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Magnetic fieldby Ian Cartwright

Last Wednesday evening I attended a CPD/networking event at which the speaker was Ron Gibson (Go Networking, Perth WA) who spoke on how to network effectively. Ron delivered an excellent, interactive presentation that used active audience participation to demonstrate the basics and how comfortable and easy it can be. The result was the noisiest, most interactive CPD event I have been to this year, and as a direct result of it, I have two meetings set up.

So to pay it forward, I want to share some takeaways from Ron’s presentation. Particularly welcome to me was the affirmation of some of my good practices - though there was also recognition of my not so good practices, and the dispelling of some commonly-heard practices. I recognise we are all different and operate differently, but Ron’s methods resonated with me and I will be adopting them.  Anyway, here are some ideas for you to ponder:

Effective networking is a skill, not an instinct

Companies rarely teach, coach or mentor on how to network effectively. Managers or your boss generally just expect you to figure it out. People do need training, coaching, feedback and support to learn to network well. The sink-or-swim method is not appropriate. They might not drown, but they will certainly not win any Olympic medals – and they may even take down a few others with their thrashing around.

Networking is about building relationships and trust

Networking is neither the venue to attempt to sell nor the form for distributing as many business cards as possible. Networking is simply about getting to know people. When the often self-inflicted, sometimes company-instigated, ‘selling pressure’ is removed and the focus moves to simply engaging in conversation, you can relax, be yourself and enjoy the process. It is amazing what mutual interests you can find and talk about with only a little effort.

Having worked with major construction disputes for many years I have seem a common theme in the genesis, escalation and difficulties with resolving disputes. Most often the core issue is a breach or loss of trust, the manifestations of which include failed memories, broken promises and changing interpretations of events. Trust was once implicit in professional dealings and still is in certain cultures. In western cultures it seems caveat emptor prevails over implied trust. Starting from a base of getting to know someone can provide a good foundation for implicit trust – and people work with people they trust.

Networking is the art of making people feel comfortable

Making the relationship requires a soft approach. Remember you are not selling anything!  In most network settings everyone is a seller: the chances of selling to a seller are pretty slim, so be a giver rather than a taker.

‘Working the room’ is a bad idea

This was my top takeaway and one that vindicated something I have long believed. ‘Working a room’ is bad practice. It is an insincere numbers game where, in order to get to the ‘right people’ (who may not be the right people because you simply don’t know), you dismiss many along the way. You may make one ‘good’ contact this way, but you’ll likely leave behind many people holding an unfavourable opinion of you.

The Three (well, four) Golden Rules

According to Ron these are the four things you must do:

  1. Every day without fail reach out to someone you know and have a friendly conversation. The objective is to simply stay in touch. It is essential to stay in touch during the good times. However, the call must bring some kind of value.
  2. Be remembered. Once a week for 40 weeks a year proactively do something nice for someone.  Buying opportunities regularly go to the last person in the mind of the decision maker.
  3. Once per week (minimum) go somewhere to meet new people.
  4. Finally, and above all, be yourself. You cannot be sincere if you are acting.

I found this immensely valuable and hope you too.

Happy networking.

By Darwin Barus, Consultant, Perth

A construction project is a moving feast. Changes are almost always required along the way, and this can lead to misunderstandings and conflicts.

Negotiation is an essential process for parties to a conflict to resolve their issue without having to proceed to court. Whilst there are a number of definitions of ‘negotiation’, its essence boils down to two distinct characteristics: it is a process, and it is a form of communication. To succeed using this process/communication method, it is essential that you know how to negotiate. Generally, there are three key principles for which each party should take into account when negotiating a conflicted issue.

Identify conflicted matters

This is the most important element of the negotiation. The parties coming to the negotiation should know what the conflict is about. It is not surprising that the parties sometimes do not really understand the main conflicted matters. In reality, it is not uncommon that those involved in the negotiation are not the project team members who have good knowledge of the project. Therefore, the main conflicted matters may not fully be understood. It is suggested that the person who represents each party (or negotiator) identifies what the precise matter that needs to be resolved.

Trade concessions

During the negotiation it should be kept in mind that each party should not always give but give with return to trade concessions. The best approach to this principle is to give as little as the party is able to ensure that it achieves value for money. The rationale is that giving too much may cause one party to undervalue the opponent’s gift and always expects it to give, give and give. In other words, each party should consider making offers and counter-offers. The key language which signifies that one party is ready to trade concessions is “If you…..then we…..”.

Move at a measured pace

In the event that the parties agree to trade concessions, it is crucial that they move at a measured pace. What it means is that they should not concede too much and too quickly. Ideally, they should stop at a point where the move is sufficient to promise hope of reaching settlement for the conflicted matters. In practice, each party should work out the settlement that it would “like to get” and “should get”. In simple terms, what is the maximum and minimum in order to reach settlement?

In most cases, each party will often move from the offer that it would like to get to the offer that it intends to get to reach settlement. That is the offer between the “like to get” and “should get”.

By following the above principles, you will benefit from securing a good negotiation outcome.

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by Mary Casey

In construction – or any complex human endeavor for that matter – a variety of professionals with highly specialised expertise and skill sets have to work together. You want to be confident that an expert’s advice is carefully considered, specific to your circumstances, and clearly explained. Whilst you do find people who do this very well, if I asked you to think of a time when a consultant delivered something far below these expectations, I’ll bet it wouldn’t be too hard for you to think of an example.

