Category Archives: process

Too Complex and Fast? Slow Down, But Don’t Oversimplify

oversimplifyTo lead our collaborative future, architects need to decentralize or risk being further marginalized.

Architects know that they need to collaborate to succeed. But how will they go about doing it? How, in other words, will they make collaboration happen? As importantly, how will architects make the changes necessary to become not only more collaborative, but leaders of this effort, amidst disruptive change?

AEC leaders already do a great deal to encourage collaboration amongst their teams, providing vision, collaboration-conducive work environments, collaboration technology, and by removing obstacles – including themselves –when necessary, gladly getting out of everyone’s way. They encourage diversity, discussion – even disagreements – as a basis for moving the project forward. By telling their collaboration stories, leaders paint a picture of what collaboration looks like when it is done well. Most importantly, AEC leaders make sure every team member is making the same project. But AEC leaders cannot assure this happens in every meeting on every project. Who, then, on the team will lead the day-to-day collaboration challenge?

Barriers to Collaboration

We know collaboration is hard and takes time — to build relationships, to clear-up misunderstandings, to listen and to get things done. Past experience can hold teams back, and one of the barriers to collaboration remains organizational silos.

Brand erosion is also an impediment to collaboration. For a designer whose singular voice is her expression through her work, collaboration is equated with joint authorship, to some the antithesis of creative expression, muddying the message of the work, dispersing and diluting the voice and design intent of the creator. This thinking is of course mistaken, as leaders need to make clear. One only needs to compare a Beatles tune with any of the band member’s solo efforts to recognize that teams make better decisions – and importantly, results – than individuals. The real fear in collaborating is that we – and our work – will be mediocre, a race toward the lowest common denominator, and with it, irrelevance: we will be seen as just one more designer among designers.

The truth, of course, is by not collaborating architects become marginalized. Not knowing how to effectively collaborate will lead to their irrelevance.

Complexity and Speed

Of the trends impacting our new world of work – including digital tools, collaborative work processes with attendant blurring of roles and responsibilities, working remotely and together earlier – two trends have made all the others a necessity: complexity and speed. Our technology has an impact on the anticipated speed of decision-making. When still hand-drafting, while facing a construction-related question or dilemma, architects would say: We’ll work it out in the field. This was the architect’s go-to VIF: where the contractor on the architect’s behalf would be expected to Verify In Field. Later, working in CAD, architects would say: We’ll work it out in shop drawings. With little bim: We’ll work it out in CDs. And today, with social BIM, We need to work it out NOW!

In the face of increased project speed, we will be tempted to slow down. And we are well advised to do so. Studies show to make decisions that stick, we’re better off delaying choices for as long as practically possible. According to Frank Partnoy in Wait: The Art and Science of Delay, the best professionals understand how long they have available to make a decision, and then, given that time frame, they wait as long as they possibly can: “we are hard-wired to react quickly. Yet we are often better off resisting both biology and technology.” Since our current technology and integrated work process does not accommodate our waiting – in fact, it discourages it – leaders need to make it safe for their teams to make assured, unrushed decisions.

Likewise, despite construction being wickedly complicated, we should not be tempted to oversimplify. We need to take the complex and make it seem simple – without oversimplifying – resisting the temptation to treat a complex task as simpler than it is, potentially leading to oversights and mistakes.

Decentralize or be Marginalized

Architects continue to see themselves as central to decision-making, whether at the top of the project pyramid or a prominent point of the team triangle. Contracts notwithstanding, architects are not the point. For collaboration to work, architects need to get off the pyramid and go wherever and whenever they are needed.

Decentralization implies the transfer of authority from central to local offshoots who represent the firm and serve as its public face, whether as project manager, project architect or project designer – sometimes any two, or all three. These offshoots – like starfish arms – contain the complete DNA and trust of the organization.

Although collaboration requires the architect to decentralize, it has to start at the top, where firm leaders entrust employees to lead teams. What will it take for architects to decentralize? Successful collaboration requires facilitative leadership. For the architect to take on this role, they must play the part of process facilitators over content creators, becoming in essence co-creators. When each teammate contributes as a co-creator, no single person has to carry the load, including the leader. Decentralization allows architects to join the project – and be immediately effective – midstream. Ideally, the architect is called in before the owner even considers undertaking a building project, but the reality is – due in no small part to their own making – the architect is often called upon when the project is already well underway.

