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3 Things I Do (Plus 2 Things I Wish I Did) to Mitigate the Health Hazards of the "Desk Job" Part of VDC

Sitting is the new smoking.
I'm not sure of its origination, but I am loving this new tagline for our unhealthy desk-sitting and mouse-clicking habits. I actually share it when facilitating workshops:
Alright, everyone up to the board with their post-its. This is good for you. Sitting is the new smoking.
However, its been more than a schtick for me. It is a helpful reminder that I spend a significant amount of time at my desk, with shoulders hunched and wrists aching. This isn't a unique experience to me or anyone who works in VDC; I think anyone with a "desk job" can relate. Luckily, the new tagline comes with some really practice tools to mitigate:

Three Things I Do

  1. Stretch: About once an hour, I try to stretch my wrists and shoulders. Although I didn't plan it this way, I end up doing a lot of the stretches featured in this infographic.
  2. Breath: At least once per day, I try to take a few deep breaths. A lot of people talk about the benefits of meditation, but I rarely can focus that much! Instead, I just breathe. Early this year, as recommended by Fast Company, I downloaded and started using Stop, Breathe, and Think
  3. Stand: Between tasks and meetings, I stand up and walk around. Sometimes, its just to refill my water; other times, its a good opportunity to practice walking the four corners.  

Two Things I Wish I Did

  1. Stand: I know, I just said stand. But I'd like to take it to the next level with a standing desk. While visiting a colo in San Francisco a few weeks ago, I had a case of desk envy. See image above. I'll take one, please.
  2. Walk: I'm looking forward to warmer weather in New England, so I can take Nilofer Merchant's advice and start to schedule walking meetings. 
So what do you do to avoid "the new smoking"? Leave your thoughts in the comments or tweet them to me!

You might also enjoy:
How to Survive Colocation
Walking the "Four Corners"

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Is "Use BIM" a Project Objective?

Labyrinth by José Manuel from The Noun Project
I was recently on the jury for the Ballard Howell Lichtig Collaborators of the Year (COTY) Awards. One of the submission requirements was an outline of project objectives. There were a variety of responses, including but of course not limited to:
  • Establish and commit to a budget, schedule, and quality goals early on as a team
  • Drive Operational Efficiency through Lean principles in design
  • Use IPD and LEAN to deliver purposeful design, high value, and less waste
  • The new environment should [among other things] demonstrate stewardship of resources
This excerpt provoked a few questions for me, the most prominent being:
Should project objectives define the end results or the path to get there?
Projects objectives generally cluster into categories. The categories that apply to building projects (and likely other types of projects) are: Cost, Schedule, Performance, Regulatory, and EHS. However, in our Project Execution Planning sessions, we often talk about specific BIM Uses, Quality Control processes, and desired behaviors when we discuss Project Objectives. Although I'm sometimes the facilitator driving the discussion, I can still identify a few reasons why process doesn't fit in objectives.
  • It can unnecessarily constrain the team and put emphasis on the wrong outcomes.
  • Process objectives are often hard to measure. How do you know if the team achieved "use BIM"?
  • Teams are actually often willing to compromise on process, especially when held up against objectives such as cost or schedule.
At the same time, I see the place for process in objectives:
  • Since we are often willing to compromise on process, identifying it as an objective places it front and center.
  • Without identifying process objectives, we can get stuck in a rut - even if its a rut using an innovative technology, such as BIM.
So what to do?

Given the level of project delivery transformation and variation across the industry, I do think it is important to identify desired processes and behaviors. Several of the teams that submitted for the COTY award did exactly that - referring to those guiding principles as their "True North" or "Covenant".

However, it isn't enough to write these principles down or even enough to post them around colocation or project trailer - although you should probably do both of those things. You also should think about:
  • Checking: If nothing else, issue periodic surveys to a broad number of team members, asking them to rate the overall team's adherence to the desired processes and behaviors. Aggregate the data, post the results, and see how you're doing.
  • Adjusting: If the team isn't adhering to the desired processes or behaviors, do some adjusting. But first, think about where the team is "off course". Is it because they don't want to follow the process or that the original process is no longer a fit? You may not need to adjust the team's processes; you may need to amend your original plan.
What do you think? Is their a place for process in project objectives? Why or why not? Leave your thoughts in the comments or tweet them to me!

You might also like to read:
3 (Slightly Different) Ways to Define Smart
Motivation and Integrated Project Delivery

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Is the BIM Perfect?