We come up with all kinds of excuses for it: ‘They’re time-poor’; or ‘Their fee is tight, so I guess I really shouldn’t be surprised’. Being time-poor or fee-constrained isn’t really the issue. Deflecting instead of assisting, pushing clients away with ‘pat’ answers instead of working to understand their specific drivers and objectives – these are real red flags. They signal a problem with the degree of alignment between personal and professional objectives. As managers, we all have the opportunity to contribute to this alignment, and it’s clearly in our best interests to do so, as its importance is increasingly being shown to be the key to unlocking exceptional job performance.

In a recent workshop with Bill Reed at the International Living Future Institute Conference in Seattle, we talked at length about motivation, effectiveness and fulfillment. They presented three ‘levels of living’:

  • Automatic
  • Responsive
  • Purposeful

When we are on automatic, we’re just going through the motions: getting up, brushing our teeth, getting on the train to go to work. We’re not even necessarily mentally present; these things just happen as part of a routine.

When we’re responsive, we’re in knee-jerk mode. We’re not planning ahead; we’re being buffeted by whatever comes across our desk at any given moment of the day. We feel powerless and overwhelmed, so most of our responses are not coming from a creative place that’s interested in finding solutions, they’re coming from a place of past experience which may or may not be completely relevant.

When we are purposeful, we are 100% mentally present, acting in alignment with our personal beliefs and philosophy, and therefore providing high-value thinking for the time we are concentrated on a particular task. In his book, Drive: the Surprising Truth about What Motivates Us, Daniel Pink talks about the power of this alignment, sharing a number of examples of companies that have provided the space for their employees to discover what motivates them about work – with amazing results. Pink says, ‘Human beings have an innate inner drive to be autonomous, self-determined and connected to one another. And when that drive is liberated, people achieve more, and live richer lives.’

This isn’t really new; Stephen Covey has been talking about it for years in his Seven Habits book. The reason you don’t see it everywhere is that it’s hard work figuring out to help your colleagues be autonomous, self-determined and connected – all in more or less the same direction. It’s risky, but worth it. As Tom Kelley, General Manager IDEO, puts it: ‘The ultimate freedom for creative groups is the freedom to experiment with new ideas. Some skeptics insist that innovation is expensive. In the long run, innovation is cheap. Mediocrity is expensive.’ (I would argue that any group composed of humans is by definition, ‘creative’. This potential exists, regardless of the task.)

Pink, Covey and Reed agree that unlocking potential starts with the individual…and the first individual to look at is you. If you have a consultant who doesn’t seem to want to do their job, ask yourself: Did I invite them into the questioning part of the process, allowing them to apply their creativity to help me define the desired outcome? Or did I make the brief so prescriptive and/or problem-focused that I boxed them into a corner, shutting them down before they even had a chance to think about it?

If you want people’s best work, they have to feel autonomous, self-determined, and connected…which means that as a manager, you have to practice levels of awareness that demonstrate you are acting purposefully. Reed offers some advice on how to put this into daily practice:

  • Shut up and listen
  • Stay out of automatic mode – check yourself – if you’ve heard yourself say it before, it’s probably auto mode
  • Put yourself in their place
  • Let go of control
  • Make the process about defining the effect we want to have in the world; co-creating in a state of unknowing, collaborating about potential, not problem-solving
  • Become a questioner
  • Hold on to the not-knowing, the empathy, sympathy, wonder
  • Practice it all the time – with coworkers, family, everyone.

You will have to practice to get this right, no doubt about it. But these techniques have enormous potential to make your life much more enjoyable, rewarding and effective. Covey recommends selecting someone you know and letting your designated Guinea Pig know what you’re doing – tell them what you’re trying to achieve with practicing the technique so they can tell you if you’re straying from the path, and ask them to tell you how they think it went afterwards. You’ll find you are compelled to keep practicing, because the results were so much better that you can’t go back.

Being the client (or representing them) doesn’t mean you get to sit back and wait for the creativity to come to you. Being an active, passionate and purposeful manager is the way to get autonomous, self-determined and connected consultants.

bigstock-technology-eye-scan-radar-15983603by Ian Cartwright


What do the following have in common?

A “rare” Greek statue, purchased by the Getty Museum’s purchase for nearly $10m, that turned out to be fake.

1. Predicting, from an hour long interview, which couples will and will not stay married.

2. How to prioritize potential heart attack victims

3. A fire fighter retreating from a strange fire that saved his crew from certain death.

4. Warren Harding, arguably one of the worst US Presidents.

The answer: all of these stories feature in Blink by Malcolm Gladwell. These and other examples illustrate how a skilled and experienced person was able to identify, literally in a blink, that which eluded (or eludes) others armed with extraordinary amounts of information. Most would recognise this as intuition but would be unlikely to take decisive action based upon it. Blink tells us this could well be to our disadvantage.

Blink puts intuition on a sound scientific footing and provides an extraordinary and illuminating insight into human cognition. In doing so, it forces us to look at the way we use information to make decisions and challenges many of our prejudices. Blink encourages us to think smarter and trust our inner decision making.

Intuition- what is “it”

Many people have it. Basketball players have ‘court sense’, Napoleon had ‘coup d’oeil’ (power of the glance), birdwatchers have ‘giss’ and detectives have ‘hunches’. All of these synonyms are essentially describing skilled intuition. Jack Welch summed it up in the title of his book, Straight from the Gut.

Regretfully, these synonyms cloud with suspicion what is a very real human ability. Blink shows us that with some exceptions we all have this ability and routinely use it without knowing. Unarmed with the knowledge presented in Blink, we are unable to explain our intuition and are reluctant to understand and acknowledge it. It is a human trait to dislike saying that we don’t know. Instead we prefer to look for an elegant solution even if it is inaccurate. It satisfies us as an individual and – perhaps more appealing – it will likely satisfy our would-be cynics. An elegant solution just makes us feel better. Consequently we pay too much attention, and assign too much weight, to grand themes and pay too little attention to the intuition stemming from fleeting moments.

