Sunday, November 13, 2011

A Difference in Perspective

 Experience can be a great teacher.

But, the true test in learning from experience is a function of our ability to appreciate the events of our day to day lives.  Every day has life lessons to give but most of us spend our time observing only the events that support our current beliefs.  I could use this as a point to begin discussing politics but I truly believe that this blindness to the events around us impairs us all.

For a great read, I would suggest “How We Know What Isn’t So” by Thomas Gilovich.

I was thinking about this a few weeks ago while on a walk-through of a new construction project.

A large group of us had finished walking the halls of the building and we were hammering out a few last minute details.  I was looking over floor plans when I noticed a number of cabling drops had been removed from the final prints.  I was lamenting the loss of connectivity when the construction manager (CM) jumped in with a vigorous defense of their removal from the plans.

The tenants only planned to house one staff member in each room.  Extra cabling was useless and unnecessary.  In rooms planned to support more than one staff member the extra cabling was left in place.  In short, the building plan was a lean, mean, and efficient machine delivering connectivity to each desired location without wasting cable.  I got the sharp impression that I and others of my type were a drain on the project trying to wring out any “free” facilities that we could.

This isn’t the first time I had experienced the cost-cutting aggressiveness of value-engineering but I think I learned something from the CM that day.

I explained that his cable drops could be in the wrong place.  I was told to run longer jumpers.  For maintenance, nothing is more annoying at the host than long jumpers.

I explained that his cable drops didn’t account for a change in the room use.  I was told to run additional drops later.  Cabling drops placed “just in case” were a drain on the project and a waste of money.  The first new cabling run will be requested within a week of occupancy.

I explained that some rooms had no cabling at all.  I was told that they would never need cables.  Any room large enough to be an office will one day be an office.

 My shoulders slumped and I shook my head.

I’ve learned these lessons over years of maintaining buildings both on campus, and in a private capacity.  But, as I walked away I wondered why the CM hadn’t learned the same lessons.  He made a few great points about taxing a construction budget to the point where construction is cancelled.  For him, it meant very little to add changes later and come back to do additional work.  He had learned different lessons in his career.

And that’s where, for just a moment, I learned a lesson again in perspective.

The CM works on large construction projects.  For him, every job is large, involved, and complicated.  For every job, impact to budget and time can be measured and used to calculate whether a job should be move forward.  Coming back to install cables is a trivial need when you spend your life constructing buildings.

When maintaining a building and responding to user requests, installation of an additional cable can be a multiple week stumbling block of managerial approval, PO generation, cable installation, and finally making a final patch connection.  The pain in lost productivity can be soul-crushing.

Different perspectives.

I don’t know that he was aware, but I was actually paying attention that day.  Often, my interaction with building construction project managers and construction managers is in an adversarial role.  They want to build a building.  I want UF standards followed.  But, for just a moment that day I truly understood why construction personnel thought the way that they did.

With any luck, it will help me the next time I have to explain why that second cabling drop in a 10’x12’ room is necessary.

1 comment:

  1. Well said and good points. I should try this the next time a client brings me a ream of paper of printed reports and policies that I asked for instead of a USB drive.