Broken Computer by Dan Hetteix from The Noun Project
I have recently developed an obsession with failure. Actually, I don't think it's just me. Failure has become sort of a trendy topic...a sort of "failure fetish," as termed by The Atlantic. We all love the idea this Alli Worthington communicated so eloquently on the podcast Beyond the To Do List:
Failure primes the pump for success.
I really like the approach shared in a recent post from iDoneThis: Treat Failure Like a Scientist.
Your failures are simply data points that can help lead you to the right answer...If you're focused on building a new habit, or learning a new skill...then you're basically experimenting in one way or another. If you run enough experiments, then sometimes you're going to get a negative result.
So how does this relate to BIM? What are my negative "data points"? The post title gives it away - I'm a perfectionist. And while Fast Company shares ideas on the "good perfectionism", it occasionally means that I don't like to distribute things until they are perfect. Apply this to a digital model, with its near infinite number of sections, interfaces, dimensions, and attributes. Try achieving perfection before the project is done. Yeah, you can see how well that goes!

How can I treat my perfectionist tendencies like a scientist? Well, I've noted that it is a repeat behavior - and noted its negative impact on my projects. When I hold seemingly imperfect information too closely, others don't have the information they need. How to mitigate? Of course, I'm still perfecting that strategy, but I try to identify what is "good enough" for individual deliverables.

What is your negative "data point"? How are you (or could you) treat failure like a scientist? Leave your thoughts in the comments, Tweet at me, or email me using the form at the bottom of this page.

You might also like to read:
When Computers Fail

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How to Survive Colocation

I am a major proponent of colocation for project and internal teams....and to best honest, complete strangers. The open environment allows for cross-fertilization of ideas, exchange or information, and alignment of purpose. However, I sometimes find working in an open environment slightly unproductive. Recently, in order to conduct a colocation planning workshop, I reminded myself of some of the more successful tactics I've used to mitigate visual distractions and interruptions.

Headphones Are a Twofer

I use headphones for two reasons:

  1. To drown out disruptive noise. I often go with instrumental music (like my Dario Marinelli Pandora station), so that I don't end up distracting myself with lyrics. 
  2.  As a "do not disturb" sign. Both earbuds in means, "come back later". One earbud means, "Interrupt me if you need to". 

Conference Rooms and Phone Booths 

Yes, colocation enables casual exchanges that can lead to better design solutions. However, it can be difficult to have meaningful conversations with so many people around. I try to make use of adjacent conference room for private phone calls and conversations. Once its a little warmer, my teammates can also look forward to a few laps around the building while we talk. (Watch out FitBit friends!) Using conference rooms also eliminates the disruption from others trying to focus. And in a pinch or on a deadline, I book a conference room for the morning as a temporary office.


Schedule Your Week

Many teams end up building such an intense meeting schedule that they don't have time to get any work done in colocation. I actually use Michael Hyatt's ideal week concept to block out the following activities in my calender:
  • Weekly Preparation on Monday and Weekly Review on Friday: This is me time. No disruptions allowed for 90 minutes! I prepare for or follow up on meetings, process any paperwork, review goals and lookahead schedules, and clean up my action items list. Feels good to be organized 
  • Internal Meeting Mondays: I already had most department and internal meetings on Mondays, so I moved the outlier (VDC department meeting!) to 'batch process'. 
  •  No Meeting Fridays: That's right. I don't schedule any meetings on Fridays. I'm able to focus on getting work done, but also have time to enjoy sharing ideas with my teammates! 
I know that everyone doesn't have the luxury to block out time like this - especially no meeting Fridays! However, you might be surprised if you talk to your project team and colleagues. I've found that people are very respectful of my no meeting Fridays. And you may be able to inspire a team-wide no meeting day or at least identify smaller blocks of time for productivity and focus. 

 I've recently re-instituted some of these and am enjoying a little more productivity. And I think my 'neighbors' are enjoying that I'm a little more relaxed!

What are your thoughts on productivity, colocation, and the open office? How do you stay productive, but maintain connectivity to the group? Leave your thoughts in the comments or tweet them at me!

You might also like to read:

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The Myth of the Perfect Team


All of my life, I have considered myself a perfectionist. If something is 95% correct, I like to study the opportunity for improvement that the remaining 5% presents. So I was intrigued by a question a client asked me a few weeks ago. His project had recently wrapped up, and we were talking about his experience with and his reactions to the integrated team and technology implemented.
It was good. I wouldn't do it any other way. But it wasn't perfect.
No wonder he and I get along so well. We're part of the same club. His reaction was thoughtful and honest. It launched a conversation about the concept of the perfect team and the perfect..and posed the question:
Is there such thing as a perfect team or a perfect project?
While there likely isn't, I decided to think about it a little more and came up with the following characteristics for the perfect team.