Information – for better or worse

Today we are faced with incredible amounts of information and are unreasonably expected to consider it all. Anything less is likely to be met with disdain and in the extreme could be the basis for allegations of negligence. The real problem today is that we frequently have too much information and that information leads to ‘analysis paralysis’. This expression is anything but trite.  Blink demonstrates vividly how too much information slows down the decision making process while regularly yielding no discernible improvement in the quality of the analysis.

Consequences of this are decisions that take too long to make and fewer decisions being made. Neither of these scenarios is desirable yet they are both far too easily accepted. Through powerful examples Blink demonstrates how valid and useful decisions are possible through examination of a cross section of the available information. The crucial skill is to identify what information is the most relevant and pertinent for making the decision.

Human cognition

Blink asks us to acknowledge there can be as much value in the blink of an eye as in months of rational (i.e. conventional) analysis, based upon the theory of thin slices. Thin slicing refers to the ability of our unconscious to find patterns in situations and behaviour based on very narrow slices of experience. The psychologist John Gottman used this methodology to predict with 95% accuracy which couples would and would not get divorced based upon a one-hour session.

Blink presents other experiments with similar results that prove, by minutely dissecting interactions and circumstances, that the human mind clearly collects and analyses information that can be interpreted rationally.

An everyday example is our interpretation of body language, particularly facial expression recognition, and Blink indirectly explains why movies such as Toy Story, Shrek and all other modern animations are so ‘real’. The makers of these films, Pixar and Dreamworks, use the extensive research of Paul Ekman and Wallace Friesen, who catalogued approximately three thousand facial expressions, to create a taxonomy of facial expressions covering the full range of human displays of emotion. Modern animations are so believable because we intuitively recognise and relate to the mimicked expressions. However, when we move away from the human habits and have to make decisions about more abstract constructs, we lose trust in our intuition despite there being no difference in the process.

When we make intuitive decisions we are recollecting prior experiences, reinterpreting and applying them to the current circumstances. Our subconscious is actually very good at thin-slicing and often delivers a better answer than more deliberate and exhaustive ways of thinking.

However, because we do not experience this process consciously, we are unable to rationalise and therefore accept it. The process simply happens too fast. (This is somewhat ironic, given that we rely daily on our computers to do exactly this, i.e. process large quantities of information at seemingly impossible speeds.)

Our brain is at least comparable to our computer yet we are afraid to trust it and are often discouraged from doing so. We are diminishing the value of experience and know-how in favour of codified standards. Blink convincingly concludes that intuition is unfairly castigated and I agree.

Information and decision making – less is more

Notwithstanding the above there are examples where we might unquestionably accept that more information is better – medical care, for example. Given that a life could be at stake and medical malpractice being an omnipresent and expensive risk, one could be forgiven for virtually demanding the need for more information. However, Blink demonstrates that too much information – even in a medical care scenario – can have a negative effect on decision making.

Blink explains that we do not need to pay attention to everything that happens (this should not be surprising, it is essentially the Pareto principle or 80:20 rule); we need to identify the most important information. In the famous Cook County experiment, a county hospital with major resource challenges developed a radical approach to prioritising patients suffering symptoms of heart attack. Brendan Reilly recognised that too much patient information interfered with doctors’ ability to predict heart attacks. To ease the doctors’ burden, he developed an algorithm involving only the most important and immediately relevant information to make the prediction. Its accuracy and success was unprecedented, completely exploding the myth that the quality of decision making is related to the amount of information available.

To emphasize the point Blink cites another famous medical study conducted by Stuart Oskamp. This study showed that with increasing information doctors became more confident in the accuracy of their diagnosis. The fact was there was no change in the accuracy of the diagnosis and their confidence was greatly disproportional to the accuracy.  We are being coerced and cajoled onto being information junkies and our addiction is perhaps literally killing us.

We are human

Blink reminds us we are human and the ways humans work. We think in patterns and images and we learn by example and direct experience because there are real limits to the adequacy of verbal instruction.

Verbal overshadowing occurs when we attempt to codify into words that which we know instinctively. As a result our actions or decisions frequently do not comport with our verbalised intents. This is routinely observed when comparing house purchases and selection of partners which frequently vary considerably from what we said we were looking for. Why? Largely because we didn’t truly know what we were looking for until we saw it. Well, our subconscious knew.

Patterns present themselves in distinct ways and we come to recognise them. Equally, we draw great inferences from what is not there – what is ‘missing’. In each case we may be unable to articulate the pattern recognition.


Blink concludes that truly successful decision making relies upon a balance between deliberative and instinctive thinking. The circumstance determines the balance. In a life threating situation instinctive thinking must prevail. With more time, we can spend more time deliberating but must recognise the risk of ‘analysis paralysis’.

Whichever circumstance we face we must learn to be more trusting of our intuition: it is a fundamental human characteristic; it took a lot of experiences to develop and it will often be more accurate than other information which often only creates self-doubt.

Application to construction, dispute resolution and adjudication.

There are countless examples where we could make improvements by embracing some of the suggestions in Blink. Here I reflect on a few applicable from my experiences.

Construction is a dynamic process and requires dynamic decision making yet all too often we suffer analysis paralysis. This is driven by the ever-present fear of making decisions that might have ‘consequences’ and the relentless inquiry into who is responsible and who owes what. Is it important? Of course, but as a barrister once advised when talking about the law, if you follow what is intuitively correct then chances are the law (or the contract) will be on your side. Whilst not the most technically robust statement I believe it was insightfully accurate and prudent counsel.

