Want to Improve Project Delivery? Communicate!

Recently, Conspectus participated in two conferences: Construction Owners Association of America (COAA) and Lean Construction Institute's Lean in Design Forum. Both groups are searching for a means to improve construction project delivery with some common themes. Principal among them is PEOPLE.

The COAA Way begins with a "Good Owner" and assembles teams and organization that make up the project. Lean Construction Institute identifies "Respect for People" as the primary tenet for a successful project.

Why the focus on PEOPLE? The answer is obvious.
Communications! People interact and talk with each other. The importance of
communications cannot be overstated. The market must be able to communicate
needs and then the market must be able to respond to fulfill those needs. When communications
fail to occur or when communications are misunderstood, the market cannot
respond efficiently, and the needs may never be completely fulfilled.

How does this apply to construction? The owners require a
building. They communicate the needs via a building program, owner project
requirements, a budget, and a completion time. At this point, the universe is
essentially the solution. Constraints must be set to narrow the focus and the
set of potential solutions. The constraints start with the owner's project
requirements formed from the business case dictating the need for a capital
project. Each constraint must be fully communicated to the design and
construction teams and recorded. Then design ideas can be applied and
alternatives identified to solve the problem. When each step and each input is
recorded in a transparent fashion the entire team, design and construction, can
contribute so an optimal solution can be found. Then the solution can be validated
as compliant against all the recorded constraints.  When the information is comprehensive, the
solution may be validated continuously: during design, construction, and

Projects must combine the talents of hundreds of individuals
to conceive the project, develop the business case, validate the feasibility,
create the design, execute the construction, and finally operate the building. Each
individual and each group must contribute to the communications, building a
recorded project knowledge base during the process.

The potential perils are many, simply by the sheer number of individuals involved in the process.

Information varies by point of view

The written communication record is important. The record
must be accessible to the entire team as a common foundation for making project
decisions, and the most common mechanisms for communication lack the continuity
and transparency required. Email does not work well because it is parochial,
shared only with selected team members. Email records can prevent individual
access to critical data that influences decisions. Document management systems
do not work well because they record a specific result at a specific point in
time, not the process, and possibly not the ultimate resolution. Without the
benefit of version control, individual documents can mislead by masquerading as
the final resolution.

Communications must maintain a continuity from initial exploration to final resolution. The communication must show the ideas, questions, discussions, and decisions leading to the conclusions so the processes and the results are all understood. Make the information stream continuous.  Build the project record with each idea and each decision so the entire team is aware and fully informed.  Use Uniformat as an additive methodology to "say what you know, when you know it."

Uniformat Project Approach

Without effective, timely, and seamless communications, the
multiple handoffs during the design and construction process create information
gaps. Every time an individual or team passes the project to the next, there is
the potential pitfall of information loss during the transaction.

The Conspectus approach implements effective communications that are essential to both The COAA Way and Lean Construction.

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