Given the collaborative nature of today’s project teams, consideration needs to be given to the firm representative’s leadership and communication style. As proxy stand-ins for the firm, each team leader needs to be able to communicate effectively at all times, with all in the room. Architects’ often-unconscious communication habits will be increasingly scrutinized and decreasingly tolerated in these tight-knit groups. Architects, working more closely with others from every facet of practice, will need to become more familiar with their communication style, paying particular attention to the ability to adjust one’s style to those of others from other work cultures and walks of life.

FOCI: Multiple-centered – not centerless – leadership

Architects – seeing that others have helped narrow their options significantly – narrow them further by opting to see themselves as single purpose entities. One example of this is described in Victoria Beach’s salvo in the newly published 15th edition of the Architect’s Handbook of Professional Practice where she asks architects to see themselves more as design-focused celebrity chefs and less as engineers assuring the health, safety and welfare of the public. For architects, it’s a both/and, not either/or, proposition.

In fact, architects in the coming years will be needed less as content providers of design intent than as facilitators, orchestrators, collaborators and integrators (or FOCI) of this information and process. Architects will have an opportunity to lead this process if they can learn to become better listeners, aggregators and refiners of the information that arises during the various stages of design and construction.

With the blurring of roles brought about by working collaboratively on integrated teams, the architect’s job is to keep decisions – often multiple decisions – in play. Collaboration and digital practice require a formwork on which to base multi-faceted decisions on increasingly complex projects. One such formwork is that of the rubric FOCI: in lieu of a singular central focus of the center, think of the multiple centers of the ellipse. A redefinition of decision-making that takes digital technology and collaboration into consideration creates such a formwork that will help the architect to communicate effectively with multi-disciplinary teams. To move from a circular to an elliptical model, the architect needs to decentralize.

To decentralize, architects also need to move away from the spotlight where they are the central focus. Many architects are introverts and would gladly succumb the spotlight to others. Architects don’t need to be the loudest one in the room to lead, just the one who listens best. To accomplish this, architects need to focus less, and FOCI more, by serving as project facilitators, orchestrators, collaborators and integrators. By decentralizing, the architect is no longer decision-maker so much as facilitator of project information and decision-making process. As facilitative leaders, architects can become experts in knowing how to find information as opposed to what the information is. When collaborating, it is not about how much any one person happens to know: projects today are too complex for any one person to know everything. Knowing from whom – and where – on the team to find information is more important than one’s ability to store and retrieve it. Architects will also serve as strategic orchestrators of large teams from the earliest stages, often made up with primary, secondary and even tertiary players. The C in FOCI is in flux: the C can represent collaborators or creators or controllers or coordinators. Architects, of course, are component and system integrators.

This post is an excerpt from Randy Deutsch’s article How We Can Make Collaboration Work: How architects can decentralize rather than be marginalized in the Jan-Feb 2014 Trends issue of DesignIntelligence journal.

Read and visit DesignIntelligence.

Advertisements

2 Comments

Filed under collaboration, construction industry, design professionals, people, process

6 Qualities That Make Architects Ideally Suited to Lead Collaborative Integrated Teams

leadersIn order to effectively lead collaborative teams, architects would do well to downplay possessing specialized knowledge. Knowledge acquired in school and practice should be thought of as the price of admission, not their “Advance to GO” card, as so many on the team in this connected age have access to and share this same knowledge. Along with specialized knowledge, as a professional duty of practice, architects will also need to reevaluate the role of professional judgment, design intent, responsible control, direct supervision, and serving as the hander-down of rulings in the shape-shifting required from working simultaneously on collaborative teams.

Recognizing that nothing incites a non-architect’s derision, ridicule and ire swifter than to start a sentence “The architect is uniquely qualified to…” here are six qualities that make architects ideally suited to lead collaborative, integrated teams:

1. Architects can lead collaborative teams by tapping into their ability to maintain two or more opposing thoughts until an amenable solution arises. Roger Martin’s The Opposable Mind, on the problem-solving power of integrative thinking, describes the human brain’s ability “to hold two conflicting ideas in constructive tension.” Like F. Scott Fitzgerald’s test of a first-rate intelligence as “the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function,” architects need to become even more comfortable working with and maintaining two or more opposing thoughts earlier in their careers. Architects famously can simultaneously maintain two lines of thought – e.g. their own and their client’s; their client’s and that of the public-at-large; the paying client and the non-paying client; the 99% and the 1%; the circumstantial and the ideal; science and art; reason and intuition; evidence and the ineffable; HSW and aesthetics; practical and dreamer. In an interview with the author, Phil Bernstein described the difference between young designers and older designers as the ability to manage an increasingly larger set of variables: “When I was working for Cesar Pelli, that was one of the amazing things about him – he could keep so many things in his head and he could balance them and weigh one against the other, and he could edit out what he called the systematic generation of useless alternatives. He would prevent us from going down that avenue.”