Parties to construction contract do need to be more dynamic in their decision making. To do so requires mutual trust, and allowing people to exercise reasonable intuition. Intuition is after all the product of experience and a construction project requires an incredible amount of experience.

Dispute resolution is about the substance of and parties to a dispute. It is multi-faceted involving ‘the facts’ of the dispute, storytelling, gamesmanship and strategy. Perceptive intuition is invaluable in dispute resolution. With skill and experience a good practitioner can intuitively assess the strengths and weakness of a dispute, distinguish a credible storyline from a stretch, weigh up the people on ‘the other side’ and as a result, effectively advise on strategy.

The best intuition is that borne from experience managing construction projects and negotiating their disputes. In this regard construction experts play an invaluable role in construction disputes because they appreciate the whole picture. They provide intuition on performance, the contract, costs, programme and the claim.

This intuition is valuable in its own right as well as using it as the basis for developing or defending a claim. Intuition allows a party to hit the ground running.

Adjudication is an excellent example of Blink principles applied to a practical setting. Typically in adjudication the amount of information is comparatively small compared to what would be available at litigation or arbitration. At the same time, many adjudicators may not have the extensive legal experience of a judge or barrister, though many do in my opinion have adequate legal experience or education for their role.

With limited information adjudicators make decisions upon what I believe is a mix of the information they are supplied interpreted in connection with the contract, and their experience or intuition. Of the many disputes adjudicated here in Australia, the UK and elsewhere, only a small percentage are pursued further. So much so that adjudication has been responsible for a significant decline in formal proceedings.

Clearly those involved in construction disputes are satisfied that there is adequate information for an adjudicator to render a fair determination and that opening the matter up again would be fraught with the danger of analysis paralysis.

bigstock-molecular-structure-38773771For too long, we have seen the environmental movement through a conflict lens: ‘This is a war. There is a battle to be fought for the planet, it’s us against them’ – and because so much is at stake, the intensity of the fight is often raised to extreme levels.

Over the 10+ years I have been working as a sustainability specialist, I have come to the conclusion that the answers we seek are not technological. They are personal, social and psychological, and if this is going to work, then these answers are going to have to be collaborative and connecting. It’s about changing the brief for ourselves as a species. We’ll all have our own preferred methods to use to get there, but we have to agree on the destination, so we need to focus on what we can agree on and start from there, instead of debating the detail and swirling around in a whirlpool of wasted energy and no results. What sort of future do we all want to be a part of?

I recently attended the International Living Future Institute’s UnConference in Seattle, which is the annual meeting of their membership. It was an incredibly energizing and inspiring three days of talks, of which probably the most familiar names to you will be two of the keynotes: David Suzuki and Paul Hawken. Both of these guys are heroes of mine; indeed, Hawken’s book, The Ecology of Commerce, was the catalyst for the transformation of my career from architect to sustainability advocate. Both of them exhorted the assembled to think differently, to act differently. To work for what we share; to stop fighting; to reconnect with the world and each other. It was kinda something to hear these two icons of environmentalism saying that it’s time to ‘come together’. I personally found it deeply inspiring and empowering.

Here’s a brief summary of their key points.

David Suzuki’s key message was about the way we think about our world. The key insight we need to achieve is that we are not separate from the world. When we all live in cities, we get to thinking we are separate and the economy becomes our highest priority, which is fundamentally incorrect. If you can change the rules of a system, then it’s not the governing system. The rules we cannot change are those of nature. It is ridiculous to design something that does not acknowledge these rules – designing structures assuming infinite spans, for example. In biology, it is the same. We have to work within the rules, and the rules are: we are animals; the biosphere is finite; and we rely on the biosphere to survive. If we agree on this as a starting point, then how do we design an economy that aligns with that reality? Borders mean nothing to water, or fire, or plants. ‘The market’ is a human construct, not a force of nature – which means we can make it bend to our demands. We need a new perspective. How do we change the way we see our place in the world? In closing, he said, ‘It’s not “too late”. We don’t know enough to say that it’s too late. We must have hope. Back off and give Nature a chance, and she can be far more forgiving than we deserve. But we gotta back off fast, and let the regenerative potential of nature do its work.’

Paul Hawken’s message was similar, beginning with the statement that ‘working towards the future changes the present’. He described our current condition as ‘catastrophising the future’, which is a cultural narrative that is not helpful. Most people are numbed by it. For most people, it is easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism. Clearly, we need to change the discussion, so how do we do that? Start from absolute first principles: This is about supporting Life, and Life creates the conditions that are conducive to Life. We need no other mantra, no other rule. If we operate according to the principles of Life, the key realisation is that no one is ‘in charge’. No political party, no corporation – which means that you can’t wait for anyone else to take care of it. We each need to work. It is also absolutely true that Life’s primary method of getting things done is collaboration. Our bodies are communities of 90% non-human cells that all work together. So the first thing we need to do? Stop fighting. Realise that we are all part of the solution. Work together to shine a light on what is wrong – without blame – and do something about it. So the next time someone wants to debate with you about: ‘Is there such a thing as climate change?’, move the conversation to: ‘Do you accept that there are limits to the system upon which we rely for Life?’ It’s a different conversation from that starting point. ‘We can’t solve our problems with the same thinking that created them’.

Confrontational, adversarial thinking is the thing that is messing up progress for just about every important thing in the world at the moment. If we make sustainability a political discussion, or a ‘sided’ discussion (which unfortunately, we already have), we’re toast. This is not a debate, it’s a design discussion. Discuss. :)

bigstock-Summer-landscape-with-green-gr-15348293This day was originally established to commemorate women’s suffrage, and has historically been used to highlight the ground we still needed to cover to reach equality. Of course there’s still work to do, but the day is now shifting focus at least in part to a celebration of how far we’ve come.