  1. The perfect team is relative. Meaning, that my perfect team isn't necessarily your perfect team. Perfect is about fit. (Based on this, you can assume that the remaining characteristics may not apply to you at all!)
  2. My perfect team is diverse. They have complimentary skill sets, both technically and sociologically. 
  3. My perfect team is lively. They debate, they laugh, they have productive friction. To me, that is a sign of trust and passion.
  4. My perfect team is proactive. It is naive to assume that challenges won't come up. So they consider and keep in mind the potential paths and pitfalls. 
  5. My perfect team is action-oriented. At the end of the day, they make decisions and move the ball forward. They are intentional with their pauses and movements.
  6. My perfect team is resilient. When (not if) they hit a roadblock, they find a way to move forward and maintain focus on the end goal.

So that's my perfect team. What does your perfect team look like? Is there such thing as a perfect team? Leave your thoughts in the comments or send them my way on Twitter!

You might also like to read:
"Spinach In Your Teeth" Team
Why IPD Works
Three Rules for Innovation Teams

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Walking the "Four Corners"

I have recently become obsessed with morning routines. Not necessarily practicing one (although I'm thinking about it), but hearing about what others do. One of Tocci's firm leaders has a morning practice that is a routine for spontaneity. He walks the "four corners" of our building, to connect with whoever is in the office. He doesn't know who he will spend time with or what they will talk about. Sometimes the content of the conversation is the value-add. Most of the value (I'm guessing) is connecting with people overtime. 

Like many other leadership practices, "walking the four corners" can be used at all levels and positions. As I started to think about it more, "walking the four corners" creates two daily or weekly practices for project BIM Leads: 


4 Strategies to Help a BIM Zealot. #1 is the Hardest, but Best for You in the Long Run


A few months ago, I presented the concept of BIM zealots and opinion leaders at the CITA BIM conference in Dublin. Shortly after that, I received a note from a conference attendee:
I am starting the [BIM] journey you have taken with Tocci and hope to achieve [great things]... but unfortunately I’m a zealot too and I hope this won’t delay my journey too much.
Oh my, there is so much to unpack here. Let's start with clarifying what a BIM zealot is.
A few years ago, I attended a presentation on Behavioral PR. At the time, I wrote about how it reminded me of change management. One Behavioral PR strategy assigns individuals to a spectrum based on where they stand on a particular issue and idea.

The Zealots

On one side, people are zealots against the idea - about 10% of people. On the other side, people are zealots for the idea - another 10% of people. Zealots, on either side, are passionate. They believe. They know the details. However, they can be so strongly tied to 'their side' that they aren't able to see other opinions. Often times, that means they don't effectively persuade others to 'their side'.

I think about this in the context of BIM - our BIM champions are zealots for the idea. They want to innovate, digitize, clash, and prefabricate everything. And that is exactly what they do. However, they don't always successfully gain traction with those on the 'other side' of the spectrum.

The Opinion Leaders

The 8% in the middle of a population is considered an opinion leader on an issue. Opinion leaders may not be neutral to idea, but they are open to discussion and willing to change their opinion. Moreover, since they are 'opinion leaders', those individuals have the ability to sway the rest of the population. In the context of BIM, an opinion leader could be a more innovative and open minded project manager, superintendent, or cost engineer.

What if I'm a BIM Zealot

Before we talk strategies, I have to admit something that won't be a surprise for frequent readers. I am utterly and completely a BIM Zealot. Here are a few of the things that I have used to 'overcome' my BIM zealotry. I don't do them well all the time, but when I do...it works.
  1. Listen. Hear out people's concerns and comments. Listen without judging them or defending yourself. Be open to discussion without trying to convince them. If you aren't a naturally strong listener, this will take time to both practice and undo past behavior. Listening is a key characteristic of opinion leaders, so you may want to read about and test out some of 99u's suggestions for good listening.
  2. Pretend you don't believe. This step is in your head. Before you start to share BIM ideas with others, pretend that you don't believe. If you didn't believe in BIM, what problems or challenges would you see? Once you identify those things, figure out a solution. And don't shy away from them when you share your thoughts. Try saying something like, "While I was exploring this, I started to be concerned that our trade partners wouldn't have the technical capabilities to participate. So I reached out to a few of them and was pleasantly surprised that they have come a long way since last year."
  3. Identify 'jobs-to-be-done'. This strategy is perfect for a quick(er) win. Rather than trying to convince others to "to BIM", identify problems that you can solve using BIM. Innosight, an innovation consulting firm, uses this to help companies develop external products and services. You can use it develop internal 'BIM products and services'.
  4. Partner with an opinion leader. If all else fails, identify who the natural opinion leaders are. Using the techniques described above, work with them to understand the value - as well as their unique role in its success.
With these four strategies, you might define a very powerful new spot on the spectrum: the zealot/opinion leader hybrid.

Have you ever wondered if you are the most effective person to promote BIM within your organization? What strategies have you used to overcome your personal BIM zealotry?

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