How many times have you sent or received business correspondence after 10pm? From someone ostensibly on vacation? Over the weekend? I’m working with a consultant now who habitually sends submittal responses after 11pm on a Sunday. This person is based in Chicago, not in Shanghai.
It is important to recognize that the timing of a message has meaning just like the content or the medium of the message. Habitually sending correspondence long after business hours, during vacation, or over the weekend sends the message that your work life has greater priority than the rest of your life, and sets expectations that you are “on call.”
Marshall McLuhan coined the phrase “The medium is the message,” which appeared in his 1964 book “Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man.” McLuhan describes a message as “the change in scale or pace or pattern” introduced by a new invention or innovation. Look at how much communication has sped up and increased in volume with the wide adoption of email. It’s been ten years since the first iPhone made it possible to take and send high quality pictures from the same device. Can anyone here remember the last time they used a fax machine?
Now let's talk about WHAT: the actual content of the correspondence.
Most face-to-face meetings and telephone calls will have preliminary small-talk: how are you, how’s your family, do you have plans for the weekend, etc. This is the social “grease” to maintain a smooth relationship with people. In contrast, business writing is more brief. Effective correspondence in a business setting gets to the point right away, and makes clear the call to action to get efficient results. This is different from a lot of the typical writing models taught in school, and different from how one would correspond with friends and family. Teaching the difference is critical to promote writing that gets results.
The three main parties in a traditional project delivery for construction are the Client, the Builder, and the Designer. In this model, the Client holds a formal contract with the Builder, and a separate formal contract with the Designer. In turn, the Builder holds formal contracts with subcontractors, and the Designer holds formal contracts with engineers and consultants. The Designer and Builder do not have a formal contract with one another, but collaborate in order to deliver the project. There are other methods of project delivery, and these three main figures appear in just about all of them in varying relationships.
This is adapted from a presentation for BuiltWorlds Future Workplace Forum, which occurred on June 14, 2018. Slight modifications in the text have been made to fit this format.
For all of you in the building industry, you know that Architecture, Engineering, and Construction are about relationships. All projects in construction are projects of collaboration, and the success or failure of projects is largely determined by the success or failure of communication. And in most cases, the failure to communicate is rooted in speaking dissimilar languages and coming from different backgrounds. While architecture studio classes develop the skills for presenting one’s own work, they do not typically take into account how to communicate with the myriad other people involved in construction. Knowing this lack exists in architecture school, it’s no small leap to imagine it is also lacking in engineering and construction pedagogy. So how do you help your colleagues bridge this gap for a clear path to success?