Project Management

Love Letters

By |February 19th, 2015|

I ran into a client at an industry-related Valentine’s party and when speaking about a staff member of ours, he stated “I love working with your Project Manager and the Board loves him too.”  At Wember, we work hard to have our clients reach this level of satisfaction. How does a business get to the point of love? Why would we target this specific word, and, why should you?

First, the “why.” All I can say is, who doesn’t want to be loved? It’s human nature and it’s not restricted to a significant other or family member. Being loved is the highest form of flattery and, when stated honestly, it makes you feel special. More importantly, being loved is good for business.

So, how do you get to this point in a relationship? Think about it as you would if you were on Match.com.

Profile Page – This is your marketing packet. It communicates who you are and what you stand for. Is it honest or overstated? Are you who you say you are and can you back it up? How many times have you heard, or experienced, someone who indicates they work for Ball Engineering and you think ‘aerospace’ when it’s actually the ‘cannery’. This is your introduction, the foundation of any relationship, make it authentic.

First Meeting – The interview is set. This is your time to impress your future partner. Are you sincere? Do you listen to their questions and answer them thoughtfully or simply tell them what you think they want to hear? Do you have questions for them, and are you truly interested in their responses? Too many times interviews become a competition of chest-beating of why contenders are the best. Now, is [...]

What I am Not Thankful for This Year

By |December 4th, 2014|

To have good, you must have bad; up must have down, and to be thankful, you need to have the unthankful.  As we come into the season of giving thanks, there is so much I am thankful for, a sustainable business, a healthy family, my soft bed.  That said, there are a few things this I am not thankful for, I suggest you state the following, as Jimmy Fallon does in his bit, thank you….

Thank you AEC Marketing professionals for all the emails telling us how thankful you are for having clients that make you great. Are you great or thankful? It gets a bit blurry. I’d be thankful for having you remove me from your email list.
Thank you to the company that our client didn’t select to serve on the team.  I understand that it’s frustrating to lose a project that you thought you were the best match, but, please know that hanging up on me really wasn’t productive. In fact, the owner’s response was “I guess we made the right decision in the end.”
Thank you to the gentleman that told me to shove it up my attorney’s ass. I understand our profession is full of frustrations, but, I have no intention to go near my client’s attorney to fulfill this request.
Thank you to the firm that missed the allowance item in the bid documents leaving us $200,000 short. We saved your butt by playing diplomat and working some magic. I do hope you will be gracious if I ever need assistance.
Thank you guardian angel for being a badass mofo. Next time, please don’t let me get on the motorcycle.
Thank you former-client [...]

Your Building Smells Like Crap

By |November 20th, 2014|

We often focus on the aesthetic of our buildings, but unless the rendering comes with a scratch and sniff component, sometimes we are only seeing the pretty picture. Odors can ruin the quality of occupant experience, no matter how beautiful the building. Water, gas, and other elements can be sources of foul smells, haunting a building as they are very hard to trace. We have had two instances where this has been a project challenge.

In the first situation, the building would randomly smell like gas. There was no consistency to the situation, making it hard to resolve. We applied cognitive thinking and deductive reasoning:

Determine if there was a gas leak. There was no pressure loss, so that was ruled out.
Determined where the smell was coming from. The odor was coming through the vents.
Analyze the mechanical intakes.

It turned out that there was a gas pressure release valve located close to the exterior mechanical unit, far enough away not to be a concern under normal conditions, but the unit was in a recessed area with solid walls on two sides creating complications. When the valve released gas it would swirl around, and if the wind was blowing a certain direction, it would be sucked into the building creating unhealthy indoor air quality. We relocated the valve and the situation was resolved.

On another project, occupants complained of a strong sewage smell. The project was a large facility addition and renovation involving an extensive team of trades; the challenge to resolving the issue was not only tied to uncovering the source of the sewage problem, but also to who was to be held accountable. As you could expect, it was easy to make [...]

