Are you a communication facilitator or manager? Can you be both?

March 07, 2013 |
Sasha Reed

A commenter posed an interesting question to a recent post of mine: “Would you rather work with a facilitator or manager?” It is his observation that in our process to manage communication and interactions on projects we often times are more concerned with control than keeping everyone informed. This then led him to ask, “Do we really have a communication issue or a control issue?” Well, my question in response is, “Why can’t we have both?  Is there such a thing as controlled collaboration?”

One of the fundamental challenges for both project leaders and technology providers is this conundrum – how do you give access to all, reaping the benefit of shared information without compromising control? This is a very real concern whenever open collaboration is proposed in the AEC industry, or any industry for that matter. How do I ensure what I say is documented and archived so that I feel comfortable enough to participate in an open forum? 

Well one solution offered up by a fellow commenter was to leverage a RACI diagram or Responsibility Assignment Matrix, to clearly define who plays what role in the process of project decisions. Sounds like a great way to prioritize who needs to be looped in and when. But once you determine the flow of information how do you provide a forum for discussion?

One way to offer both an open forum for discussion and a proven method for archiving those discussions is to leverage technology. Screen sharing technologies fall short for this reason, as there is no way to document or archive what we discussed without transcribing someone’s notes, or recording the entire session (and who has time to go back and listen through that?).

As an alternative, when you use documents such as PDFs, which preserve the underlying content but allow a layer of markups on top, you enable feedback to be easily distinguished from original content. But what about control, and distinguishing one reviewer’s comments from another? Ideally, I want you to see my comments as soon as they are made and I benefit from seeing yours in real time, but how do I ensure you or anyone else can’t edit, delete, or change my comments? Well, a few years ago, this was a true conundrum for facilitating conversations electronically. However, today leveraging the cloud, there’s the ability to enable owners’ rights to PDF comments so that no one but the owner can change, edit or delete that comment. This gives you the best of both worlds, the ability to facilitate open collaboration with just enough control so that you don’t have to manage the process any longer.

How are you solving the competing interests of facilitating and managing communication? I’d love to hear more thoughts on this topic.

Sasha Reed | Digital COM
Bluebeam Software

About the Author: Sasha Reed has over 12 years of experience working directly in the architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) market. As VP of Strategic Alliances at Bluebeam Software, Sasha interacts directly with AEC leaders to better understand the long-range goals of the industry and help align Bluebeam’s technology partnerships. In addition, Sasha is acting Chair of the Construction PDF Coalition.  The purpose of the Coalition is to establish Guidelines to provide Architects, Engineers, Constructors and Owners (AECO) with a common framework in which to create and maintain Construction PDF Documents. Sasha has been featured as the keynote speaker at the 2014 Bentley Florida User Group and spoken at numerous industry events including the American Institute of Architects’ DesignDC Conference, NTI Danish BIM Conference, the International Highway Engineering Exchange Program and the International Facilities Management Association Conference. Sasha has also contributed articles to numerous national publications and authors the Digital Com blog for Building Design + Construction magazine. Before Bluebeam, Sasha was a Project Manager for M3, a Herman Miller dealer, where she learned ?rsthand the challenges faced by the AEC industry from project conception to completion. 

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