Sunday, November 6, 2011

Smacked Between the Eyes

For starters, I believe that folks who have worked in the AEC industry for anything longer than two years are a bit jaded and think the world "works" a certain way. But every now and then I have discussions, read something or attend a presentation that shakes those constructs up and makes me look at things from a completely different angle.

Recently I gave a presentation to a very smart group of military professionals from the Facilities and O and M side and I was excited to see from the industry's standpoint of Design, Construction and Operations where their heads were.

A number of their questions were very well thought out and they listened very carefully to what I was telling them about BIM enabled processes, VDC technology and an integrated means of delivering projects. I wrote down the following three questions because they hit me square between the eyes, (and for those who know me that's saying something).

1.) Why doesn't the industry understand that everyone uses information for different things and that at some point that information simply isn't useful?

I asked for an example and they said, "well for example right now we get both the native file models and the federated or composite Navis file at the end of the job and inevitably the clearance blocks in front of equipment are still there, remnants of 4D scheduling information and extremely detailed model components with a large amount of model parameters are delivered to us as well." "We spend quite a long time cleaning the models up that we get at the end of a job to use for Facilities Management and Operations, which is quite a bit less and there seems to be a disconnect there."

Epiphany number one. Pull information through the process. Begin with the end in mind and adopt a LEAN methodology of finding what the next user needs and eliminate the rest. We aren't still reading books about how to make fire, we just turn on the stove. All information has a shelf life.

2.) In the military, everyone on your team is responsible for a task and each team member relies on each person to complete it. What accountability measures do teams put in place to make sure all of the team members are pulling their load?

Ideally it starts with picking the right team members from the beginning, just as I'm sure you pick certain team members for each mission. From there, we plan on how we are going to execute the work over time and have routine "checkups" to make sure we are getting there.

So what if someone isn't delivering, are they off the team?

Well...not quite. So contractually they are obligated to deliver, but in the event they decide not to, there are some measures we can take to get them back on track, but it often takes a while to completely remove them from the team.

Sounds pretty weak

Yeah, there's definitely room for progress to be made for sure, but I believe that integrated project delivery methods will continue to improve projects. In fact, there's been a lot of examples of this being successful already. I believe if the team is mutually responsible for delivering the project, there is a lot more at stake and the "blame game" that's plagued the industry really becomes somewhat of a moot point, because everyone has to get across the finish line.

Sounds a lot better

Epiphany number two. Weaknesses in project delivery aren't a secret. There are a lot of informed Owners out there, all with the same goal of building their project without falling short. It's much better to align with this understanding instead of attempting to look "smarter or more experienced". Smart teams are winning projects. Others are going out of business.

3.) Why can't you guys just make a Google for Facilities Management? Google did it for the whole internet.

Great question. I believe there are a lot of companies working on it, us among them that close the information life cycle loop. A lot of this is because Architect, Engineers and Construction Managers are learning quickly that they are not all knowing as much as they think they are. There is an exciting dialog occurring for open minded professionals with Operations and Maintenance colleagues as well as energy managers, software companies and communities to learn how to best understand the impacts a building actually has on the environment and what information is useful as a byproduct from design and construction to help it along.

Epiphany number three. Constant innovation is at the nucleus of any good team. The Japanese have a concept for this called "Kaizen" or the idea of constant improvement. In the book, The Toyota Way this is explored quite in depth. Even when you think you've figured it out...there is still room to improve and innovate.

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