We thought we’d do something to mark the day, so we asked the McLachlan Lister staff to share stories of female mentors as part of that celebration. We got responses about moms, aunts, daughters, wives, teachers, work colleagues and friends, which I guess just goes to show that inspiring women are pretty much everywhere.

So here they are – have yourself a dollop of inspiration on us.

Jo Veitch: My very first manager after graduation was a woman for whom I worked for over two years.  She held a very senior position in a very old-school, male dominated London organisation and was a great inspiration to me. She didn’t hand out praise very easily and I had to work hard to earn her respect which I valued greatly.  In return she taught me how to be completely professional at all times and to be an equal to my peers – both male and female. She mentored and managed me but never controlled me and gave me room to grow and develop which I believe I did significantly in those two years. She also had children, a little later in life like me and demonstrated that it was possible for a woman to pursue a successful career balanced with a healthy family life – she was, and still is a devoted mother and highly respected and well-liked professional. Twenty years later we are still in touch, we exchange Christmas cards and news. She is always happy to hear how my career has progressed and how my family is growing and I am keen to hear how her business is going – she went on to set up her own business. I should probably tell her one of these days what an inspiration she has been to me.

Leslie Butterfield: One of my biggest mentors was my Mom. No, she was not a professional, but was the one who packed up our family of four kids and repeatedly moved us to the far flung parts of the globe; setting up homes and taking care of all the arrangements (in the days without the internet and very sparse telephone options!). She had no assistance, no friends or family in these locations, and very little help from my Dad who was busy working, frequently remotely. She often didn’t even speak the language. Facing ambiguity? When you don’t know what something is going to be like, and don’t know anyone who can tell you, just be flexible and take it in stride! Fearing change? No problem – change is good. Embracing new places, cultures, challenges? You bet – make the most of it and learn what you can. Needing to be self-sufficient? What choice do you have.  Fitting in? Take people for what they are, don’t pre-judge, and know that everyone has something to offer. Facing an inhospitable environment? Look for the good parts and know that others have it way worse off than you. In essence, Mom taught me to (in today’s lingo) ‘suck it up’; to be brave and take on challenges and risks; to not rely on others to make things work; and most of all – to enjoy the journey. Thanks, Mom.

Junitha Giles: In my previous company I worked in a competitive all-male (apart from me) environment. More recently I have been working in teams which include more females and I have to say they have shown me the value of developing solutions in a collaborative manner, both in terms of making it more enjoyable, and also achieving the best outcome.

Alex Birchall: During my time at University, I used to pick my subjects on a whim, sometimes only looking at the course name and not much at the detail. Studying History & Politics, you generally got what you asked for: ‘Australia Politics,’ ‘20th Century Japan’…the list went on. However, one particular subject caught me by surprise. I can’t remember the exact name of the subject, but what I initially thought would be an average history subject turned out to be a study of how and why buildings are heritage listed. After attending my first lecture and tute and finding out the course outline, I was ready to run. I’m glad I didn’t. The two women that ran the course had an infectious enthusiasm for the subject and encouraged me to explore the history that I was interested in. My professor was well read and only used notes so the students could keep up. My tutor was different, she was patient and practical. We went on my first ‘excursion’ since I was 12 and we experienced history as opposed to just reading about it. I learnt a lot of valuable lessons during the course which helped me with the rest of my studies and in my working life. I did quite well in the subject and put together my favourite university assignment - but I don’t think I would have stayed a week if it wasn’t for the two women running the subject.

Kimberley Lamb: Anamaria has been a mother figure to me since I first started back in November, 2011. She is my mentor here in Brisbane and is always encouraging me to improve and step a little outside my comfort zone each and every day. Recently we started working out at the gym together in preparation for my wedding in October. She pushes me to reach beyond my limits and listens to my whinging about how much it hurts! She is an inspiration to me every day. She is such a strong person, yet she’ll openly share her vulnerabilities, a personality trait which only emphasises how caring she can be. She is always there to talk to, and she will always make time to help anyone. She is continually pushing me to grow, and is always looking out for my interests and puts her own second. Her generosity is limitless, in the kindness she shows to others, and her selflessness in all aspects of her life. She will be sorely missed when she goes back to America and I hope that one day I will be half as amazing as she is.

Kate Benchoam: My inspiration is my daughter Emily. It is hard to believe a 12 year old, can teach, counsel and inspire another person who is more than 30 years her senior. Emily was born wise. She already came with knowing eyes that had travelled this world before. Her calm demeanour, resilience, extraordinary enthusiasm for anything that is thrown at her, and mature outlook, never ceases to amaze me. Her ability to bounce back from any situation, whether it is a disappointment, people problem, or health issues is far beyond her years. She will always see the best in others, and has the strength to walk away when she should. She approaches any set- back with great determination and optimism of how she can make things better.  I often find myself discussing my problems with her, and she will intently listen, and provide very sound advice.  She will always finish off with a special look, and an ‘it’s ok mum, everything will be fine’. Our life is always chaotic, and we are generally over-committed with activities that seemed like a good idea at the time.  When I am the one having a tantrum, she is the one calming me down, and making sure that everything will eventually happen, even if not quite as we planned. I draw such inspiration from my daughter; she will become an amazing woman.