2. Architects are problem identifiers. Not only problem solvers, architects recognize that identifying the right problem to solve is often 80% of the solution. Frequently, the problem assigned is not the one that truly requires addressing. Architects work to make sure that everyone is focused on the most pressing, pertinent problem.

3. Architects see the big picture. Solution-oriented engineers sometimes have a difficult time seeing the forest from the trees. Malcolm Gladwell in Blink called this ability to see information in its wider context coup d’oeilcourt sense or “giss,” the power of the glance, the ability to immediately make sense of situations. Architects, by the end of their formal training, have begun to develop this ability, by thinking laterally and simultaneously – not linearly. Neither exclusively right- nor left- – architects are whole-brain thinkers. In the midst of prolonged analysis, architects can help to keep things whole.

4. Architects draw by hand, mouse and wand. Creatively ambidextrous, flexible and agile, architects are not stuck on any one means of communication or delivery. Architects make the best use of available technology to get the point across. Because architects envision what is not there, they help bring nascent ideas to life. Today, we cannot talk of leadership without the technology. We lead from the technology and the tools we use. In this way, architects lead collaboration from the middle by leading from the model.

5. Architects can lead collaborative teams by thinking like other team members, anticipating their concerns and questions before they arise. Architects see through other’s eyes, empathize and understand what is important to others. They have both deep skills and wide wingspan breadth. Architects are the only entity who serve not only the paying but non-paying client (society-at-large.) In trying to predict the consequences for any course of action, the architect needs to anticipate the responses of each of the integrated team members. To do this, an architect must know enough about each discipline to negotiate and synthesize competing demands.

6. Architects don’t lead collaborative teams because of their specialized skills, technology know-how, or privileged knowledge, but rather because of their comfort with ambiguity and uncertainty. Architects are best suited to lead collaborative teams by being able to extrapolate from incomplete information, and won’t let the lack of complete information stop them from moving forward.

The architect leading collaborative teams has implications for education in that independently trained professionals are inclined to remain independent in practice. According to NCARB’s contribution to the NAAB 2013 Accreditation Review Conference (ARC), over 80% of architects rated “collaboration with stakeholders” as important/critical, yet only 31.5% of interns and recently licensed architects indicated they had performed collaboratively prior to completion of their education program. This would need to change.

Let the Team be the Architect

The single most important issue confronting AEC leadership is, as Michael Schrage asked, how to pose problems and opportunities in forms that will elicit and inspire a collaborative response. Consultant Ed Friedrichs describes this as the ability “to inspire an entire team of participants to collaborate, to contribute the best they have to offer, in order to bring value to a client.”

Concerning collaborative teams, leaders need to ask of themselves – as well as prospective hires – are you the glue or the solvent? If architects are to be respected as leaders, their challenge is to communicate with their collaborators as equal partners in design.

In his book Architecture by Team, CRS’s William Caudill wrote: “The so called ‘great man’ approach must give way to the great team approach. From now on the great architects will be on great interdisciplinary teams.”

That was written in 1971. Buried on page 288 is the title of Chapter 109:

“Let the team – designers, manufacturers and builders – be the architect.”

So let the team be the architect, and the architect be the facilitative leader. And act soon, for we may not have another 40 years to see this out.

This post is an excerpt from Randy Deutsch’s article How We Can Make Collaboration Work: How architects can decentralize rather than be marginalized in the Jan-Feb 2014 Trends issue of DesignIntelligence journal.

Read and visit DesignIntelligence.

6 Comments

Filed under collaboration, construction industry, design professionals, education, Integrated Design, Integrated Project Delivery, IPD, people, process

BIM in ACADemia

“The industry needs new specialists and if the academia doesn’t provide them, then the industry will have to resort to setting up private academies”. 
 – Practice 2006: Toolkit 2020 written by two Arup employees

BIM in Academia is a new collection of essays edited by the venerable team of Peggy Deamer and Phillip G. Bernstein.

The book is printed on demand by the Yale School of Architecture Press and therefore a bit hard to find.

So until it becomes more readily available, I’ll do my best to point out some of the more progressive and salient features of this important and much-needed document.

Generally, the 117 page book addresses whether

1. BIM ought to be taught in school, and if so,

2. How

The second in a series of these editor/educators’ books, after 2010’s excellent Building (in) the Future: recasting labor in architecture from Princeton Architectural Press – that I featured here a while back – the new book expresses several viewpoints without taking a strong stand.

The editors allow the faculty essayists to speak for themselves.

