BIMBeing: The Journey #1
#1: A Royal assumption…
The first topical post, we got there eventually.
This one comes from a recent conversation that I really cannot forget. We’re talking RIBA Plan of Work, and because we’re slightly odd and we enjoy such things, we’re conducting a friendly yet solid debate. And then it happened. A single remark, dropped without hesitation, that immediately null and voided all preceding arguments.
My fellow debater says, and I quote: “Stage 3 is practically the same as Stage 4”. Stunned.
First and foremost, if any two stages were practically the same they would quite simply be a single stage. This could be confidently said for almost any topic separated into clearly defined steps/sections/stages. The second point, and the burning question, is where on earth did that claim come from?
This example summarises perfectly something we’ve all seen and heard far too frequently; I classify these occurrences as Assumed Knowledge.
Assumed Knowledge will undoubtedly continue as a topic through many of my future posts but for now, the RIBA Plan of Work is a truly great example. The stages are right near the top of my industry list for things that people simply assume they know, because everybody knows them, right? You ass-u-me wrong.
How many people have read beyond the graphic and the titles? How many could quote, with accuracy, information other than a heading for any of the stages? To some extent, we’re all guilty of this crime. We often overlook the detail because we’ve seen a diagram, we’ve dropped it into a conversation or we’ve cited it in an email and we therefore assume that we posses that knowledge. You could be wildly off the mark, but if you never read the detail and are never caught out whilst ‘bluffing’ then you may never know that you’re wrong; it may not even be a conscious choice.
It’s a real issue, and it has serious repercussions, especially when we’re talking Plan of Works. “First developed in 1963, the RIBA Plan of Work is the definitive UK model for the building design and construction process” (RIBA, 2013). That’s over 50 years of getting it wrong. The stages are a core feature in virtually every construction project and that makes this lack of thorough understanding even more distressing.
I’d summarise the POW as this: requirements and responsibilities over time. The stages on their own are not a detailed scope for throwing up buildings, but they are a comprehensive set of guidelines for planning them. There are three key words here which are a plentiful source of project conflict:
- Requirements. What exactly should be delivered?
- Responsibilities. Who should be delivering it?
- Time. At what point in the project should it be delivered?
If we solved these we really would get bored through lack of argument. There are unrelenting shouting matches conducted daily on these topics alone, and yet so many could be avoided should we better understand the information we have; better understand the RIBA Plan of Work.
Being the ghost that I am means I have no affiliations, especially to the RIBA, which means I can comfortably answer this: is the POW perfect? Of course it’s not. Has anybody ever described a standard as perfect, unless of course they are the author?
Perfection of the framework or standard is not the answer. We’ll never have a one-size-fits-all when the industry is so varied in it’s output. Achieving perfection is therefore relative, but we can all do more to get there: Start with a thorough understanding, truly posses the knowledge without assumption; follow with the addition of sound supporting information, plugging any gaps and allaying any uncertainty; top if off with a robust agreement between parties that enforces, without reasonable doubt, the duties to be executed. It’s much easier said than done, but it sounds a lot like perfection to me.
The question I leave with is how? How do we do it? This goes far beyond the topic covered here, it’s everywhere, and I personally haven’t witnessed the sort of widespread improvement that we desperately need. How do we up-skill the industry to combat Assumed Knowledge? Well, hopefully there’s more on that to come.