Monday, February 19, 2007

Well, it's about damn time.

Wanda made it back into the office today, thankfully without the cold and runny nose that plagued her for the two or three weeks preceding her vacation. Howie gathered the entire Pomme de Terre team into a meeting to recap how the first round of user group meetings went in Taterville last week. (Explanation: user group meetings are meetings with the users of a project, usually with members of each department in a large project like a hospital. In these, the architect and sometimes the engineers as well discuss the layout and workflow of the department. We meet more than once to make sure we have the layout right and that we’ve caught every little requirement from the users.) Howie thanked us for our hard work in the past several weeks, gave us a few future deadlines, and then checked in—finally—about how things were going schedule-wise and staff-wise.

“Are you getting the support you need from Sarge?” he asked
Wanda audibly hesitated. “Well, yeah, when he’s not busy with other projects,” she said.
“Well, sure,” replied Howie. “With notice, we can get his help a little better, I’d say, but if all we give him is a moment’s notice, we’re gonna have to wait in line sometimes.”
Wanda wasn’t ready to shut up. Is anyone surprised? “Well, it would have been easier if we could have kept up our weekly CAD meetings, but he had other—“
Liz jumped in. “Well, the breakdown of our meetings was partly on our side, too, you have to admit,” she said. “We had a deadline we had to make, and weekly meetings were taking up too much time.”

Wait—did Liz just stick up for Sarge? She who on more than one occasion complained bitterly about ADT’s new processes? Leaning into the strike zone for a bit for El Sarge-o? Somebody better, cuz if one harsh word is said about him after he did everything he’s done for them, I’m gonna come charging out of the dugout like George Brett and smack them mofos with my overly pine tar-stained bat.

“Well, we need to start those meetings up again,” stated Wanda, shifting a bit in her chair. “We need to figure out if there’s anything still wrong in the sheets—“
“Shouldn’t be much,” said Liz. “We got core and shell redone and they went well.”
“I did the interior sheets last week, and they’re clean,” I interjected across the table to Liz and Leslie.
“When do we want to start doing collision detection?” Liz asked Howie. (Another explanation: collision detection is the process of laying the structural drawings over the mechanical and plumbing drawings to see where air ducts or plumbing pipes are going through structural beams. This is traditionally done through overlaying paper drawings from each discipline onto each other. With the new process of BIM as done through Revit or ADT, each discipline builds a 3D model in the software and plops one into the other, using the software to find the problems.)
“It should be ongoing,” said Howie. “Start now. Tell the engineers you needed it yesterday.”
I felt Wanda’s frenetic energy surge behind me before she even spoke. “We need a model from them weekly, so we can—!”
“No,” Howie said very firmly. “There is no way we can make them send us that model that often. They’re gonna build that model just for this purpose, and they’d be wasting time to do it each week.”

Wait—did Howie just shut Wanda’s frantic, almost-belligerent ass down? Oh, I think he did. And oh, he wasn’t done. For the next half hour of a fifteen-minute meeting that lasted almost two hours, Howie talked the team down out of doing incredibly time-intensive activities for the Design Development phase deadline in a few months. Wanda got loud and panicky; the stress in her voice put stress into others’ minds and it came out in their voices and opinions, and Howie talked them down. Oh, WAD Readers, it was beautiful. It was in that moment that a) my project manager finally stepped in and set some limits, and b) I remembered why I liked Howie so much. My favorite moment was when Wanda, Liz, and the guy managing the utility plant portion of the project (Thurston) all started raving and working each other up about a need for phasing plan details. We have to tell the contractor how to block off each area for each phase, what to do, for crying out loud the mechanical drawings are just lines, not the full ducts are even drawn (yeah, that’s cuz we just finished Schematic Design, you nimrods!), we need to show how the phasing needs to be done, details, etc, etc, etc. Howie just held up his hands, and lo, he spake:

“Four years ago, I remodeled an entire hospital in place. Every department was active while we remodeled it. I’ve done this before, and I did it with phasing plans no more detailed than what we just issued in this SD package.

Oh, the delectable silence.

“I understand that this is a really complicated buildings, and I agree that we need to keep in mind how the phasing’s gonna work on it,” he continued. “What I’m asking you to do is to approach it slowly. This is a well-funded project, but it’s so easy to burn all that fee doing things like spending a month detailing the hell out of something that the contractor’s gonna do how he wants in the end. We have a great contractor on this; I’ve worked with them before, they’re conscientious contractors, and I know they’re gonna do a good job.”

With that, Howie dropped the smack. We wrapped up briefly and were able to get out and do what we needed to do. It was beautiful, and I was glad. I’m not sure if it sank fully in with Howie, but I’m glad he saw the pandemonium that I experience in those ridiculous, time-wasting Pomme de Terre meetings. And I was glad he was there to chill some crazy people out before they wandered off into Hysterical ArchitectLand.

Now, if he’d step into those meetings more often….


faded said...

Where would you like me to send the beer? You can celebrate with it. (Maybe pour some on a Frank Gehry building)

It sounds like Howie knows his stuff.

Did Wanda ever explain her absences? If not she still needs the box treatment.

BaxterWatch said...

ah, the beauty of a good project manager who has AUTHORITY.

good times.

Part of being a "professional" in my honest opinion, is being flexible enough to adapt to issues in the field. You can over plan something and waste alot of time, or you can get it "good enough" and then when the issues DO come up in the field (or construction)as they will, regardless of the prior planning, you can adapt and come up with work arounds.

I hope Wanda learned something.

and I hope Howie is now aware of Hurricane Wanda.

good luck, Pixie.

sarge said...

Nice! :-D Go Howie!!!

Mile High Pixie said...

Faded: You're serious about that beer, aren't you? :-P

Baxterwatch: No kidding. A good designer can provide enough info to the field to allow them to get started, and if they have any more questions, they can ask. Some contractors can build from a sketch, and some need more details. Ultimately, it's all about prioritizing your time, that's for sure.