In the AEC industry, it’s not uncommon to have several different companies — sometimes 20 or more — working on the same project. Dozens of people, each with their own priorities and agendas, are involved in decision-making. Because of this, working together can get complicated — even heated, in some cases.
That’s why communication and collaboration are crucial in AEC. When everyone involved in a project is on the same page, the entire process runs smoothly and you’ll see better outcomes all around.
On Episode 17 of Digital Builder, Eddie Campbell, COO at ABSI (Accelerated Building Solutions, Inc.) and Tyler Campbell, Vice President, also at ABSI, join us to discuss how construction pros can increase cooperation within projects. They’re also co-hosts of the Construction Brothers Podcast, a show that delivers fresh ideas that industry professionals can use to improve their careers, projects, and people.
As a construction company that provides modeling and detailing services, Eddie and Tyler often sit ‘down the chain’ in the projects they work on. This gives them a unique perspective on the interactions between stakeholders and how collaboration can be improved.
The topics we touched on include:
- Ways to improve the bidding process
- Effective management styles
- Where subcontractors are empowered to improve collaboration
- Tips for successfully navigating contract disputes
“The thing that has gotten me out of the most trouble during my career whenever things get heated is going and talking with the other person; looking somebody in the eye is always helpful.” — Tyler Campbell
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3 Takeaways on Collaboration Best Practices in Construction
Here are three best practices that construction pro’s should consider implementing to ensure smooth communication and collaboration in their projects.
1. Reduce barriers to accessing important information
Teams that lack easy access to key project info will struggle to articulate their needs due to a lack of confidence in next steps. With risk mitigation as a top priority in any construction project, confidence in decision-making is key. This is why owners should encourage and enable more transparency throughout a project. This is especially important during the design phase. When stakeholders have more visibility into design progress, they can provide meaningful input earlier in the process, which saves time and improves project outcomes.
“After having spoken with a group of owners recently, I think the number one thing that we need to work on as an industry is transparency. That’s one thing that owners desire, particularly in design,” says Eddie.
To truly open up lines of communication, you need to instill a sense of trust and collaboration. Many construction professionals focus on protecting themselves first when getting into new projects. This needs to shift into a collaborative mindset if teams want more transparency.
As Tyler puts it, “It’s the [self-first mindset] that has caused us to really have this brokenness in the industry that I see.”
“I feel like the trade aspect of things is that we’re pushing these designers and we’re giving them great tools. But the designers still don’t quite know how a building goes together in a lot of ways,” says Tyler.
“I think a big push for us is saying, ‘Alright, let’s get passionate about preaching that this is how we build now.’ The only thing that will drive better design is a better understanding of how the systems work.”
What this boils down to that is teams and individuals should help designers and stakeholders understand what truly goes into constructing a building. This is the “rising tide lifts all boats” mentality, and it’s a good one.
2. Leadership should empathize with processes that aren’t working
Empathy and humility go a long way in collaboration. This is especially important when leading by example. By taking time to understand where other stakeholders are coming from, you’ll come up with better solutions on the same timeline, if not faster, and reduce the stress caused by lack of alignment.
If a process isn’t working, for example, it’s on leaders to recognize and correct the course.
“Being humble enough to change our processes is something that, I think, we’re going to continue to have to go through over the coming years as we find new ways of delivering projects under these demanding schedules,” says Eddie.
Regular check-ins can also help teams better understand each other and ultimately be more collaborative. In fact, initiating one-on-one conversations with stakeholders can be incredibly valuable.
As Tyler puts it, “the best teams are the ones that do check-ins. They don’t need to be like, ‘Big meeting, big everything.’ Just pick up the phone and talk to somebody. Ask them how it’s going and what you can help them with. Let them know that you’re there when they need you. It’s not complicated, but slowing down to do that is sometimes pretty hard.”
3. Invite feedback from more people early in the process
Give more contributors a seat at the table. This doesn’t mean making everyone a key stakeholder. Rather, it’s about inviting contributions from others up and down the chain. Doing so will give you a more holistic understanding of what needs to be done.
Getting everyone on board early ensures that stakeholders have a clear idea of project scope, timelines, and deliverables. That group knowledge helps reduce miscommunication and delays down the road.
“The best projects that I’ve gotten the chance to be a part of had project managers, senior project managers, superintendents that were seeking to understand the problems,” shares Eddie.
According to him, these projects were a refreshing experience because he and his team sit down the chain, and typically don’t get a seat at the table.
Eddie continues, “Those have been the best experiences for me, where people are invited to the table, and then problems are solved, rather than fended off.”
His sentiment is clear. Whenever project teams invite feedback from more stakeholders, they tend to be more collaborative and effective in achieving their goals.
Listen to the full episode for more AEC insights
In addition to collaboration best practices, we explored other topics with Eddie and Tyler, including how to improve the bidding process and what management styles work best in construction projects. Check out the full episode on your favorite podcast platform.