Riding a road bike gives one plenty of time for reflection. When the pandemic hit, resulting in the quick and subsequent shut down of life as we know it, my husband and I pulled out our road bikes. During those cool March days with snow still on some supposedly plowed roads, the focus was all about getting the leg muscles working in new ways and staying on the bike when we encountered wet conditions. Now, some 3,000 miles later, while rolling through undulating hills and bucolic sod farms in western Maine – where you’ll definitely see cows and horses and are more apt to encounter a bear or a moose than another biker – and climbing thigh-punishing notches in northern New Hampshire, I have had plenty of time to ponder the state of the Architecture/Engineering/Construction (AEC) industry – where it’s been, what it’s gone through, and where it’s headed.
The AEC industry was built on collaboration. We work together as teams to solve client’s and society’s infrastructure problems. Collaboration is the tagline of every AEC firm. It is a ubiquitous word on websites, qualifications, and even how firms talk about themselves. From co-locating to Integrated Project Delivery (IPD), it’s become the mantra of the industry. But guess what? It’s not new. Going as far back to the 1960s and 1970s firms were co-locating and using IPD. Collaboration is a process that permeates the industry as it is the foundation of how AEC firms operate and thrive.
Check out these lines from just three design-firm websites:
“Design is a collaborative human endeavor.”
“Our architects and engineers sit side-by-side and collaborate on a daily basis.”
“Our collaborative approach fosters excellence.”
Definition, Goals, and Requirements of Collaboration
Miriam Webster defines to collaborate (verb) as to work jointly with others or together especially in an intellectual endeavor. A process that gets better over time, results improve as groups build relationships and become more fluid. With a goal of collective success, collaboration is sharing and developing each other’s ideas.
Participant Requirements Include:
- Willingness to find solutions
- Recognizing other’s strengths and weaknesses
- Giving credit to teammates
- Actively listening to concerns
- Taking responsibility for one’s mistakes
But what happens to team success when, due to Covid 19, we cannot co-locate? We are working from our basements, our kitchen tables, our spare bedrooms. Studies show meetings are up 15%, and remote meetings are less productive than in-person work sessions. Employees are Zoomed out. Attendees can’t always get their point and ideas across during a call because too many people are talking at once. Instead of teammates striving for a common goal, we have individuals shutting down and tuning out. It’s not, however, all bad news. Our work world is constantly changing, and there are ways to improve during these strange times.
Here are Five Tips to Increase Collaboration:
- Skip the umpteenth Zoom call. Meet with your partners outside for a walk or sit on a park bench and really talk about your goals, your project, your plan.
- Pick up the phone and have an one-on-one call with a teammate. Discuss enhancing work at a distance.
- Ask your client to meet you for a socially-distanced cup of coffee. Stop telling them ‘I’m here for you’ or ‘we’re all in this together.’ Ask instead, ‘how can I help?’
- Virtual meetings, as in-person, should have a facilitator. They are the MC of the call, and it’s their role to make sure all viewpoints are heard.
- Don’t give up. Don’t focus on the futility of the current situation. Rather, look for the turning point that’ll lead us to better days when we can truly connect and collaborate again.
Stay tuned for future Musings, including: Did the Pandemic Kill Kindness? And, Stop Wearing Your Pajamas during a Zoom call!