Collaboration – Part 2

Collaboration – Part 2:

This is my second post on collaboration; that attention-grabbing, value-driving, process-improving approach to project design and engineering. The context to which I am referring is the DESIGN-ASSIST collaboration process, where outside parties from different firms, each representing their various interests in the process, are working together to create. I am seeing more recognition as to the value of collaboration from those with experience in design, engineering and construction. Solving problems and working through issues concurrently with the engineering and construction teams can eliminate a great deal of waste, re-work, misunderstanding, poor interpretation, risk and more. Here are a few of my experiences in helping to facilitate and improve the collaboration process:

1. Use face to face meetings at the start. Schedule them 2-3 weeks apart. Have a specific agenda and goal accomplishment for the meetings set up in advance. Set a specific start and stop time. Bring in lunch. Make sure to have internet access, wireless, and appropriate access to drawings, resources, etc.

2. Create an action list as you proceed. Before adjourning the meeting, make sure all action items have an appropriate follow-up activity, and a person or group assigned to them.

3. Use the time between each face to face meeting, to follow-up and work through the action items. Create an email group and keep communication flowing.

4. Use WebEx’s, Go-To’s and other web-based meeting platforms between the face to face meetings. Make them 1-hour in length and have 1 per week. Have a designated person to drive the meeting, organize it, and who can control the screen or give control to others.

5. Have the right stakeholders involved. In my space of specialty engineering for cladding and curtain wall systems, the stakeholders include the G.C., architect, engineer of record, specialty engineers (me/us), owner’s representative, cladding consultants, and sometimes the mechanical engineer and BIM representative (don’t forget BIM.) Design meetings for cladding or curtain wall systems often just need the GC, architect and specialty engineer.

6. Create a “hot-list” –  a specific descriptive list of action items and a space in which you can assign whom is responsible for each.

7. I really like Blue-Beam as a software tool to show drawings on a projected screen, make mark-ups and comments as the meeting proceeds, and then share with everyone when complete.

8. Use tools that can allow for central storage and access to all involved. Tools like SharePoint, or simply a specific project website or server where everyone can access information and download to their site is useful.

There are certainly many more approaches, tools, observations, and means in which to approach collaboration. This is just one example and is a simple format to use and to put out on the blog for discussion. Remember also, that the process is not always easy. Its can get tedious and painful. It has to be honest and respectful. But in the end, typically it will yield better results. Do not give up too early. Don’t give it “lip service.” Change-up meeting types, length, formats, and contexts if it stops being useful. Work it through to conclusion. I hope to hear some comments and observations from blog readers so we can keep the conversation going.

Happy collaborating….