing challenges that act on us.
Not consecutively, in sequence, but simultaneously.
Preventing learning from taking place.
And a restful night’s sleep.
Placing us squarely outside our comfort zones
Feeling that things are not entirely in our control.
Like having your legs knocked out from under you.
What changes and doesn’t change
What doesn’t change in these disruptive times?
One thing that does change is the environment we’re living and working in.
A shift in context
Think of the world we’re living and working in as our context.
The context in which we operate is shifting.
The challenge is how to remain productive and engaged while the world around us is changing.
Individuals, teams and organizations all over the world are faced with unprecedented levels of change in today’s social, economic and technology environments.
Here’s a quick survey through the litany of current disruptions to our familiar way of doing business.
Here’s the new context as I see it for working in BIM and Integrated Design.
3 types of disruption
- mindSET (social)
- skillSET (technology)
- reSET (economy)
How to face the current disruptive challenges
- social mindSET
- technology skillSET
- economic reSET
And how to recognize them.
Like our president, design professionals today are confronting multiple problems at once.
Confronting us from all sides.
Compounding upon itself.
1. Social disruption
Due to the fact that BIM has a completely different workflow from CAD.
And that senior management doesn’t understand this.
Caused by fellow teammates asking questions every 20 seconds.
Individual user frustration over inflexible access to elements needed for their work.
And team-wide loss of productivity while waiting for updates to complete.
Model data integration goes up.
Flexibility of workflow and performance in collaboration go down.
Working more collaboratively.
And focusing on creating new strategic collaborative relationships.
Interdisciplinary teams come together earlier in the process — at the onset of project team development.
Collaboration between architectural firms and other disciplines involved in the built environment ensue.
New types of agreements that promote cooperation.
Participation from all three major players – owners, architects, and constructors – simultaneously.
For the 1st time in history there are now 4 generations in the workplace at the same time.
Demand for accountability.
Quality problems often follow hastily put together reduced fee models worsening the problem and perception.
Architects finding their title shared with other industries.
Decisions expected to be more evidence-based.
Measured and then monetized.
When we’re compensated.
2. Economic disruption
Brought about by the economic downturn, recession.
Running cold to hot.
From frozen credit and promotions to outright firing people.
Firms facing increasingly stiff competition.
Cutting fees to the bone to get new work.
Experiencing brand erosion.
Individuals and firms.
And still losing work to firms who low-balled fees.
Firms doing what they need to do to keep from having to layoff employees.
Shortened work weeks.
Replacement of full-time technical employees with contract or outsourced workers.
Clients carefully considering the cost/benefit ratio of the services they buy.
Feeling more squeezed and threatened.
Wanting more but desiring to pay less:
The new less is more.
Clients want more for their money.
More complicated buildings delivered faster.
Unrealistic client expectations.
Training considered an overhead cost.
Employees considered an overhead cost.
Feeling vulnerable and anxious.
Working hard to maintain creative standards of design.
Striving to increase productivity of senior management.
Taking on more work, less time, less appreciation, less perks, less pay, rising expectations and fear.
More closely managed projects lead to more micromanaging, more oversight of senior management, less freedom and more scrutiny, less autonomy.
Taking on more risk to stay viable.
Or just to stay.
Going after work outside our area of expertise.
Outside your comfort zone.
In project type, in services rendered, in locations where you do business.
In the technology we use.
3. Technology disruption
Brought about by staying current with new tools.
Investment in new technology.
The sudden advent of building information design tools and digitally-driven fabrication of building components that integrate the design-to-build supply chain.
BIM, while not yet a ubiquitous tool, settles in.
Although still underleveraged.
HR thinks BIM is just the latest software.
As does senior management.
Clients start to expect BIM models as part of the deliverables.
BIM helps meet quality, speed of delivery, energy consumption, sustainability and capital cost goals.
Design and construction marketplace, historically slow in its pace of disruption and change.
BIM and Integrated Design require the use of collaborative tools.
Employees spend the day on Skype or in GoToMeeting sessions.
The firm sounds different with more frequent conference calls over speakerphone and web conferencing.
1000’s of clashes, conflicts and coordination errors are aired publicly in front of the whole team.
Like hanging your dirty laundry out to dry.
For everybody to see in the main conference room.
Employees are told this is part of the new process.
And not to equate the airing of clashes, conflicts and coordination errors with being criticized in public.
It’s best for the project.
We look for impact on morale.
Projects are better now for making course corrections in design rather than out in the field.
No longer worn-down by contractor RFIs and change orders.
While working in BIM, we learn about construction and constructability and sequencing.
And if it’s hard to build in BIM it’s hard to build in the field.
As Eric Hoffer said: “In times of change,
learners inherit the earth
while the learned find themselves
beautifully equipped to deal with
a world that no longer exists.”
Social, Economic and Technological Disruption
This is a time of economic, technical as well as social transition for practitioners.
Dealing with disruption requires
- Agility, flexibility, adaptability, resourcefulness
- Playing smarter, not only better
- Listening, being observant, asking questions
- Being attuned to the present so that we can anticipate the future
- Perhaps most importantly, the right mindset and attitude
And yet, despite all of this disruption, according to Gallup, employees are still very much engaged.
How could this be?
Employees know what is going on.
But they don’t see much of the disruption.
They’re protected from it.
This is our new role in the age of BIM.
To do all we can to protect each other from the disruptors that are all around us.
In this time of less, we accomplish this as much by what we do
as by what we don’t do.
We do this by not doing or saying anything
unwittingly or purposefully
to demotivate or disengage one another.
Primum non nocere. “Do no harm.”