Steeve Poligadu: Life is neither a midsummer night’s dream, nor a tempest - but a comedy of errors that we play as we like it! When I met Tasnim 15 years ago, I was having to choose between a career in politics or pursuing my engineering career. Not only was she always huge moral support to complete my undergraduate degree, but she followed me in Australia and put up with me through 10 more years of studying. During this time we lived as poor students in Melbourne and Sydney and she followed me through some of the smallest towns in WA, 2 beautiful children and a lot of debt. Had it not been for my wonderful wife, who knows what might have happened? The thing is that we always have to make choices in life and in business. The decisions we make are inherently dependent on the influences of the people who are closest to us. A mentor is someone who helps us believe in ourselves and become who we are. I am grateful to my wife for being still my most influential mentor whose wisdom helps me make the most positive errors in my life!

Mary Casey: The first female mentor that comes to mind (besides my Mom) was my Aunt Nina. She was an art dealer from New York City – and impossibly windswept and glamorous to me, a little Texas girl of 14. I wanted to be an artist back then, and when my Grandmother took me to NYC to see my Uncle’s studio a couple of years later, Aunt Nina took me under her wing: playing tour guide for whatever museums I wanted to visit; bringing me to gallery openings and shows; and talking me through the processes of the art business. We were pen pals for a couple of years after that. It was an important connection for me – a great example of how you can guide without pushing in any particular direction (especially since I ended up going for architecture); just helping to create the circumstances for self-discovery, and supporting action once the insight had happened. I hope that I can be half as good a guide to my niece, Penny.

Thanks to all the women in our lives; Happy International Women’s Day. prepared a 2012 annual report for our blog – we did pretty well for our first year, with over 5,000 hits!!! Very excited.

Here’s an excerpt:

600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 5,300 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 9 years to get that many views.

Click here to see the complete report.

urban rush hourby Mat Stoddart

It’s 2013, and BIM has survived the turn of the year, with awareness and adoption throughout the construction industry continuing to rise.  Much of the rhetoric around BIM is often the well documented advantages such as  coordination and clash detection, reduced re-work, 3D visualisations, integrated programme and cost data and some of the perceived barriers to implementation such as contract and legal issues, software interoperability and high investment and training costs and many more.  As such, this blog isn’t going to dwell on the advantages of BIM, and it will hopefully allay some fears about some of the perceived barriers to implementation.  The simple fact is that BIM is coming, BIM has the potential to improve the efficiency of the industry beyond recognition, and BIM is something we should all be excited about!  Perhaps what we don’t know yet is that the change to utilising BIM on projects is all about people.

To successfully implement BIM, we need to establish the changes in dynamics and behaviours across the construction supply chain that are necessary to enable the industry to realise the full benefits of BIM, and embrace fully collaborative project delivery.  Only when this is done will we truly deliver the benefits that BIM can achieve, and start to realise dramatic cost savings (upwards of 20%) on project costs.

To learn to model is (in simple terms) just learning a new IT package, whether it be for designers, planners, clients or cost consultants.  Defining the protocols of how, what and why things are included at various stages of a project is something we have always done in construction.  It is true these may need some refining to suit BIM, and will take some further tweaking over the years, but this is nothing new to construction, and should not be seen as a barrier to progress.

Legal issues around contracts and copyright also appear to be regularly overstated, and distract from the bigger challenges.  Designers will generally contribute what they always did (only in a different format). What they are required to contribute will be in their schedule of services like it always has been.  The detail required at different stages may alter slightly, but as noted above, this is nothing new to the industry.  Most software tracks who contributes what to a model, so it is fully auditable.  CDP items will again be easy to track and the requirements of what contractors are to design will be defined as they are today. There may be an increase in early contractor involvement through procurement routes such as two-stage tendering, but again this is not a barrier to implementation.

So with this in mind, nearly all standard contracts need very little amendment to accommodate BIM.  A recent article by Peter Hibberd in the February 2013 JCT Newsletter (Joint Contracts Tribunal – one of the most commonly used forms of contract in the UK) supports this view, noting in regards to new contractual relationships that they ‘need not be significantly different from those currently used’.  With the potential for all construction information to be contained within one model, it’s possible that a contract can just refer to the model, and not hundreds of drawings and specifications.  And if the forecast reduction in post contract change is regularly achieved, perhaps construction contracts will in fact become simpler as a result of BIM.

If we can accept that the IT side of BIM shouldn’t cause a problem, and that contractual issues are fairly simple to overcome, then we are left with people – the biggest challenge to BIM implementation.  As noted earlier, we need to change the dynamics and behaviours of the whole construction supply chain.  People become very used to the processes by which they work, and to change them can be difficult.  Perhaps the most obvious example related to BIM is 2D drawings. Many ‘BIM Requirements Documents’ (the document that sets out how BIM will be used on a project) refer to the provision of 2D drawings at various stages, usually for review and sign off.  Why spend time and effort to produce a coordinated, up to date 3D model, and then cut it into hundreds of drawings that are out of date the minute they are produced?  I can only presume it’s because ‘that’s what we’ve always done’. We need to encourage people to use the model as intended. Reviewing in a model environment offers countless benefits, not least the obvious 3D visualisation, but also having all other related items such as specification and cost data available at the click of a button.  2D drawings are just one example of a behaviour that we need to change.  We need to learn to work fully in 3D, which includes commenting, approving, tendering and contract administration etc.

Another example of significant behaviour and process change is for quantity surveyors in the industry.  Early rhetoric around BIM and QS’s mooted whether the role would die out with the uptake of BIM.  Far from this, if QS’s embrace BIM, there is an opportunity to contribute more to a project than was previously practical due to time and resource constraints.  David Mitchell, QS for Mitchell Brandtman, has recently published an article about the role of 5D QS, and the need to act now to develop the behavioural and processes changes required to ensure cost is fully integrated as part of BIM.  Mitchell notes that by correctly implementing BIM, ‘instead of spending 90% of available QS time calculating quantities, an experienced 5D QS spends the majority of time applying wisdom and intelligence to generate savings and efficiencies’.