BIM in Academia, brought about by the Yale SOA Symposium in 2011, highlights some of the work taking place in US universities at this early moment in BIM’s evolution and argues, at best, that BIM must change the way architects work and are trained.

There’s a lot of great writing here. Of architects in the age of CAD, for example, the book says: “Their output was paper-based projections of the design rather than a simulation of the design wrought whole.”

Peggy Deamer’s opening essay “BIM in Academia” paints a picture of an already over-crowded curriculum which, now, we suddenly want to insert into yet another subject: BIM.

She asks:

  • Is learning BIM a software issue? (and therefore a non-credit workshop)
  • Should it be placed in the structures/technology course?
  • Is it part of professional practice?
  • Or is it a new way to practice design – and therefore be integrated into studio?
  • If this last is the case, should it be offered in the early, core studios – or be offered in an advanced or even post-degree studio?

Deamer emphatically fires the first shot by stating that BIM threatens all of the established hierarchies in academia and that no matter the designation – software, process or some combination – academia’s curriculum structure is unreceptive to BIM.

Next, Phil Bernstein’s serving-as-introductory essay, acknowledges the great divide between practice and education and offers a strategy – a model, really, based on the 40-year-old work of MIT’s Nicholas Negroponte – to re-examine the college curriculum under BIM.

Hereafter, the book is split into two parts: challenges and case studies.

There’s no effort to come to a comprehensive conclusion or to provide clear direction for the road ahead: the work is presented more or less as it was in the symposium.

We are left to come to our own conclusions. But let it be said that there is a lot of useful, helpful information offered here that – by the end of the book – ought to allow the reader to come to their own stance on the subject.

From the moment in the first paragraph that Renée Cheng’s essay, “Facing the Fact of BIM,” calls BIM a “maddeningly slow-to-learn design process,” any thoughts she’s going to gloss over the considerable difficulties of integrating BIM securely into the curriculum suddenly vanish.

Cheng has questioned the role of BIM in architectural education perhaps longer than any other educator or practitioner, so her perspective on past, present and future architecture curriculum is an important and valuable one.

After providing some much-needed background and context, Cheng admits that BIM is “excellent as a building production and project delivery tool” but disappointingly “a poor match with the needs of design students…”

Despite these handicaps, she writes, BIM emphatically has a place in the architectural curricula.

Where, exactly?

Her answer – in 2 hour professional practice courses – unfortunately leaves as many questions as it answers.

While the essays are generally of high quality, there are a couple clunkers – which is unfortunate, given how short a document this is.

“Characterizing the Problem: Bioenergetic Information Modeling” is largely unreadable – the three authors (chefs?) apparently didn’t get the memo that academic jargon belongs in subscription-only journals.

IIT’s “Master of Integrated Building Delivery” reads less like a case study than an advertisement for the program. Seeped in history and process, the text falls flat and fails to mention that the essay’s authors – John Durbrow and Donna Robertson – have either mysteriously left the program or are leaving this year (an oversight that is inexcusable given the book is printed on demand, in real time, and could have been pointed out or at least alluded to.) Full disclosure: I have guest taught, lectured and juried in the program.

Other essays – Andre Chaszar’s Beyond BIM come to mind – are considerably more helpful, after building their case provide specific recommendations for how to proceed.

As for the case studies – “Educating the Master Building Team” is a stand-out in the bunch – viewing BIM as a foundational technology to share information, and is a classic example of how thoughtful, engaging writing can and will help move the profession and industry forward. Excellent effort.

Auburn University’s Master of Design-Build (MDB) program’s case study – “Enabling Integration: the Role of BIM” – by Joshua Emig and Paul Holley extracts extremely useful observations and discussion points from their considerable studio experiment experience.

Points of view

When I asked Phil Bernstein, in my book, BIM and Integrated Design, whether there was room for BIM in school, he said

“There’s a distinction, in my view, between training and teaching. At Yale, for example, you don’t get credit for learning a piece of software, any more than we would give you credit for using a band saw or a water jet cutter. Those are just skills that you pick up as part of the curriculum.” (pp.219-220)

Practitioners elsewhere have voiced their opinions on the subject.

Here is a sampling:

I do not believe that there should be special courses in BIM…BIM should be well integrated into the curriculum as simply what’s part of the professional workflow

At the community college where I teach part time…all the architectural drafting classes are being phased out and are being replaced by “BIM authoring for architects” classes

For industry to benefit from these studies, they must be conducted under Faculty (multidisciplinary) not School (single discipline) settings

More universities should just stop delaying the inevitable and start preparing ALL their AECO students for model-based collaboration and integrated workflows.

