When to say YES to meetings?

I hate meetings…

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I am not unique in expressing this negative, universal sentiment ALL of us feel; too often, too ineffective, and too many… The endless negative comments continue when it comes to the meeting discussions.

My reasons for hating these “necessary evils” in my work are the same as everyone else’s; time-consuming activities that seem to drag on until lunch or dinner time arrives.

My reasons for hating these “necessary evils” in my work are the same as everyone else’s; time-consuming activities that seem to drag on until lunch or dinner time arrives. 

However, those meetings continue in the name of collaborations

Recently, I had unfamiliar feelings as the meeting ended: focused, peaceful, calm. It occurred to me that I was not the usual fast-talking/furiously note-taking/ constant watch-checking person I used to be at meetings. 

What is Integrated Design Process?

For the first time, we had EVERYONE involved in the project our office was working on in the same place, albeit a digital one.  

The bosses of different engineering companies, but the employees of those bosses (aka people who actually do the work) were in attendance.

Unless you are an artist or writer who can work independently, most work requires working with OTHER PEOPLE. Especially in my industry (architecture and construction), completing an architecture project requires the ongoing coordination of many people.

Typically in the old days (a.k.a. pre-COVID-19 time), initial project meetings consist of a few people: client, architect (me), project manager, and some consultants familiar with the city approvals such as zoning, and the city building permit process.

Although design/ construction industries have been talking about the importance of collaboration and early planning, in reality, that ideal(and hopeful) setting rarely presents.  

While recognizing the benefits of early collaboration and participation from everyone involved in the project, the execution of those lofty goals rarely happens in real life. Rather, the actual process works in a linear, sequential process, in other words, slow.  

The integrated approach to building design and construction has always been the goal. Having all the related parties come together throughout the project- beginning, end, post-construction – has been the ultimate objective for designers and builders.

We have a name for the approach: IDP (integrated design process).

The initial reason for implementing IDP was to create energy-efficient buildings. The process was advocated by US and Canadian architects twenty-something years ago. It is expected for big-budget projects in construction industries: commercial and institutional ones

With the introduction of WFH (Work From Home) due to the pandemic, I am beginning to think the IDP would move into new territory: smaller scaled projects.

It is easy to have everyone in one place

The cost associated with physical meetings is the main reason for not having everyone. Spending a good chunk of working hours in meetings or worse, commuting and getting stuck in the traffic are the expenses companies would like to avoid.  

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For example, instead of the project engineer attending the meetings, the company principal (the boss) would attend the meeting to save time and money for the company.

Since the project manager is getting the summary version of the meetings, often, they have to contact other meeting attendees to get additional information AFTER the meaning.

However with available technologies now, trying to limit the number of people to attend However, with available technologies now, limiting the number of people attending meetings to save time and money seems unnecessary. Everyone can get on the online discussions. 

With that, no one will miss the relevant information about the project due to time and money constraints we faced in the past.

With these constraints removed from physical meetings, all of them can focus on the work they need to understand and complete.  

Effective communication with a tremendous record-keeping method

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As I am getting used to being on screens, I’m also becoming somewhat of an expert(?) in utilizing all the benefits from online meetings.

Having the freedom to record meetings (with everyone’s permission) or seeing questions and issues being transcribed was new freedom! ( I did not know I needed it)  

Not taking meeting notes or making sense of my handwritten notes after the meeting has been a bonus bi-product of online sessions.  

With so much built-in information available from online meetings, proficiency in EDITING skills surfaces as the next thing to improve!

IDP for small projects

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Both financial and time constraints removed, the benefits of IDP can be applied also to smaller-scaled projects: small office buildings, individual houses etc.

It is no longer for clients with big projects and budgets. The benefits of IDP can also be implemented in smaller-scaled projects such as residential or single-family houses.

With more frequent project meetings and the involvement from everyone (not just bosses), the IDP’s goal of achieving comprehensive project management can occur for ALL projects.

Instead of linear progressions of project management in the past, the process indeed became an integrated one.

Final Thoughts

IDP and its benefits in design/construction have been well documented over the years. 

However, implementing the IDP has been slow due to the costs involved with the process. With smaller scaled projects (and even smaller budgets), implementing the IDP has been slow in coming.  

With the online meetings, those constraints have been lifted.

As we are debating the merits of WFH (Work From Home) or online meetings, one thing is sure; we are not going back to work as we had done in the past.  

Being the pen and paper kind of person, I find myself in an unfamiliar but enjoyable(?) meeting setting; getting ready with my iPad in a well-lit location.  

Best of all, I am looking forward to learning about the progress of our project from everyone!

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