There will be many behaviours and processes we need to amend to maximise the benefits from BIM, affecting much of the construction supply chain, requiring collaboration from all sectors of the industry.  Moving to BIM is a change that needs to be managed, not simply imposed on various parties.  Understanding the industry from project inception through to handover and FM will help to manage this change, which is why I see it as vital that Project Managers are involved in driving this change.  As PM’s are often involved from project inception to post-handover, with direct interfaces with the client, consultants, contractors and many more,  it makes sense they are involved every step of the way in helping to identify changes required and assisting in this change management process.

Now that BIM is firmly on the radar for most in the industry in Australia, there is a real opportunity to focus on the key behavioural barriers to implementation, and not get distracted by issues of contract and IT, which, whilst valid, are not as earth-shattering as many suggest. These are areas the industry has successfully resolved before, and will do so again.  Change is never easy, but the potential of BIM for this industry is almost unlimited, with the integration of cost data, programming, environmental assessment, O & M’s, PPM, construction logistics and much more. There are of course issues with implementation that cannot be ignored, such as computer processing power, internet speeds, software interoperability, supply chain maturity and many others, but these, like the contract issues, will get sorted.

Those are the easy bits. If we neglect the people, we risk making the most exciting change to the construction industry in recent decades a painful experience for all….stay tuned for Part 2, in which I’ll talk about how we might make the people part of the solution, instead of treating them like the problem…

by Leslie Butterfield

It appears likely that most major economies will remain in a period of low, zero or negative growth for some time. Historically, however, the operating model for these economies (and indeed for most private companies around the world) is often reliant on continual growth for success. This dichotomy creates obvious challenges.bigstock-Monarch-Butterfly-Freshly-Emer-3391468

Additionally, there is little doubt that the world is facing a new era where we must finally confront the over-utilisation of our natural and financial resources and our uncontrolled population growth. There are growing concerns that we do not have enough food, enough clean water, enough energy, enough capital, and enough even dispersal of advantage. Unless these issues are addressed, global unrest is likely.

The concurrence of these pressures indicates that it might be time to re-evaluate this need for continual growth, and adjust our models so that across the board we in fact do more with less.

Rather than the thoughtless consumption of resources and disposable consumer goods, is there merit in seeking ways to use less, and in smarter and more sustainable ways? Can we value high quality, sustainably produced products that last? Rather than just relying on an ever growing in-flow of natural, human and financial resources to feed our broken “machine”, can we not turn our energies to improving the productivity of the utilisation of these resources? And if so, who will lead this charge? Our innovators will. These are the people who can turn their minds to solving these problems.

Innovation is not just invention – it is also the derivation of better ways of doing things; the making of new connections between existing products, services, or processes, and novel changes in business models to adapt to a changing environment. Innovators don’t necessarily create something new; they can also improve, adapt or transform something that already exists. The need and potential for innovation touches every sector and every business.

Nor should innovation be relegated to certain people or isolated special departments: it should be cascaded throughout organisations – in companies large and small, in governments, in institutions. Everyone can and should participate in the innovation process.

And as a society, we should strive to make innovation mainstream, and value it highly. In Australia, we need to better raise the awareness of the absolute necessity of innovation for our future prosperity. We need to more generally realise and accept the risks that are inherent in trying new ideas. Failure should not be seen as a bad thing, but inertia should be. We need to better drive cross-sectoral collaboration and knowledge sharing. We need to make more visible the support that is already available from the government and other sources, and make the channels to access these programs more generally evident. More companies should endeavour to constructively utilise this assistance and most importantly, support innovation.

Rather than only exalting the heroes of today, as a society let us support and recognise those who can improve processes, develop new products that contribute to society’s improvement, or find the ways to do more with less.

This is the time to get excited about the future – to recalibrate and make real advances. We should celebrate the amazing ideas that are generated across all our industries and parts of our society, and encourage them. I am fortunate enough to sit on the Board of UniQuest – the commercialisation powerhouse that represents a broad spread of the novel ideas coming from select universities – and it is inspiring to see the developments that Australia can produce. Business needs to connect with such bodies and look outward as well as inward to identify the people who can help improve their products or operations. The media must ensure – and the public should demand – that innovation is one of the big stories that is continually highlighted.

by Mary Casey

When I was at uni, my summer job was waiting tables in a diner-type restaurant that served burgers and salads and a variety of fried animal parts with chips. It had a great reputation, based on good food and good service. I was studying to be an architect, and didn’t consider that this job would in any way inform my ‘real’ career. I think back on those summers a lot, and shake my head with admiration that guys running a burger joint could be so good at managing teams, and how much I learned from their example.

Here are just a few of the lessons I learned that I try to practice. Thanks, guys. You taught me well.

You and Your Team

Don’t come to work if you aren’t in the right frame of mind to work – At the start of every shift, the manager would say something like, ‘If you don’t want to be here today, go home – we’ll cover for you. If you’re not in the mood to be cheerful and welcoming to our customers, you’ll do more harm than good. If I see you not smiling, I’ll send you home, so if you can’t get happy in the next 15 minutes, just hang up your apron and I’ll put you on another shift another day.’

Good service was our key responsibility, so we were reminded of it at the start of every shift. It was okay to have a be having a bad day, just not on the clock.

Everyone’s job is important – Each role on the team contributes to the outcome. No one gets a license to be rude or put on airs. You’re not more important than the guy in the kitchen because you’re out on the floor and he’s in the back (or vice versa). It is all one team to the customer. Make sure everyone knows their value, and treat them like you know it, too. As the waitress, you can smile as sweet as pie, but if the burger is undercooked, they’re not coming back. It could be a great chicken fried steak, but if you have an attitude, they’re not coming back.