BIM programs abound

In Switzerland, at Berne University of Applied Sciences and Lucerne University of Applied Sciences, there are courses that focus on BIM including hands-on interdisciplinary BIM projects

Here is a comprehensive BIM class covering all aspects of BIM/VDC, from authoring to project management on a graduate level at USC School of Civil Engineering in conjunction with Virginia Tech: http://viterbi.usc.edu/news/news/2010/innovation-comes-to.htm.

Penn State has some BIM classes in their masters program.

Washington University in St Louis has also a few BIM courses in their architectural curriculum.

SOBE in UK has a post -grad course http://www.sobe.salford.ac.uk/courses/postgraduate-programmes/bim-and-integrated-design

And one of the best-known programs in CA is at Chico State http://cm.csuchico.edu/degree.html.

Additional reading and viewing

Until the book is more readily available, you might consider reading the following resources:

BIM in Academia: Collaborate, Adapt, Innovate by Alexandra Pollock, SOM New York. Download the White Paper (1.2 MB PDF) presented at Ecobuild America in 2010.

Integrating BIM with Academia: Pennsylvania State University from the 2010 BIM Award Program

Watch Yale University professor, Peggy Deamer, present on BIM‘s pedagogical placement in academia as she presented at the Autodesk Yale BIM Symposium.

The Role of Building Information Modeling (BIM) in Education and Practice abstract was presented by Laura Floyd and Douglas R Seidler at The Interior Design Educators Council 2010 Annual Conference – Atlanta, GA

Advancing BIM in Academia: Explorations in Curricular Integration http://www.igi-global.com/viewtitlesample.aspx?id=62944

And, as mentioned, I also have a chapter on BIM and education in my book, BIM and Integrated Design.

Leave a comment

Filed under BIM conference, BIM instructor, education, process

An Integrated Design Strategy for Every Man, Woman and Child

“The concept of integrated design is key to a sustainable future and ultimately quality of life,” 
Laura Lee

Just as Finith Jernigan’s Makers of the Environment envisioned the average American benefitting from building information modeling (BIM),

Professor Laura Lee’s vision for South Australia reads like an integrated design strategy for every man, woman and child throughout the world.

While her publication was prepared as a series of recommendations to the South Australia government, upon reading it, it soon becomes clear that she had more universal applications in mind.

With her report, “An Integrated Design Strategy for South Australia – Building the Future,” Lee envisions a framework for uniting sustainability, behavior, materials and the external environment into a whole that satisfies the needs of people, environment and place.

I’ve read the report from beginning to end a couple times now and am happy to share my, however haphazard, impressions.

The excellent introduction acknowledges the potential – and urgency – of the state of the world today: the perfect set-up for what’s to come.

It answers why anyone would want to read this report – and, as importantly, why now.

Instead of just writing about design, the booklet (as a product) itself is a perfect argument for the value of good design.

Little touches – such as the global quotes in blue and local quotes in orange – and larger ones: that it is so well written, edited, illustrated and like all great works of art, all-of-a-piece.

Like the integrated design process itself, the report contains myriad voices (a strategy and conclusion I also came to for my own book on Integrated Design.)

From now on, all Integrated Design books really ought to be crowdsourced.

In fact, Lee had 15 partners (represented by 24 people) in the residency, only 4 of whom were designers, which if it was a challenge, doesn’t show.

The report leaves you with the impression that it was created by a singular sensibility in that it has one, compelling voice throughout.

Stevie Summer’s diagrams are intelligent and truly mesmerizing: the perfect accompaniment for the text.

The natural imagery of many of these diagrams – conch shells, DNA – are intertwined & interrelated with the book’s theme and text. Stunning.

Professor Lee invested so much time in the diagrams because she is interested in raising visual literacy.

Interestingly, it soon becomes apparent that the process in conceiving the report served as a model for those she worked with along the way for the integrated design process itself. What an effective way for those she worked with to ‘get’ integrated design.

One of the most appealing attributes of the report is that the overall tone and word choice is strangely non-academic. This is a report anyone could love.

Lee, for example, quotes Dan Pink where she could have quoted Roger Martin. In fact, the report verges on being populist were it not for the fact that the whole thing is so smart.

Because this does not read like research, one can see how it will be implemented (and not – like so many reports – sit on the shelf.)

By the time the reader gets to the end, they’ll recognize that the very tenets of integrated design went into the making of this brilliant and beautiful document.

The tone throughout is optimistic, forward-looking: exactly what it needs to be. No need to threaten readers with impending apocalypse (it doesn’t.)

