Rome wasn’t built in a day. It took a team of people working together to create the empire that ruled the world for centuries. Every farmer, laborer, mathematician, and soldier needed to communicate with each other to accomplish greatness. And they didn’t even have text messaging or the internet.
We talked with Jim Stephen, Account Executive for Construction Solutions at Microsol Resources, an Autodesk reseller. Jim helps general contractors and construction management firms across the U.S. refine their workflows, and he will explain the basics of enabling more communication and collaboration between project teams.
Effective communication makes construction and progress possible. Before starting a large project, leaders need to utilize the tools available to create efficient communication channels for everybody involved. This gets difficult for architecture projects that seem larger than life, but it can be done. Here are some tips on enabling communication and collaboration between teams.
Every member of a team plays an integral role. However, someone needs to actively lead the team. The leader takes on the most responsibility, but they also feel the greatest sense of reward for a job well done. When setting up a team project, you have two choices: allow the team to delegate responsibilities themselves or delegate responsibilities for them. Either way, establish every person’s role at the beginning of the project to ensure everyone understands their expectations as well as who to report to for questions.
It can be hard to picture the ultimate goal at the beginning of a project. However, every member of the team needs to keep the end result in mind from inception. Give everyone the opportunity to see the big picture goal and make them feel a part of the project to motivate them with a sense of pride. With the big picture goal in mind, establish smaller goals that will get the team to the finish line. Allow all team members to walk across the finish line together, despite the size of their contribution.
Show, Don’t Tell
Complicated projects, such as in architecture, require detailed, clear descriptions that team members can assess as necessary. Emails and conversation don’t always convey the message in the fullest way possible. Give your team the tools to showcase their ideas in a tangible way with the help of Autodesk Revit. Autodesk Revit provides an impressive and helpful 3D model of the current project with much more detail than any other option available. This model comes in handy for presentations and construction, from the genesis of the project to the final ribbon cutting.
No one has time to micromanage a project step by step. However, any leader should have time for concise, regular updates. Check in on progress as often as appropriate (once a day, once a week, once a month) to ensure things are on track. Delegate one person to turn in the updates. It’s also wise to check unexpectedly from time to time. Regular updates will make you aware of any delays or problems so that you can address them as quickly as possible. Clarify what items require immediate attention outside of the regular check-ins.
Teams work better together when they know each other. Encourage teams to bond by providing team meals or taking everyone out for a drink at the end of the week. It’s also a good idea to encourage expression and fun on the job to keep people upbeat and smiling while working together. Each person on the team has a unique personality, and celebrating each team member for who they are as a person can help people learn how to best communicate with each other and who is best suited for each job.
Allow for Flexibility
Sometimes teams evolve differently than expected. One person may find that they and another person should switch roles in order to best showcase their unique talents. Another person may decide that the group messenger app can reach the team more effectively than emails. Don’t fight natural change, especially when the change can produce better results. Allow flexibility when it comes to roles, communication, and processes. However, put clear rules in place on how to make changes. If a team decides to talk once a day instead of once a week, get the change in writing to prevent miscommunications.
Not every team member will agree about every detail of a project. Disagreements can lead to hindered progress if not handled properly. However, disagreements can also lead to productive dialogue and growth when people know how to handle disagreements. Clarify in the beginning if the team leader will have the last say on all conflicts that pop up or if conflicts will be resolved with a vote. Every team member should be allowed to express their opinion while respecting the chosen conflict resolution process and making decisions clearly and quickly.
In the rare case when team members cannot reach a resolution to a conflict, team members should make a decision on how to move forward. Don’t be afraid to speak to a superior when someone is negatively impacting the group as a whole.
Ignite Friendly Competition
People work best when someone else gives them a run for their money. If two teams must compete against each other to create the best design, they may work a little harder to beat the other team. This will lead to better results on both ends. Teams can also learn from each other to make the next design even better. The pride of creating an amazing design should motivate most team members. Of course, it’s helpful when teams have a monetary reward. If a client can only pick one design, but you have three teams, they will work hard to win the project (and the compensation).
Every project eventually comes to an end. At this time, gather the team together to critique the end result. Stellar work deserves recognition, while subpar work requires additional training and possible admonishment. Don’t only analyze the team as a whole but also each individual member’s contributions. Have every person report on successes and difficulties. Reflecting back on how the team worked can provide insight on who showed leadership skills and talent as opposed to those who merely performed adequately.
With great communication, the team will stand together as individual parts of a well-constructed building.
Jim Stephen is an Account Executive for Construction Solutions at Microsol Resources based in New York. He is focused on delivering the Autodesk Construction Cloud portfolio to help general contractors, subcontractors, and construction management firms across the U.S. help refine their workflows, reduce risks, and maximize their profit margins. He has over five years of experience delivering software solutions to international and award-winning architecture, engineering and construction firms. He is an avid reader, a lifelong learner, and is passionate about the built environments.