Tag Archives: teams

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.

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77 Things You Can Do Right Now to Help Make Integrated Design a Reality

This time of year, when many find themselves indoors, is a great time to catch up – and even get ahead of the pack – on several neglected fronts. Here are my top 77 suggestions for getting ahead in Integrated Design. All pretested, these promise to be a good investment of your time. Best of all, many of the suggestions in this list can be read or watched or even had for free or for very little cost. The 77 things you can do right now to help make Integrated Design a reality will not only benefit the design profession and construction industry, but by helping to move the field forward you may also find that you have helped yourself along the way.

Do you have other links to favorite sources you would like to share?

1. Listen in on a free conference call with Stephen M. R. Covey on the subject of trust

2. Or read the book that the call is based on, The SPEED of Trust: The One Thing that Changes Everything, with one eye on how practicing mutual trust makes Integrated Design possible.

3. Still not convinced that increasing trust is the answer? Check out this video or listen to this summary of the book

4. Pick up a copy and read George Elvin’s Integrated Practice in Architecture: Mastering Design-Build, Fast-Track, and Building Information Modeling The world’s only book dedicated to this subject.

5. Read Creating with Others: The Practice of Imagination in Life, Art and the Workplace by Shaun McNiff where a master teacher provides important lessons on how to create together in a collaborative environment.

6. Share some info with someone you don’t normally trust or work with right now and see the results – if it negatively affects you or your firm (you might be surprised by the results)

7. Make it an effort to say “we” instead of “I” for an entire day. Get inspired by taking a look at The Power of We

8. Share AIA’s document on IPD with another practitioner and discuss its strengths and weaknesses.

9. Had a hunch that you could learn a thing or two about collaboration from understanding the secrets of improvisational theater? You were right and they’re all here in Keith Sawyer’s breathtaking Group Genius: The Creative Power of Collaboration, 60% off at Amazon

10. Or read it for free here

11. Read an interview with author Keith Sawyer, professor of psychology and education at Washington University in St. Louis, is one of the country’s leading scientific experts on collaboration, here

12. Start a IPD discussion group, select a resource to start with and begin a discussion.

13. Download the AIA IPD Guide here

14. Better yet, enjoy AIA’s veritable cornucopia of Integrated Design features, programs, initiatives here  

15. Read How to Make Collaboration Work; Powerful Ways to Build Consensus, Solve problems and Make  Decisions  Read it here for free.

16. Click here for Experiences in collaboration: On the Path to IPD

17. Or here to download the PowerPoint: Lessons Learned from Applied Integrated Project Delivery – presented at the AIA Convention  

18. Share the AIA document site with 10 others

19. The Integrative Design Guide to Green Building: Redefining the Practice of Sustainability by 7group, Bill Reed, Order it here or here but whatever you do, order it.

20. While you’re at it, you haven’t lived until you’ve seen or heard 7group’s John Boecker speak on the subject of Integrated Design.

21. Bill Reed’s also pretty inspiring, too. Check out some of his papers

22. Read the DesignIntelligence Thom Mayne Morphosis case study on being a design principal on an IPD team

23. Click here for a short (4 min.) video about IPD

24. Put down your current book and pick up Mastering the Art of Creative Collaboration by Robert Hargrove a copy of which can be yours here for 33 cents! Or get a summary here.

25. Think about why you originally went into your field and whether persuing Integrated Design will allow you to do what you originally wanted to do

26. Turn your firm into a collaboration factory. See how other fields are accomplishing it in The Culture of Collaboration: Maximizing time, talent and tools to create value in the global economy by Evan Rosen.

27. Look here to read Integrated Project Delivery and BIM: Changing the Way the Industry Operates

28. Visit and explore Evan Rosen’s blog  on Collaboration, Sharing Information and Trust.

29. Practice self-sacrifice while reading fiction. Mark Helprin’s short story collection, The Pacific and Other Stories, contains an incisive story entitled “Monday,” an honorable contractor willing to sacrifice other contracts and his own reputation to renovate the home of a woman whose husband was killed on September 11 learns “the power of those who had done right.” Read it.

30. Look for an opportunity to hear Choreographer Twyla Tharp discuss The Collaborative Habit at a theater near you.

31. Still not convinced collaboration works? Niether is Berkeley professor and author Morten T. Hansen in Harvard Business review book Collaboration: How leaders avoid the traps, create unity and reap big results. Read it for free here but after reading Good to Great author Jim Collin’s insightful foreword you’re going to want to buy  a copy for yourself and those you work with.

32. Still not convinced collaboration within your firm always a good thing? Watch this video

33. Cant afford the somewhat steep membership cost to join the Design Futures Council? Worry not. Spend a free afternoon perusing articles at designintelligence.com. Do a search on any of the following topics and marvel at the wealth of brilliance that can be found here: Best Practices, Client Relationships, Communications, Design/Build Project Delivery, Intelligent Choices, Leadership, Strategy, Technology, Trends and MANY others.

34. Check out this PowerPoint presentation: IPD It’s not your father’s architectural practice

35. Watch IPD wunderkind John Moebes in action speaking on the benefits on Integrated Design or check out this presentation by him.

36. Or this article about what John Moebes has to say about IPD.

37. Call a colleague that has worked in IPD and ask to lunch – discuss their experience

38. Take a look at architect Scott Simpson’s immortal blog post entitled Let’s Believe in Our Own Future. As Design Futures Council founder Jim Cramer writes in the comments, “Scott, you nailed it.”