Most reports and books fizzle out near the end – having spent all their ammo in the first half (if not the first chapter.) Here, some of the best, freshest information and diagrams occur in the recommendations section of the report, near the end, what Professor Lee calls “the heart and the future of the work.”

Many, many more people need to read this report.

Professor Lee is in the process of making an Integrated Design Strategy guidebook with roadmaps for each recommendation along with best practices, weblinks, and case studies and a website with PDF downloads that hopefully will be available soon.

Read the final report of Professor Laura Lee, Adelaide Thinker in Residence in 2009.

Read about Martin Seligman and other thinkers in residence http://www.thinkers.sa.gov.au/ including Prof. Laura Lee http://www.thinkers.sa.gov.au/thinkers/lee/

Read more about Laura Lee, FAIA http://www.thinkers.sa.gov.au/thinkers/lee/who.aspx

Check out these videos featuring Laura Lee, and also this and this video

And look into the integrated design work of other thinkers and makers, including Renée Cheng, Daniel Friedman, Frances Bronet, Ann Dyson, Billie Faircloth, Kiel Moe and many more.

Leave a comment

Filed under craft, craftsmanship, education, Integrated Design, people, process, writing

MoneyBIMball

With Moneyball in theaters, the playoff season in full swing, and the 2003 book by Michael Lewis climbing in standings, data geeks are all the rage.

This fact cannot be lost on architects and others in the construction industry.

In the movie and book, the 2002 Oakland Athletics overlook the former criteria for player selection (brawn, looks and stature) in favor of data and information.

Doing so was unorthodox to say the least. The equivalent of design professionals proceeding with a design based on data over visuals.

But in doing so, the Athletics managed an all-time record winning streak and made the playoffs with the major’s smallest budget.

Which leads us to ask of ourselves two questions:

  • Is it time we honor our inner geek?
  • Is it time we get creative with our data?

Information and Process Builders

In his brilliant undated letter to the profession entitled “BIM ball,” Kimon Onuma’s focus was not on the 3D nature of BIM, but almost entirely on the “I” of BIM:

“Information and data integrated with 3D” models.

Due to the threatening ‘evolve or dissolve’ resolve of the subtitle, this fact was lost on the average reader.

A few cogent lines from the letter tell the story:

  • We charge our clients 6% plus of construction costs to assemble information into documents
  • Most of the knowledge and information that is assembled for a project goes into the lines of a CAD file that essentially has only one use
  • The value in architectural services rests in the knowledge and experience to assemble information and execute projects
  • The only possible solution is to solve this using the technologies available in Building Information Modeling, standards and interoperability.
  • Architects are positioned at the center of the design and construction process not as the “master builder” integrating and organizing all the disparate pieces of the building but now as the information and process builders and coordinators in this process

From this we can deduce that information is at the heart of our evolution as a profession and industry.

Which leads us to ask:

What will we do with the information available to us?

To continue the base hits of visualization and clash detection or home runs of analysis?

Reevaluating Strategies that Produce Wins on the Field

Just as Moneyball 

  • focused on the general manager – our story ought to focus on the BIM manager
  • focused on the team’s modernized, analytical approach to assembling a competitive team – our focus ought to be on the BIM analytics
  • has done wonders for unorthodox analytics – our use of BIM ought to do the same for analysis
  • team used statistics that are relics of a 19th century view of the game – our industry continues to use methodologies for estimating cost and anticipating schedules and predicting accuracy that are relics of centuries past.
  • central premise is that the collected wisdom of baseball insiders (players, managers, coaches, scouts, front office) over the past century is subjective and often flawed – our focus ought to be on the fact that our own collective wisdom has not led to increased value or productivity nor reduced waste
  • isn’t really about baseball or statistics, but about challenging conventional wisdom with data – our understanding ought to be that BIM isn’t about technology, but rather challenging design and construction professionals to use information available to them to increase productivity and reduce waste.

Like the general manager in the movie, it’s time we give the data a long hard look.

Like the 2002 Oakland A’s, we as a profession and industry ought to be re-evaluating the strategies that produce wins on the field.

Anything but a Field of Dreams

There’s a fear that BIM does away with design in favor of data.

This of course couldn’t be further from the truth.

As long as architecture remains an art, it will always maintain the element of the will.

Architectural design is an essay in willfulness.

Design work that is described and then either justified (with information) or rationalized (with pedagogue and agendas.)

Or post-rationalize out in the field.

This last option – our industry’s history up until now – has been anything but a field of dreams.

