Economy I and Economy II

His work leaves the impression that there are two interrelated American economies. On the one hand, there is the globalized tradable sector — companies that have to compete with everybody everywhere. These companies, with the sword of foreign competition hanging over them, have become relentlessly dynamic and very (sometimes brutally) efficient.

On the other hand, there is a large sector of the economy that does not face this global competition — health care, education and government. Leaders in this economy try to improve productivity and use new technologies, but they are not compelled by do-or-die pressure, and their pace of change is slower.

Clearly, infrastructure design and construction is an appendage of the government, making it behave more like the public sector.

Worth reading the article to understand the challenges we have by not having the whip of competition burning on our backs:


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To Collaborate or Not to Collaborate

Collaboration has its dangers. Read an interesting debate taken from a Manufacturing Forum:

A recent New York Times article challenges the current focus at many companies on collaborative, team-based decision-making. Teams, the article contends, encourage group-think, and are inherently less creative than individuals. In fact, the most creative people tend to see them selves as independent and individualistic. Forcing them into collaborative teams–or even workspaces that deprive them of privacy–actually reduces their creativity and productivity, the article states.

“Decades of research show that individuals almost always perform better than groups in both quality and quantity, and group performance gets worse as group size increases,” the Times article contends. The reason: In groups, some people tend to sit back and let others do most of the work, and they are prone to peer pressure, declining to challenge group decisions or to offer new ideas.

This opinion, of course, runs counter to the current emphasis at many manufacturing companies on finding and promoting workers who are able to collaborate and work well in cross-functional groups.

Is there a danger in focusing too much on collaboration and group/team decisionmaking? Does such collaboration really stifle creativity? Do we need to make space for the creativity of individuals as well as the power of group collaboration?

Interesting ideas Jeff.

There’s still significant evidence emerging that creativity and innovation can often be enhanced by collaboration in certain corporate envrionments, however. According to research late last year by the Future Foundation on behalf of Google, there was an 81% positive correlation between collaboration and innovation in results from over 3,500 employees, IT managers and HR executives across the US, Germany, Japan, UK and France.

The big issue is how you manage a collaborative enterprise to deliver truly positive results. Just forming decision groups is clearly not enough. And there are many dangers involved in collaborative ventures that we’re only just beginning to understand, according to a Harvard Business Review blog last month by author and innovation advocate Nilofer Merchant.

Merchant identifies eight key dangers to collaboration: not knowing the answer can make individual experts feel uncomfortabley ignorant in a group environment; there are often unclear roles in a collaborative group about who is responsible for necessary actions; too much talking and not enough doing can lead to a lack of progress and missed opportunities; information over-sharing can result in overload for some or the refusal of others to contribute; a fear of fighting in public means key problems are sometimes deliberately avoided; more work is often involved when collaborative teams take on an issue; more hugs than decisions may make people feel good about collaborative sharing, rather than focusing on critical actions that will actually make a difference; and ultimately, it’s hard to know who to praise and who to blame at the end of a collaborative project as leaders have less visibility into who did what in the process.

Merchant is not saying that collaboration is ineffectual though, just that “we can’t manage collaboration well until we acknowledge that it’s fundamentally dangerous.”

Like any other decision-making technique, it is a balance between risk and gain. Learning how to acheive that balance will determine the effectiveness of collaborative cultures in the years ahead.

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Legislation afoot to push IPD-like principles for Federal Buildings—how refreshing!

Legislation afoot to push IPD-like principles for Federal Buildings—how refreshing!

Capitol Hill appears to recognize the linkage between BIM and efficient project delivery methods such as IPD (Integrated Project Delivery) and JOC (Job Order Contracting), the latter a version of IPD targeting facility renovation, repair, and sustainability construction projects.

H.R.3371, introduced by Russ Carnahan (D-M0.) call for the GAO to study BIM and integrated project delivery methods relative to use for Federal Buildings.

Specifically the bill calls for requirements relative to BIM and IPD adoption and usage, potential impacts of expanded usage in association with procurement and budgeting, information requirements for life-cycle BIM usage, and the creation of an associated directorship.


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Adsk Infrastructure Modeler

Looking forward to digging into Autodesk Infrastructure Modeler, where conceptual design of public works projects can begin–dynamically linked to the underlying BIM and CAD data.

Below is a High Speed Rail modeled for a project in Norway.

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AEC + Social = Like: Dare to cross the social divide?

With the advent of enterprise social networking and cloud tools (Yammer, Socialcast, et al), I wonder if now is the time for AEC firms to join the revolution. Socially connected teams of many types, beyond just sales teams as perhaps were the first discipline that created a market for social enterprise solutions, have been proven to achieve results faster by tapping into the network benefits and knowledge sharing in real-time to complete work.

