BIMBeing: The Journey #31
#31 – An empty promise…
Photograph by Casey Allen from Pexels.
Something I experience time and time again, particularly from a contractors point of view, are empty promises and hollow assertions from consultants and contractors. In order to win work or keep meetings moving, the default answer to everything seems to be “yes, we can do that”. Whilst I’m a strong believer of a positive attitude (see Post #29), these false assertions are of no benefit to anyone.
Typically I would lay a lot of this blame on the smaller companies, the SME’s. In my experience it’s been these smaller consultancies and contractors that will try their hand at anything, whether they understand it or not. But I’m being a little naive here; stepping back from that opinion, the blame can lie at the feet of the ‘big boys’ too.
I was actually inspired to write this article by a headline I saw in the industry press this week. The story, run by Construction News (that I previously recommended in Post #8), was from the new UK boss of Atkins; Richard Robinson. He is quoted saying this: “I say to my staff: ‘If you wonder whether we do something, assume we do, and then go and ask questions’”. Well, Mr Robinson, you may be far more senior than I and with an undoubtedly greater level of experience, but I have to whole-heartedly disagree with this philosophy. For me, this level of assumption is a significant part of the problem; to hear it from somebody that’s right near the top of the industry is nothing short of concerning.
If you don’t know, don’t guess – assumptions are as simple as that (see Post #1 for assumption). Asking questions after an assumption has been made is simply too late, the damage is likely to have been done by that point. Imparting that assumed knowledge becomes just another empty promise when it turns out to be incorrect. As a main contractor we see this constantly, as I’m sure many others will have, in two typical scenarios:
- When a consultant or contractor is bidding for a job. The answer to everything is yes (although sometimes with the caveat of more money). At this stage, everybody says that can do everything, they’ve done it all before and nothing is too much trouble. This is especially notable when discussing digital requirements and BIM; everyone is an expert at the bid.
- During ongoing project meetings, usually when discussing new workflows or requirements and almost always when the meeting attendee is of a senior level within the company (and often less aware of what happens ‘on the tools’). Again, this is especially prevalent when it comes to BIM requirements; false assertions are incredibly common, usually because that person simply does not know the detail of the requirement and whether or not their team are capable and/or experienced in delivering it.
In either case, they always come back to bite. A contract is awarded or a process is agreed, everyone is content and the project wheels keep turning. That is until it comes down to delivery, when we need to action what has been promised and there we have it, “oh, no we can’t do that” or “actually, we’ve never done this before, we’ll have to find out how”. Either we’ve employed the wrong people or we’ve agreed the wrong process, either way it’s now too late; without the capability to deliver what was planned we’re now in dispute, and of course in delay.
These assumptions plague our industry. They’re a formidable source of disagreements, delays and frustration as plans get hinged to empty promises and unachievable methodologies. I fully understand that in such a competitive industry nobody wants to have to say they’re unable to do something, but false assumptions and assertions are nothing but counter productive. Honesty is, and will always remain, the best policy.
This really is an elephant and the mouse situation; I am far smaller (metaphorically speaking) than the boss of Atkins, or any other company director for that matter, but it’s irrelevant. We must all challenge the opinion that unfounded assumptions are in any way acceptable, let alone advisable, no matter how ‘big’ they are.
Ask questions first, posses real knowledge, and always be honest regarding abilities and experience. This paves the way for accurate planning and the implementation of effective, achievable processes whilst avoiding endless disputes and delays. Such a simple requirement that, if anyone dared to adhere to, would benefit the entire industry. We need the ‘elephants’ to clear the jungle and lead the way, so that the ‘mice’ can follow suit – not the other way around.
Apologies Richard, it’s really not personal. Your article was just in the right place at the right time (for me).