Going Through the Motions

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January 27, 2020


Discovery, Healing, Learning

By Chase Miller

Examine your processes to determine why they’re in place and whether or not they’re worth your valuable time. If they’re not, they may need to be changed or abandoned.

Do you ever feel like you’re just going through the motions day in and day out? The seemingly endless monotony of filling out forms and templates only to file them away in a folder or a drawer never to be seen or heard from again. Your wheels keep spinning, yet no matter how hard you work, you are not moving forward. There must be more productive ways to spend your time, but nevertheless the process must be followed.

This is so often the story of how we work in the AEC industry. From how we take meeting minutes, to the management of changes and the execution of contracts. It is crucial to understand how these processes impact our business, for both better and worse. Let’s look at a few questions to ask ourselves about our processes and activities.

  • What is this activity or process being used for? This critical first step is to identify what the document/process is being used for. Is it triggered by another process, or does it activate future work downstream? What is the end result, and the purpose of this activity? What information is being captured or created, and what is the value of this information?
  • Who will be impacted by this activity or process? It is necessary to think about who is affected by the completion of this process or activity. Perhaps the process yields data that will be leveraged on future work, or maybe the activity is an effort to mitigate risk. What may not add value to your own work may yield significant value for someone else.
  • When will this activity or process be used/completed and with what frequency? Timing will make or break a process. Doing work out of sequence will result in unnecessary waste and rework. Does the activity happen once, or is it a reoccurring activity that evolves as it moves forward? Will the work that is generated be used regularly, or will it only be used once? Where does this activity or process fit into the overall process timeline? Perhaps it will be more effective and impactful if it is accelerated or delayed.
  • How will this activity or process be used? Thinking about how this activity or process will be used downstream impacts the way you work. How will the work or information you generate be used? Will it be filed away for record in case you need it, or will it influence action items for others to act on? In either case, you must consider how you work based on how your work will impact the project or business.
  • Why is this activity or process important to the project/business? Lastly, we must understand the why. The why is arguably the most important question to answer and should point back to your vision and mission as an organization. Is this activity or process propelling you forward toward your vision? Does it enable you or does it inhibit you from achieving your goals as an organization? Without the why your work loses its impact and will result in activities and processes being skipped, corners being cut, and lack of buy-in from your team.

If we stop and ask ourselves these questions about our internal, and sometimes external processes, we can gain clarity and insight into why things are done a certain way. Just because an activity or process appears on the surface as a waste of time, that does not necessarily mean it is. You may not benefit from the result of your work, but it is likely that others do. Much of what we do in this industry is geared around working as a team, and we cannot isolate processes and view them in a silo. The way we work is evolving. Design is becoming more commoditized, and clients are expecting more for a fraction of the cost. Everything we do must add value to our work. If we are unable to identify that value then the process needs to be better understood, changed, or in some cases completely abandoned.

Chase Miller, senior architect, at BSA LifeStructures. He can be reached at cmiller@bsalifestructures.com.


*This article was originally posted in “The Zweig Letter”