It seems the need of higher connectivity across a team and disciplines will especially grow as project owners opt for alternative delivery mechanisms such as design/build or public private partnerships.  Decision latency will not be tolerated as the competitive environment escalates around how designers and contractors can cross the aisle to achieve more construct-able designs with fewer RFIs and CO’s to protract schedules and budgets!

The greatest obstacle that I see to this is that design/engineering professionals are currently motivated now to maximize their bill-ability. This is encouraged by the fact that the projects they work on, since project inception, has carefully been divvied up into tasks that are tied to the project cost plan/budget. Those tasks are tied to an available pot of budget that this professional can live off of. Since high-bill-ability is the holy grail in fee-based design firms, professionals are loathe to increase productivity or to share any of the task with a peer that might be better qualified than them, both of which cut into their share of billable time and could leave them idle (un-billable) as they wait for the next project. Additionally, if they finish the task ahead of time, it leaves budget on the table.

Certainly, project managers with a long-term vision of satisfying their clients can find a way, presumably if they were better connected to the task, to turn that increased productivity of their team into higher quality deliverable s. Take the budget money off the table, consume the task, and crush the competition by providing something that pleases and delights their client. I’m also willing to bet that the task lead, who before was pacing themselves to consumer the task budget, will feel more motivated, challenged, and able to grow professionally as a result of collaboration with their larger group of peers. Certainly, they have a chance to be recognized in this way for innovations and team work. Let’s face it, these are professional traits that are the new gold standard in the present job market.

There’s also so much opportunity to consider when it comes to PM/Client communications enhanced by social tools.  Interactions drive customer satisfaction and loyalty–and, ultimately,  success in sales.  Of course it begs the question?  Are PM’s interested in upping the transparency of their projects to their clients through real-time reporting and tracking?  I posit that the owners will be very soon asking for this level of interaction, so best to prepare.

It’s time for the AEC organization to cross the social divide!

Here’s are other posts or papers on the topic!

For many employees today, collaborative, complex problem solving is the essence of their work.  These “tacit” activities–involving the exchange of information, the making of judgments, and a need to draw on multifaceted forms of knowledge in exchanges with coworkers, customers, and suppliers–are increasinly a part of the standar model for companies in the developed world. Managing in an environment where most workers mainly participate in interaction will upend the greater part of what senior mangaement has learned over the past half century.

And some words by Salesforce CEO and Social industry leader:

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Shoutout to a good blog: BIM in progress:

Thanks, Ken Flannigan, for sharing relevant information in a fun and enticing writing style.

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Technology = Productivity, but only with new attitudes.

HOW do you think most workers would respond if you asked them, “Do you feel more productive now than you did several years ago?” I doubt that the answer would be a resounding yes. In fact, even as workplace technology and processes steadily improve, many professionals feel less productive than ever.

It may seem a paradox, but these very tools are undermining our ability to get work done. They are causing us to become paralyzed by the dizzying number of options that they spawn.

The problem is that better overall productivity in an organization may not translate into increased productivity for an individual worker.

Though one person may now be producing the previous results of three, she’s not being paid three times as much. That’s the whole point of companies using technology and other improvements: fewer people are now needed for the same results.

Cranking out widgets is one thing; deciding which widgets need cranking first, and in what quantity, is quite another — especially if you are now charged with continually improving the system, or determining whether you should even be cranking out those widgets at all.

Sound similar to the responsibilities of a BIM manager who unlike the CAD manager is overseeing a whole design process and not just a sheet production process?

But it’s not hopeless. It just requires a more self-reflection and constant readjustment to priorities–in sense, more gut.

So, given all the obstacles, how do you find your way to a productive state — the feeling that you’re doing exactly what you should be doing, with a sense of relaxed and focused control? What’s needed is a system that creates space to think, to reflect, to review, to integrate and to connect dots.

As Dr. Nicolas von Rosty, head of executive development at Siemens, once told me, “You must be able to be present, not distracted, to be able to trust your inner wisdom and make quick decisions without others’ input or waiting for perfection.”

How do you find the space needed to do that? By integrating all the chaos of the workplace and staying focused on the most important things, as they relate to your goals, direction, values and desired outcomes. You must constantly recalibrate your resources to generate the best results, and to say “not now” to what’s less important.

WE are not born doing this. It’s a focus that must be learned. And its results won’t show up by themselves. You can, however, use a sequence of five events to optimize your focus and resources, whether you’re trying to get it together in your kitchen, your conversation, your contract, your company or your country.

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