Has this happened to you? Someone in a group meeting throws out an idea. You muse about it for the rest of the day, then do some work to make that idea happen. And then you find out that two other people are also working on it, each independently and unaware of your work. Or, perhaps worse, you find out that the other two people had a chat after the meeting and are collaborating on the work, duplicating or contradicting the work that you just spent hours on.
In any group endeavor, communication is key and collaboration just makes sense. This is particularly true in the construction industry. On a construction project, there are many decisions that need to be made, much work to be done, and often, changes to the work along the way. Everyone involved needs to know what is going on, what work is needed now, and who is responsible for it.
All too often I hear, “I’m waiting for the client’s response before doing xxx…”
In many cases, the other party doesn’t fully appreciate the impact of indecision or inattention. They quickly become a second-tier item on your plate and fall victim to other priorities, bumped schedules and lengthy delays due to the domino effect. Then, and often without warning, the other party is calling and demanding immediate action, causing you to scramble to make it appear as if they were Number One on your list.
Even though my main job is documentation, I help out Support as I can under the general umbrella of “client services.” I get familiar with the names of some of our clients. I also train clients through modern means of technology. That is to say, I am here and they are there and so I don’t get to see them, but I can talk to them and get to know them by name. How much better it is, then, when I have opportunity to actually meet and interact with these clients.
I readily admit I get a guilty pleasure from reading Joel Stein’s column in Time Magazine each week. His recent (Dec 10th) essay How I Replaced Shakespeare (and why our kids may never read a poem as lovely as a tree) was no exception. And not just because he uses words like “Anastrophe“, either.
I certainly hope Shakespeare and other literary giants are not in danger – but I think kids could do a lot worse than learning to read, comprehend and maybe, someday, compose and communicate as well as Mr. Stein.
How does this relate to construction project management, you might ponder? Quite simply: effective communication. How often do you have to go back to an outside party and seek clarification of ambiguous or incomplete responses? Does your PM system allow you to track these incidents, or does it all get lost in a long string of loose email?