Why We Should Be Prepared to Answer The Question, “Why”

By: Mike Frech 

“Why?” is a question that begins at a very young age and demonstrates a thirst for more information. Essentially, this is the first step in the learning process that’s a lifelong pursuit for most of us. In nearly every aspect of our lives, we are searching for more information in order to gain more knowledge and understanding. This can be something as simple as mastering a new feature on our smart phones or as complex as deciphering our tax returns.

The following two examples demonstrate how design professionals taking the time to explain the “why” can lead to a better functioning team working on an ultimately more successful project.

  1. Board members are often unfamiliar with the Department of Building’s FISP process. Boards often change officers/members on an annual or bi annual basis; therefore, it makes sense that a process that runs on a 5-year cycle would be new to many members. Property managers who oversee a portfolio of buildings are certainly familiar with the FISP process; however, it’s still difficult for them to stay current with updates to the FISP process, such as inclusion of railing inspections or ensuring code complaint parapets. Additionally, the nuances of sub-cycles, filing windows, previous FISP filing statuses and permitting can be confusing to those who aren’t immersed in this niche every day. We have often found that providing the history of the ordinance, including examples of both past and more recent tragedies that have been the impetus for the law and its numerous updates and revisions, can provide the proper context. Explaining the “why” behind the FISP process and the required façade restoration, allows building owners and board members to view it not just as a bureaucratic nuisance, but rather a way to prevent tragedy, provide public safety and reduce liability for the building. Explaining the “whys” behind FISP requirements and updates also empowers property managers to knowledgably and confidently inform their clients of the best path forward and a timeline for the process.
  2. Another excellent example of the benefits gained in explaining “why” happens on the job site. A good relationship between the design professional and the contractor may be the biggest indicator a project’s success. If the “why,” is never explained to the project foreman or superintendent, the design professional might be viewed as a tyrant who is single mindedly focused on proper installation techniques, strict adherence to specifications, impeding project progress, etc. However, a positive working relationship develops when the on-site design professional takes the time to explain “why.” For example, let’s consider a building envelope consultant who is harping on the detailing of a product/component such as sealant. If the design professional can explain “why” there is a focus on the proper primer, the depth/size of the backer rod and the proper tooling to the contractor’s personnel rather than just instructing them to correct their work “because I said so,” the result is a contractor who understands “why” the sealant must be installed as per the detail. Most often this discussion leads to the contractor focusing on maintaining that level of quality throughout the project, along with revealing that both the contractor and the design professional are aligned in their desire to provide the client with a quality, long lasting product.

As you can see, explaining “why” can empower all parties involved in a project. An educated team that understands the “why” will be more cohesive, efficient and effective. Team members will work together to overcome challenges and keep a project moving forward. All of these benefits can be gained by the simple task of explaining “why.”

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