39. Make a promise in 2010 to attend a 2- or 4-hour Culture of Collaboration workshop when it comes to town and learn 17 Ways to Move from Competing to Cooperating in Your Organization

40. Compare and contrast the AIA’s various IPD documents

41. Then compare them with ConsensusDOCS

42. Or compare the two here

43. In fact, check out President of Collaborative Construction Resources James Salmon’s blog for great insights into all thing related to Integrated Design  

44. Soak-up the great stories in choreographer Twyla Tharp’s latest bestseller, The Collaborative Habit: Life Lessons for Working Together. The book is short – you could down it in an hour – but the anecdotes, quotes and lessons will live long with you and bear repeating.

45. While you’re at it, reread Tharp’s inspiring and peerless The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life

46. Visit the DesignIntelligence.blog from time to time for inspiration and insight into integrated design trends and best practices.

47. I recently interviewed architect Paul Durand of Winter Street Architects for my forthcoming book, BIM and Integrated Design: Strategies for Practice (Wiley, 2011) after reading Paul’s inspiring article about his firm’s adjustments to and eventual mastery of the technology and work processes involved with Integrated Design.

48. In fact, BIM and IPD have their very own blog

49. Watch this Harvard Business Review video of an interview with Daniel Goleman, Psychologist. See how you can use emotional and social intelligence to improve your own and your organization’s performance

50. Find a question or problem that you have been noodling on and share it with your network by posting it on a LinkedIn group discussion.

51. Calibrate your progress: If you haven’t in a while, revisit your threadbare copy of Finith Jernigan’s BIG BIM little bim – The practical approach to Building Information Modeling – Integrated practice done the right way! The book that started it all.

52. Assess yourself in this video from the bestselling author of EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE and SOCIAL INTELLIGENCE author Daniel Goleman on how socially intelligent you are.

53. Dust off your copy of The Wisdom of Teams and see how much you’ve learned from it and have integrated into your own practice 

54. Listen to Cisco CEO John Chambers explain how abandoning command-and-control leadership has enabled his company to innovate more quickly, using collaboration and teamwork.

55. Connect with other Integrated Design cohorts on LinkedIn

56. Reread Working with Emotional Intelligence – this time with an eye on IPD. Don’t have it? Read the first chapter here.

57. Ask a contractor to lunch or for an after work drink – discuss their observations and insights about the architecture profession – they’ll appreciate it (Recommendation: stay on their turf, take them to Carmichaels or another contractor hang out)

58. Reread your copy of Broken Buildings, Busted Budgets: How to Fix America’s Trillion-Dollar Construction Industry from the viewpoint of how integrated design promises to fix what ails the AEC industry.                                                                                         

59. Read an interview with Barry LePatner on the promise of integrated design in the construction industry in the article, “Unreconstructed,” by Zach Patton published in Governing magazine

60. MacArthur Fellow, New Yorker staff writer and acclaimed surgeon Atul Gawande’s fascinating new book, The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right, has a chapter entitled The End of the Master Builder where he argues that Integrated Design is the one way the construction industry will contend with ever-increasing complexities. Read it. Amazon has it on sale for 65% off.

61. Still too expensive? You can watch a presentation Atul Gawande gave at the New Yorker Festival this past October. His talk was entitled Death of the Master Builder

62. And even read post about Atul Gawande’s presentation at The New Yorker blog.  

63. Already mastered Integrtaed Design and all it entails? See Beyond IPD: The Integrated Enterprise Challenge

64. Wondering how to market IPD for your firm? See this this or better yet this

65. Overlook the misleading title, pour yourself a cup or glass and dig into Bauman Lyons Architects highly entertaining and enlightening book on integrated design practices and outcomes, How to Be a Happy Architect 

66. Or watch this video of integrated design architect Irena Bauman [of How to be a happy architect fame] taking the Guardian editor, Martin Wainwright, for a stroll around Leeds.

67. Learn ways how you can become an ENFP (you might have an easier time in IPD)

68. Read, really read, Thom Mayne’s penetrating and quite scary warning to the tribe, Change or Perish 

 69. Or even better, visit the AIA’s incredibly rich and rewarding site featuring this essay as well as Thom Mayne’s 2009 follow-up amongst many others: 2009 and Beyond | Revisiting the Report on Integrated Practice

 70. Still skeptical? Do a comparison of IPD and other delivery methods D+B, DBB, etc – list pros and cons and to see how IPD holds up

71. Be the change you want to see – do a presentation for your firm on IPD – or organize one with outside speakers, if only to start a discussion

72. Invite a contractor into your office to speak about their experiences working in IPD, BIM, architects…

73. You still feel like IPD is just a renaming of something you’ve been doing for ages? List what is the same – and what is different – so that you have an accurate tally in your assessment

74. Look into what additional equipment, resources and facilities/space you might need to take-on an IPD project in your office – make your office IPD friendly BEFORE you need it

75. Look for ways to merge – integrate – your religious or spiritual life with IPD

76. Watch this video and learn about IPD from the perspective of an acclaimed surgeon

77. New Yorker also blogged about this event.

And a bonus suggestion: Take an online personality self-assessment or other on your communication type – to see how you relate with others, identifying areas for improvement (FYI historically most architects are ENFJ’s with 10% as ENFP’s.) Free reliable assessments are also available with a little searching.

These are my top 77 suggestions for invigorating your commitment to working collaboratively in an Integrated Design environment. Do you have other links to favorite sources or suggestions you would like to share?

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Filed under collaboration, construction industry, Integrated Design, Integrated Project Delivery, IPD, people, Uncategorized