Solution Sets 

Schedule & budget are also determining factors in a solution set and in providing problem solving and deliverables to clients. It’s not “provide solutions at any cost and for as much time as they take.” Also speed of response, speed of performance, and prompt project delivery almost always win, and are typically the top or near the top priority for clients.

It’s hard as technical professionals sometimes to consider budget and schedule as equal variables or boundary conditions with other more direct technical issues.

We’ve got to ask ourselves “how can I get this done in the allotted time frame and budget” and use that as part of the boundary conditions around the solution and deliverable.

When we do this on every project and task within the project, it mitigates loss, makes the potentially marginal job profitable, and makes the good one really great.

Every person, on every team, at every level should have this reality in mind. They should be accountable, and also empowered, to call timeout and to take action with the project leaders and principals.

And it means not being a slave to the defined technical and software processes when there’s an issue slowing us down. Remember, procedure and technical tools are supposed to serve us, not the opposite. These days that often gets reversed, spending more time on the process and software functionality than we spend on the problem or creative aspect of the solution.

Provide serviceable solutions while staying in business.

Working in a Box 

Our customer has articulated a goal to us. The mission and problem is clearly defined. So we run off in search of a solution. We work like crazy to make it happen. We can feel it coming together. We’re getting excited to share the solution with the client. Then, indeed, the moment comes. We’ve got it. It’s time to share the victory with our client. Our victory. We can’t wait for the moment. The unveiling. We come back with a presentation showing them that we achieved what they wanted….or so we thought…

But it wasn’t their solution. There’s a fail. What’s the fail? We forsake context and parameters. We never really engaged them in the process. We run with what we THOUGHT  we heard. Its like we’re working in a box without communicating. What the solution lacks is context. Maybe they didn’t want those boundary conditions. Maybe they couldn’t install it that way. Maybe they didn’t want those items listed as collateral. Whatever the case may be, if we don’t engage our customer to come up with a solution within a proper context, we have not delivered. It’s like we’re working in a box. This happens way too often. And we’d think with modern communication tools it would be better, but that doesn’t make it a guarantee. 

Good Solutions require integration and communication. They require collaboration. Keep the lid off the box while you’re working.

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….


My space is professional services; design, engineering and consulting for the built environment; specifically building Facade systems and building enclosures – the “curtain wall”. My observation though, is much of what I will be writing about on this topic applies to other realms, systems, spaces, whether building, product or otherwise. This is the first in a series of posts on the topic; sharing my experience, questions and observations.

My position is simply this: the best value to the end-user or owner, and to all constituents in the supply chain & process, is generated in collaboration. My struggle is that the “old mentality” of “throw it over the wall” is still used by many. What does one expect in design of constructed systems and products when working in silos and in a linear manner? How about “less than optimal results.” Clients and businesses that “get it” are increasing their level of collaboration and using technology to leverage interaction. Too often in  our work, tyranny of the urgent is the rule of the day. However, investing the time proactively in ongoing, seamless, real-time, shared collaboration yields better results and lower costs downstream.

Collaboration takes place in different ways, but one key is driving integration. We must pull each other into the space of a shared reality to really collaborate. This creates empathy, understanding, fewer assumptions, lower risk, better results. It gets to the finish line quicker. In a fragmented, and disruptive supply chain in the building industry, even within specific areas of expertise, value generation can be as simple as driving real collaboration.

I will continue to post on this topic and I welcome comments, feedback, & dialogue.

In the meantime, start or keep collaborating.