the newsletter of tbd consultants - 1st qtr 2014

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In this Edition

Print Me a House
Managing Change
A Changing Economy

Construction Management Specialists

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Print Me a House

3D printers are the latest 'in' gadget, but you might see something similar coming to a construction site near you soon. Here we look at the use of 3D printing technology for constructing buildings.


Managing Change

There is nothing as constant as change, and the flow of change orders on a project normally validates that statement well. Managing change orders is important on any project, but sometimes organizations have to manage even more challenging changes, such as those resulting from technology changes (say, the introduction of BIM), from mergers or acquisitions, or from changes in the market place. In this short article we will look at both types of change management and compare them.

With construction change orders there should be procedures for handling them laid out in the contract, which have already been agreed to and signed-off on by all parties concerned. With the changes within an organization there are seldom likely to be procedures in place for handling the change, and the first task is to establish how the change will be managed. That procedure should involve everyone, from the top management to the workers who are normally most affected by the change. All changes affect people, but change orders normally mean an adjustment to the quantity of work, while organization change normally means change to the type of work someone does or a change to the way it is carried out. These latter types of change can be stressful, and unfortunately it is often the workers who are seen as steady and reliable who have the most problems adapting to the changes.

A change order normally is more or less of the same kind of thing that was already being done, but organization change often involves learning something new, requiring training courses and developing new skills. While some people delight in that, not all do by any means. If possible, it can be best to train some of the staff in the new techniques and have them situated among the others while using the new methods on trial projects. This gives the other staff a look at the system before they have to implement it, and generates interest in it. Time can make change feel easier. That kind of implementation may also facilitate ideas and suggestions from those involved in the trials, and those who have been observing, that will help the final companywide deployment. Getting buy-in from everyone involved in a change might be wishful thinking, but trying to get as much as possible is essential. Laying down directives from on high seldom, if ever, works well.

With change orders, the cost of implementing them is often the big issue, once it is determined that any change is needed. Having a clear description of the reason for the change and what the change involves is important in assessing the cost of a change order, and also in allowing those involved in organization change to assess the cost to themselves. If the reason for an organization change is not made clear, it will likely be viewed as change-for-change-sake, and that will almost certainly result in resistance.

When assessing the cost of change orders, the effects on the project schedule are often a large part, if not a major part, of the cost impact. Changes in organizational structure are also disruptive to schedules, with staff having to take out time to learn new systems, as well as the fact that they will probably not be working as efficiently as they normally might, because part of their attention is on the changes and their concerns about them. That is another reason to spread the implementation of such changes out, if possible, so that the companyís production is not impacted too much at any one time. So, ideally organizational changes should be implemented over time, wheras change orders should be dealt with as quickly as possible.

While change orders do get implemented as directives for various reasons, organization changes are often a matter of choice, at least as far as when and how quickly a company decides to implement them. For instance, when technological changes are the driving force, companies are often categorized as innovators, early adopters, early majority, late majority, or laggards (popularized by Everett Roger in his book Diffusion of Innovations). Innovators tend to bear the development costs, so it may be tempting to think that the early adopters have the advantage. But sometimes a technology proves to have problems that donít show up initially, or even if it does prove successful, those that take it up later may be able to learn from those that rushed ahead and end up with a smoother implementation. Or the innovators may take over the market and wipe out the others. Decisions about change management are seldom easy and intuitive. Risk management definitely comes into the equation.


A Changing Economy

The economy seems to be changing for the better at long last, and in this article we look at some of the changes that we are likely to see in 2014.



Design consultant: Katie Levine of Vallance, Inc.