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Becoming ‘the normal one’

Being a team player is important in BIM. Hurley Palmer Flatt’s Thomas Lindner shares his reflections as a post-heroic building information manager.

Over the past year, I have become an unlikely supporter of Liverpool Football Club. I had no prior knowledge of Jürgen Klopp or his successes, but he has demanded my attention ever since introducing himself as ‘the normal one’ in the world of high-profile sports personalities. The way he expresses himself on the pitch – and his compassion towards the struggles of his squad – also caught my eye. During press conferences, he avoids discussing the performance of individual players.

Applying these observations to my own field – building information modelling (BIM) and management – I, too, witnessed many heroic, trailblazing ‘star players’, using language that nobody appeared to understand. With model-based delivery of design and engineering information becoming mainstream, the BIM ‘Premier League’ and its A-teams appear outdated. Instead, post-heroic leaders who can galvanise a team above – and below – their own pay grades, are on the rise.

Alain Waha, of business services company Cogital, argues that it is time for ‘post-heroic BIM’. But what does a post-heroic manager look like? What does it take for me to become ‘the normal one’, like Klopp? Since starting as group BIM manager at Hurley Palmer Flatt, I am finding out – and I would like to share my observations.

Feeling the pain: Before marching in with my own ideas, I found it helpful to ask people in the company what came to mind when ‘BIM’ was mentioned – and the answers were not always pretty. They included: ‘Being in for a rough ride’; and taking ‘three times as long as anybody could predict’. All this is now in the past, but it is important to ‘shut up and listen’ before coming up with solutions.

Get that commitment: An information management policy statement is the company’s pledge, and it needs to be published to ensure that better information management is everybody’s responsibility. Managing information better during the design-authoring process includes how: bids are being put together; notes are taken and tasks assigned in management meetings; competency assessments are carried out; and structured learning is provided. 

Be accountable: With an information management policy in place, I can hold myself – and other stakeholders, including my supply chain – accountable on the journey to a shared commitment to improve. When I’m asked to ‘quickly send attachments’, I, instead, issue cloud or server links, because that’s better information management. The same BIM principles apply – keep all your data in a single place, accessible and up to date, and with a common suitability status. The BIM for engineers may be Revit or ArchiCAD, but for managers it is Deltek or SharePoint.

Know your purpose: Not long ago, I worked at the BRE with Keith Snook, who published BIM – it’s about the planet (bit.ly/2LlWigT). He helped me appreciate that BIM is, essentially, about managing our planet’s limited natural resources – and an ever-increasing population – more responsibly and diligently. Although cutting waste from inefficient processes and adding value to gross margins are significant, I am more satisfied that my work in information management may be essential to realising the circular economy.

Measure performance: An actionable IT asset register (all the hardware and software with licences assigned) with effective use monitoring (the extent to which the hard- and software is being used by employees) remains elusive to most construction companies. How do you know where you are going if you don’t know what you have and who is using it? Subscription utilisation reports are nearly impossible to come by from some of the biggest software companies today. For BIM adoption to accelerate, it is critical to have full visibility of your IT infrastructure.

Learn from your peers: It is paramount to share knowledge to advance innovation in our sector. I implore colleagues working in building services today to join CIBSE’s Society of Digital Engineering and get involved in conversations beyond company boundaries. InnovateUK’s Knowledge Transfer Network, I3P, also encourages sharing across the UK’s most ambitious infrastructure projects.

Take care of your team: I can’t build a high-performing team unless I understand what makes every player tick. Tony Llewellyn, collaboration director at Resolex, speaks about construction as a social process because people can achieve the impossible when they use their complementary strengths to work together. Creating challenging, but attractive, spaces of opportunity and stepping into the unknown are the art and practice of becoming ‘the normal one’ when managing organisational change and building winning teams.

First Published by CIBSE Journal – May 2018. Original article here.