The Great Toothpaste Challenge

By |October 14th, 2014|

Recently my wife and I entered into a battle of wits, strength and cunning.  The challenge began while brushing our teeth, neither of us wanted to get the new tube of toothpaste out of the basement pantry, we couldn’t possibly walk that far.  For days we battled back and forth with using a lot of toothpaste to nearly none, in the hopes that the other would be left holding this hot potato.  When the toothpaste tube appeared to run out I would seemingly come up with endless creative solutions to extract everything I could.  I would roll the tube, scrape the tube, stick the brushes down in the tube, and then, one time, I couldn’t get another spec out. I waited for her to use it first knowing that it wasn’t possible to extract another drop baring cutting it open, would she?  Maybe I should first.

As she entered my trap I milled around to watch her be defeated.  To my shock she opened her medicine cabinet and pulled out a nearly new tube of toothpaste and smirked, and then she asked if I needed any.  For a week she had enjoyed watching me wrack my brain on how to beat the system, I was only beating up myself wasting time and energy, much to her enjoyment.

The point of this story is, like everything else in life, the design and construction process is filled with challenges and negotiations. It is wise to pick and choose issues that truly matter to you and remain firm, but, to also give a little when you can. There will be times when team members need to help each other out, be it on a cost, schedule or design issue, [...]

Let’s Collaborate, or Not

By |July 17th, 2014|

So much has been made of collaboration and implementing integrated project delivery systems; the benefits can be exciting, but the process can also be disappointing and a point of contention.  Wember continuously advocates for project management technologies, in particular the use of our online Owner’s Representative software.  We are also using Bluebeam, Skype, Doodle and many other tools to collaborate and fortunately, other members of the project team do as well, including architects and contractors; unfortunately, they are often different from one another.  They work in a variety of industry software including Vela System, Timberline, Submittal Exchange, Plangrid and many more. This makes for many different platforms, which can defeat any time-saving promises made by using an integrated process.

We have found when working with larger firms that have an established IT department and standards policy, they mandate to work be done on their systems, no exceptions.  When a project team’s contractor and architect are operating on different systems we see less collaboration and more double entry; add to that that we as Owner Representatives are also entering the data into our online system, it makes for triple entry.  So what do you do?
1. Discuss proposed tools in the interview to learn software and technologies are in place and how flexible the potential team members will truly be on the use of them.  Try to understand which systems are integral to the team’s process and which are established for marketing purposes.  Ask questions of the entire team to see how they use it, all too often the corporate partners have mandated systems with no training and support for the users, such as the superintendent.
2. Try to understand if the tool is providing value [...]

Do you have project stress?

By |June 17th, 2014|

Design and construction projects are filled with constant negotiations, decisions, and deadlines. The combination puts a lot of pressure on the core teams involved, and although usually evenly distributed across the life of the project, there are times when stress is particularly elevated:

1.  An estimate is over budget
2.  A design goal is not achieved
3.  Changes are requested or required late in the project

Over the years we have found that project stress brings our predictable behaviors for those with certain personality traits:

1.  Someone who is overbearing will dominate the conversation
2.  Someone who consistently makes ethical decisions will do so with stronger conviction
3.  Someone who avoids confrontation will do whatever they can to make the issue disappear

We recommend that during a project, starting at a selection process, you pay attention to people’s personalities. As you develop theses relationships focus on individual’s conflict resolution style and tendencies. Why is this important? When a project enters a stressful situation you will be more prepared to manage individual team members and lead a stressful situation to a successful outcome. You will find, as we have, that understanding the personalities of the parties involved will lead to more harmonious project management.

Paul Wember ~ Owner’s Representative

Zombies

By |May 29th, 2014|

Working on public projects often entails a phase that private projects don’t…the public process.  This process is always unique simply because the people attending public meetings have their own opinions and personalities.  When presenting you never know if you will have a happy or hostile crowd; supportive or outwardly against anything you propose, no matter what you do.  We have been a part of many public meetings, some more successful than others but none that actually let people vote, until now.

This particular client’s communication team came up with the concept that the public should but be able to be part of the project at a higher level, by voting on the design.  The design team worked with them and determined we had to narrow down what they would actually vote on that wouldn’t impact the design timeline in a negative way.  After some discussion we agreed that allowing the public to vote on the “theming” of the pool would be the best option.  In order to generate creative theming ideas, the team went to three after-school programs to talk to various groups of children. The students came up with many ideas some even prepared drawings.

We began realizing we had an interesting problem at hand. Once the theming ideas of video games, Minecraft and zombies came up, all other ideas seemed to be of little interest.

