School Construction Photo

School Construction Photo
A job site photo of a school under construction


The content provided on this site and in the Posts is intended to be thought-provoking, educational, and - in some cases - entertaining. It is not intended as direction or recommendations for the design or construction of any specific building project. The information is provided in good faith but without assurance as to its completeness, accuracy, or suitability for any particular purpose. If you are considering using information provided on this site, you are responsible for verifying its appropriateness to your needs, and you assume all risk for its use.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Project Coordination: Practice the Hand-off

Coordination in architecture, engineering, and construction is all about the hand-off, just as it is in other businesses and in team sports. The hand-off happens all over the place, all the time. It is often accompanied by words like "You know what I mean", "You get the point", "Let's not have a repeat of you-know-what", "Just do it", and other codewords. But the message may not be clear to the listener, and the listener may hand off to yet another listener with an additional editorial comment like "It's another fire drill." It's the old story of the rumor traveling around a room: by the time it goes full circle, the message has changed considerably, having been edited with every hand-off. That's why managers, administrators, and others need to allow themselves to get bored by repeating the same message in almost every detail - with a few notable exceptions: it's important to tailor the delivery to the listener's ability to understand and make use of the message, and it's important to get immediate and periodic feedback to confirm understanding.

Tailoring the delivery means delivering the message in a way that acknowledges and respects the ability of the listener to understand the message and make appropriate and productive use of it. A highly skilled and familiar employee may be able to hear an abbreviated message - maybe just a headline - and fill in the blanks with a good understanding of the desired or needed outcome. "Two over, rye, and a side," may be all the information that is needed in a situation where abbreviated communication has been developed through years of practice. In that case a lengthier description may be read as an insult - unnecessary micro-management. But a less skilled or less familiar employee may need more detail in order to make a connection with the message. In either case, immediate feedback can help to verify understanding of the message, and it may save a lot of time and money as a project goes forward. Familiarity is a key to the successful hand-off, because even a highly skilled new team member (employee, consultant, contractor, subcontractor, supplier, etc.) may bring a different understanding of the abbreviated message.

Monday, March 23, 2009

This Change Order costs more than my whole house!

Change orders on large projects can carry shocking price tags. A little detail change can be multiplied by thousands of lineal feet or occur hundreds or thousands of times. When I was first working as an architectural drafter in a large architecture and engineering firm (A-E firm), a senior project manager in the firm told me to pay attention to the detail conditions that go for miles, because changes in those details during construction can cost a lot. We were working on highrise office buildings at the time, so a change in a window detail could literally go for miles, considering the perimeter length per floor and the number of floors. It really hit home when I saw a change order that cost more than my whole house. On a large project that can also happen with an additional coat of paint.