In 1896, Louis Sullivan asserted:

Form Follows Function

In 2011 (and beyond) in order to reach home:

Firms Follow Information

6 Comments

Filed under analysis, BIM, BIM manager, BIM organizations, modeling, people, process

Finding Your Way Around BIM

Michael Korda, in his brilliant and entertaining memoir, Another Life, tells the story of his first day of work at a publishing house.

Upon arriving at work he notices a bronze plaque on his desk bearing these words:

“Give the reader a break.”

It was the publisher’s view that their job was to make things as easy and clear for the reader as possible.

And they wanted him to know that.

It is in this spirit that I provided what I hope will be helpful guideposts throughout the text of my book.

I did this to help the reader find their way around what can be treacherous territory in a book that concerns itself largely with technology.

I wish more technology – and architecture – books would give the reader a break.

In organizing my book, BIM and Integrated Design (John Wiley & Sons, 2011,) I divided the information into roughly three parts: a triptych of sorts.

I find that organizing a book into parts helps with wayfinding – providing the reader with a much-needed big-picture view of the content they’re about to delve into.

So here’s a bit more detail – part by part – about what you’ll find in the book.

Part I: BIM AS THOUGH PEOPLE MATTERED

In Part I of BIM and Integrated Design, you will uncover mistaken beliefs surrounding BIM and the social co-benefits of BIM.

Here you will explore the most commonly encountered obstacles to successful collaboration, as well as the challenges this technology and process create for individuals and organizations in their labor toward a comprehensive, successful BIM adoption and implementation.

You will discover the social impacts and implications of working in BIM on individuals and firms, and how to overcome real and perceived barriers to its use.

Read these chapters to discover proven strategies for managing the disruptive change brought about by BIM, how to assess your team’s progress, and how to own not only the software but also the process.

You will learn about the recent proliferation of BIM-related professional titles and roles, the current state of transition of the industry from CAD to BIM, and what the real distinctions are between BIM- and CAD-, and IT-related roles, including distinctions between BIM managers, CAD managers and IT managers.

In this part,

  • you will read about a design firm that struggled with adopting BIM, only to find itself growing through the recent downturn due in large part to its attitudes and approach to BIM; and
  • how firms have successfully implemented BIM, from the varying perspectives of a consultant with extensive experience working in BIM with designers, a clinical and organizational psychologist who works with design and construction professionals who are contending with constant change, and a firm owner who has strategically and successfully worked with BIM since the application’s inception.

Part II: LEADING INTEGRATED DESIGN

In Part II of BIM and Integrated Design, the focus is on working alone and with others in BIM; obstacles to successful BIM collaboration and how to overcome them; and why collaboration is the way forward for our profession and industry.

Read these chapters to familiarize yourself with challenges to BIM collaboration including interoperability, workflow, firm culture, education, technological challenges, working in teams, communication, trust, BIM etiquette, one model versus multiple models, cost, and issues concerning responsibility, insurance, and liability.

Learn about the one critical skill set design professionals need to master if they are to survive the current professional, economic, social, and technological challenges, as well as strategies for making collaboration work.

Read these chapters to better understand why owners and design and construction professionals have been slow to adopt integrated design and how we can rectify this situation.

A brief but incisive overview of integrated design is offered to help you promote the process to owners and your team, and learn how BIM and integrated design together help design professionals achieve their ultimate goals: well-designed, high-performing buildings that deliver value to owners while benefitting all involved, including future generations.

In this part,

  • learn how a major architecture firm’s chief information officer is contending with near-constant change brought about by BIM;
  • learn from a major constructor regarding their experiences working on more than one hundred integrated BIM projects; and
  • hear from the author of the industry’s first integrated project delivery (IPD) case studies on where IPD is headed.

Part III: LEADING and LEARNING

In this last part of BIM and Integrated Design, you’ll learn how BIM changes not only the technology, process, and delivery but also the leadership playing field; how to shift into the mindset essential to lead the BIM and integrated design process in turbulent times; and how to become a more effective leader no matter where you find yourself in the organization or on the project team.

You’ll discover how the introduction of BIM into the workforce has significant education, recruitment, and training implications, and review the most effective ways to learn BIM.

A brief overview of three approaches to the topic of BIM and the master builder is offered, including arguments in favor of and against the return of the architect in the master builder role, and an argument for the composite master builder or master builder team.

In these chapters, you’ll

  • meet an architect and BIM manager who successfully made the transition from pencil to CAD to BIM of the greatest complexity; glean several significant insights from a regional director in the Office of Project Delivery at the General Services Administration (GSA); and
  • hear from two educators—one a designer and an ethnographer of design and technology who brings a background in architecture, computing, and anthropology to the study of human-machine-environment interaction; and the other an educator and industry technology strategist with firsthand experience working in integrated design on a significant IPD project, who shares his perceptions of what is on the horizon for professionals, organizations, and the AEC industry as it concerns BIM and integrated design.

