This Post is by Jon Buerg.
A while back, an article I wrote about history repeating itself when it comes to our profession’s embrace of BIM generated a nice bit of discussion, and a single quote really stood out to me. Shoegnome reader Phil Allsopp may have just made the analogy of the year when he wrote, “One other pet peeve of mine is to hear architects…talk about their ‘CAD guys’ or ‘BIM technicians’…It’s the same thing as someone touting themselves as an orchestra conductor but they can’t read music or play any of the instruments before them.”
I (and several others) had a strong reaction to that analogy, which is to say that I thought it was friggin’ awesome. I’ve been thinking for a while about why I think that quote is so awesome, and that thought exercise lead me to write this article.
Part of what Phil addresses with his comment is the wedge that gets driven between the management and production folks at an architecture firm. On the management side of the wedge, you have professionals who handle everything but the production work. And on the production side of the wedge you have professionals that do all the production work (and hopefully also gain exposure to the some of the tasks of the management side for IDP or training for career advancement). So, you have management bringing in work, defining a scope for that work and setting a budget to get the work done; usually with little to no working knowledge of what it actually takes to get the production portion of that work completed. It’s not hard to see how all this can leave the production side thinking, “hey, WTF!”
If anything, it seems like the emergence of BIM in architecture only serves to drive the wedge deeper. Now we have management speaking in hyperbole to clients about BIM, or asking why the front end of the production work is taking longer than it used to in the good ol’ days. What a mess. At this point, I feel like I should be crafting a killer analogy to drive the point home, but I don’t need to because Phil did that already. Perfectly.
As I’ve advanced in my career as an architect and taken on increasing levels of management, I’ve made a conscious effort to always stay informed and reasonably competent in the latest technology that drives production work. Even when I think I don’t have time to learn or practice by doing some production work, I remind myself that it’s my professional obligation to be competent in all aspects of practice. Then I get down to that production work and I realize it’s also a great way to establish and maintain relationships with those who are at earlier stages of their careers and are hungry to learn more. And then I think back to the start of my career and I remember that my favorite management people to learn from were doers when it came to the production work, too—and they stayed that way throughout their careers.
So to all of you on the management side of the wedge, roll up your sleeves so you don’t wear out the elbows of your shirts from all the mousing and keyboarding as you learn (or re-learn as the case may be) how to draft in the 21st century. Preferably in a BIM environment. Preferably from a talented production staffer that is eager to learn from you as well. Then commit yourself to keeping up with this production work and understanding that you may be a teacher, but you have to learn from those you teach as well. That’s how this works. Got it?
There’s a business rationale behind removing the wedge too. When management has a first-hand understanding of what goes into the production work and how the technology behind that work functions, it has a funny way of creating better outcomes for project delivery, even increased profits and a more stable workplace in the long run. All sorts of amazing realizations will happen for management when they start to understand what it really takes to produce the deliverables for the projects they are managing.
Finally, for all my production peeps out there I say to you, hang in there. Some of us in management have figured this out or will figure it out after reading this article. If you’re still not seeing change, go find a great architect out there who will help you — they do exist.
A special thanks to Phil Allsopp for the fantastic analogy that made me think!
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