Our team continued on the path of meeting with other school groups but time and time again zombies came back to life.  Our team was quite nervous about opening a zombie-themed project but needed to respect the process that we chose, we finally uncovered some more original ideas and ended up with our top six ideas to vote on.

Egyptian
Games

ConsensusDOCS vs. AIA Construction Forms

By |September 29th, 2011|

It has long been a contention in the construction industry that the American Institute of Architects (AIA) Construction forms have been biased towards design professionals and they place too heavy a burden of liability on the shoulders of contractors and owners. To that end, in 2007, a new set of construction and design forms were developed called ConsensusDOCS. While AIA Construction Forms and ConsensusDOCS share many more similarities than differences, there are some key differentiating factors that your firm should be aware of before you choose one over the other.

It’s a common perception in the engineering, design and construction realms that AIA Construction forms favor architects, and to some degree, this is true. It lacks a specific definition of the relationship between the design professional and the owner and it places less responsibility on the architect/engineer with regards to the interpretation of the architectural plans during construction. In other words, a design professional can claim they are not liable for design flaws in the actual construction because their design “inferred” a certain construction element be used when it clearly wasn’t during the time the building was under construction.

Because of the perceived favoritism of AIA Construction forms and the more neutral (both parties share responsibility for design implementation) ConsensusDOCS cover contractors better, the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC) has decided to back ConsensusDOCS and it has not officially endorsed AIA Construction forms since 2007.

In fact, ConsensusDOCS were developed by a group of contractors, subcontractors, owners and estimators, so one could argue that the new set of documents favors the interests of these parties over that of architects and other design professionals. This is seen in the clear requirement of the subject of insurance coverage [...]

Apps – Using Technology to Make Your Job Easier

By |September 7th, 2011|

The first time I saw an app was from the IT Director on a project during construction. He proudly showed me his level on his new Iphone. I advised him that he might not want to bring that out during the next OAC meeting. This initial experience and many following left me underwhelmed by the possibilities of this new revolutionary technology but times have changed and so has my opinion.

We have been using our phones for communication be it texting, email, and live video (showing consultants field conditions in live format) for some time but the field of applications has changed immensely and is continuing to evolve. Recently I was on a site walk with a client and we were trying to determine where the property line might be, comparing a concept drawing to a google map on my phone was ok but didn’t give me the confidence that I needed. Upon returning to the office I searched for an application that might help solve the problem. What I uncovered was an App called “pocket surveyor” which would have allowed me to answer the question of how big is the site, we would have been more productive in the meeting and we would have been adding more value to the client.

This led me to look into what other apps in the AEC industry might add value, here is the initial list.

Pocket Surveyor – Great for taking measurements on site. I haven’t tested the accuracy of it, maybe it will tell the client how big the conference room they are meeting is which always seems to be a question that comes up during design.
Heavy Construction Calculators – [...]

11 Reasons Why You Should Hire an Owner’s Representative

By |August 3rd, 2011|

Communication:

You have a team of experts with your architect, contractor, legal, and accounting team but who sees the big picture? Having an Owner’s Representative facilitates communication across team members in a timely fashion. Note, the owner’s can often times be the culprit of why projects are delayed; an Owner’s Representative can assist on preventing these delays and miscommunications.

Cost Savings:

You hire an accountant to do your taxes and often their efforts often return results that cover their fees. Owner’s Representatives should not make a claim that they will save their entire fee through their efforts but it is a rare case when their involvement does not result in savings to their clients. Like an accountant you also are receiving piece of mind that your project is following industry protocols reducing your risk.

Time:

You as the Owner have a job and most likely it is more than full time, adding a large capital project just increases to the burden of your daily responsibilities. An Owner’s Representative will not replace the owner but they will do the heavy lifting related to project management that will allow you to be engaged and informed without being overwhelmed.

Software and Information:

A reputable Owner’s Representative will have implemented a project management software that allows the exchange of information and filing of records. As the owner you need access to information and it shouldn’t be housed in third party office. An Owner’s Representative will manage countless documents on the owner’s behalf.

Translators:

The Architecture and Construction Industry is more than guilty of acronyms and terminology that is industry related. An Owner’s Representative can assist owner’s on continually reviewing the goals of the project and walking them through the [...]