Hopefully you now have a better sense of what the book is about and how it is organized.

If you have any questions about the book, please let me know by leaving a comment and I’ll try to answer them. Thanks!

1 Comment

Filed under BIM, collaboration, Integrated Design, process, writing

For AEC Industry, Is Trust the Killer Mobile App?

An online discussion asks: What is the mobile killer app for the AEC industry?

Mobile Apps for the field and jobsite appear to be where the industry is headed.

It’s only a question of which ones and when.

In the discussion, various technologies are proposed:

.

  • a Navisworks-like app with an ability to mark up the model
  • ruggedized iPads and Xooms
  • Artra, a FIELD-BIM & 3D CAD Facilities Management solution for AEC & BIM
  • virtual desktops to run 500MB models in the cloud

While others are rejected:

  • I don’t see people walking around on the site wearing goggles
  • There is nothing you can do to ruggedize iPad

The consensus is one of people walking around, viewing the model, taking pictures on site, adding notes and comments, setting attributes and syncing that with the model on the server in the trailer.

Or is the consensus doing what we’ve always done: scribble down notes and sketch?

There’s the commenter who has been working in the future for some time now and doesn’t see anything new.

Implying that the rest of us ostensibly have been living in the past with our heads under a rock.

Inevitably, one commenter accuses another of promoting an app they represent.

And it’s monkeys at a tea party.

There’s technology,

There’s just no trust

We’re all worried about how we’re going to build buildings when we ought to be focused on building trust.

In discussions about IPD we’re all for sharing risk and reward.

But when it comes to putting yourself on the line to support someone else

(the very definition of sharing risk and reward)

Where is everybody?

With BIM, you team with those with experience.

With IPD, you team with those you know and trust.

Right?

You don’t need IPD experience to do IPD,

You need trust

Yes, you need an owner who asks for IPD.

But you can’t deliver what they ask for, when they ask for it, without first building trust.

Trust is the real integrated project delivery method.

Trust is a prerequisite for IPD.

Others attest that trust in integrated design and teams is a result but not a prerequisite.

“It’s not about trust—it’s about process,” says Scott Simpson. “If the process is set up properly, trust will follow.”

With IPD, you do need to find others who:

  • Can work with you, and
  • Want to work with you

Selecting the right people to work on IPD teams.

And who are the right people?

Those who have trust in each other.

Trust is an achievement. Trust takes work.

To build trust requires an investment of time.

And not everyone will see this investment as worthwhile.

Who will take the first step?

Trust can be a difficult subject for those in the AEC industry to discuss.

Especially when there’s the implication that one party—or their work effort or product—cannot be trusted.

One thing is certain—trust speaks to the need for meaningful social relationships among people who work together.

So who will take the first step?

Some believe the owner has to set the stage for a trusting working environment and process:

However you define it, trust is one key to working collaboratively.

Without trust, there’s just coercion in one of its many forms.

Trust is the Killer Mobile App

In the book, Love is the killer app, Tim Sanders believes love is the crucial element in the search for personal and professional success.

Sanders sees “business love” in clear, behavioral terms: “the act of intelligently and sensibly sharing your intangibles with your business partners.”

And what are those intangibles? Sharing

  • knowledge, with as many people as possible
  • our network, our rich web of working relationships
  • compassion, to reach out to others authentically

Before you build the building model, build the trust model

Another book takes a different approach to building trust. Building the High-Trust Organization: Strategies for Supporting Five Key Dimensions of Trust, provides an easy-to-administer model and instrument for measuring and managing trust in organizations.

The five critical dimensions from the title are Competence, Openness and Honesty, Concern for Others, Reliability, and Identification.

Creating an environment of trust is at the very heart of team success.

High-trust teams have increased value, accelerated growth, enhanced innovation, improved collaboration, stronger partnering, better execution, and heightened loyalty.

This book answers the question: how do you create and build trust in your team?

Trust crash

As one commenter put it:

In a time of unprecedented mergers, government sponsored buy-outs, the collapse of financial institutions, organizational restructuring and layoffs has resulted in a “trust crash” among employees and stakeholders.

So, before investing in mobile Apps for the field and jobsite,

Invest in building trusting relationships.

Because trust appears to be where the industry is headed.

8 Comments

Filed under BIM, collaboration, Integrated Design, Integrated Project Delivery, IPD, modeling, people, process