Practice respect, have fun, keep it positive, and everyone has a good day.

Everyone has part of their role that is necessary, but not glamorous – Each shift had a list of tasks that needed to be done during, and at the end of the shift – fill the chip warmer, replenish the ramekins next to the salsa bucket, keep the coffee machine brewing, replenish the glasses next to the soda machine, etc. At the end of the shift, someone had to marry ketchups (I don’t even remember the other end-of-shift tasks, I hated this one so much it’s erased the memory of all the others). Each person got a different task every shift. Everyone shared the burden, and as a result you only had to marry ketchups about once a week. Hoo-wah.

Make sure no one in your team is taking on too much of the ‘not glamorous’ stuff – and that no one is seen to be exempt, or ‘above’ it. Yeah, you have a master’s degree. That’s awesome. We still need to take out the trash, and guess what? It’s your turn, buddy.

The boss is there to help you - The manager was required to know how to do every job in the restaurant (including the preparation of every item on the menu). He told you this in your training – not as a boast, but as a reassurance. The point of this skill requirement was so that the manager could step in and help anywhere the system was stressed. He would run food, make salads – whatever we needed – he was an extra pair of skilled hands, waiting to be deployed, not a taskmaster simply supervising, and definitely not sitting back in the office counting the money.

A manager leads the team, but is still part of the team, so be ready to dive in and assist whenever and wherever your team says they need you.

Everyone helps when you’re in the weeds – ‘Being in the weeds’ was the distress call when you were overloaded. You might get ‘slammed’ by the hostess, seating your station with three 4-top tables at once. It was okay when taking orders and serving drinks, but when it was time to run the food, you could find yourself short of hands, even with a tray. Everyone on the shift was trained that when someone said they were ‘in the weeds’, if you could help, you helped.

Who was getting the tip was irrelevant. It was about making sure you looked out for your colleagues, and that what the customer saw was a smoothly running team.

Everyone gets a turn to be the boss – Cleaning up your station at the end of a shift was a quality control issue, enforced by the shift captain. You couldn’t go home until you’d cleaned the tables, refilled the sugars, salt and pepper, and swept up. When you thought your station was shipshape, you checked with the shift captain. They would inspect your station, and give you permission to clock out and go home. Sometimes people in this role would abuse it. They could find real or imagined issues with your station to make you stay longer. This temptation was mitigated by rotating the role throughout the staff. Since you could be shift captain the next day, people didn’t play power games – well, not more than once, anyway (karma’s a kicker).

Passing the lead role around fosters mutual respect within the team. Team members are less likely to think it’s safe to ‘kick downwards’ if they know tomorrow they will be ‘downwards’. In addition, letting people have a responsibility that gives them some power over their senior colleagues is good practice for one day leading a whole team. Make sure there is a good feedback loop – whether it’s 360 reviews, or self-reflection with a mentor.

Everyone needs a shake break – We made terrific chocolate shakes. They came out of a machine in the kitchen, and next to it was a little stack of paper cones that would hold about three mouthfuls of the heavenly stuff. We were told in our induction that we were entitled to ‘shake breaks’ during our shift. It was a great little pick-me-up in the middle of an intense shift – it took about a minute, but it gave you a moment to take a deep breath, get happy again, and go back out into the fray with a grin on your face.

If you have a job that calls for focused concentration, make sure your team members know they have permission check out for a couple of minutes and recharge – they’ll be more productive, and happier.

Managing Yourself

Just a few more observations – these have less to do with team management and more to do with self-management, but they’re still well worth mentioning:

When you’re in the weeds, announce it, don’t hide it (part 1) – Everyone on the staff can see it anyway. The point is to make sure the customer doesn’t see it. Call for help, and you’ll (probably – see ‘part 2′) get it. If you don’t call for help, your team doesn’t know if they should dive in or not.

Don’t be a lone hero when you know you’re part of the Justice League. Throw up the Bat Signal and get reinforcements.

When help is not at hand and you’re in the weeds, announce it, don’t hide it (part 2) – That first five minutes when people were sat at my station were critical to success. I had a couple of minutes’ grace while they settled in and glanced over the menu, but if they actually noticed I hadn’t greeted them yet, I was dead. Sometimes the whole restaurant was so busy that there was no backup available, but if I walked by with armfuls of food for another table and said: ‘Hi! Welcome! I’ll be right with you’, I got 5 more minutes’ grace, and happy faces greeted me when I came back to the table. If I walked past their table and didn’t make eye contact, when I eventually turned up, they gave me the evil eye and no tip, regardless of how attentive my service was.

Even if you don’t have the result your client is waiting for, if you’re going to miss a deadline, don’t avoid the conversation. Tell them BEFORE the deadline is passed. Reassuring them that you haven’t forgotten them is appreciated. (Then deliver ASAP – with free chips and salsa!)

Humans, man. What can you do? – People would sometimes be cranky with me for no apparent reason. They’d bark their order at me – no please, no thank you, no eye contact. When I first started, I was very sensitive to any potential error I might have inadvertently made, so I would walk back to the kitchen, reviewing the exchange in my head, wondering what I’d done to set them off. I’d come back with their drinks – amd they were still cranky. I’d come back with their food, put it in front of them – and all of a sudden, it was, ‘Oh, honey, when you get a second, could bring me back some ketchup, please? No rush. That would be great, thanks so much.’ What the…? Hunger. A-ha.

Yeah, sometimes it’s not you. Hang in there, keep doing a good job – eventually your client will remember their manners (and if they never remember their manners, just do your best and don’t take it personally).


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