Meaningful change in CSI starts at the top! It’s time to grow up!

Complicated, outdated, and conflicting policies have been hampering CSI’s potential success.  These policies are contributing to losses in membership, leadership, and services.  We can’t let that happen anymore.  We need strong and strategic representation of the membership’s interest and we need it now.

I just read every single document related to the upcoming bylaw amendments in CSI.  Yes, I am still awake (barely).  Typically, bylaw amendments are a whole lot of updating and housekeeping.  Most are not too concerned about them nor do they pay much attention.  Many do not vote when the time comes.

This time is different.  This time you must make your voice heard.

While there is a large chunk of (much needed) housekeeping items, there are also some critical changes that will help change the direction of our organization.

This change is absolutely vital and necessary to the relevance and growth of CSI.

I am approaching my 5 year anniversary in CSI.  I realize that I am a relative newbie in this organization and that some may question my opinions due to that short tenure.  That said, I am “neck deep” involved in CSI at many levels and have put quite a bit of rubber to the road in these last 5 years.  Sometimes, fresh eyes that have taken the time to be truly involved are a good thing.

First, let me say that I have the utmost respect for the work that has been done in the past by all the amazing people in CSI.  I am in no way faulting past decisions but the fact is that our industry is drastically changing and we have to change with it.  What worked before DOES NOT work anymore.

CSI, hands down, is the leading technical resource in the built environment.  I am passionate about this and I believe in it.  That said, we have fallen behind.  We are out of date.  The good ole’ boy network that was standard in days of old no longer works.  CSI services are in need of update, repair, improvement and efficiencies.

Many will say that our steady membership decline is due to the recession and baby boomers retiring.  Not so.  Our membership has been declining for 15 years.  How is it that we can be the best resource out there for project delivery education (that you can’t get anywhere else) and have a declining membership?  It is because we are not staying relevant.  We are doing things like “we have always done them”.  How I hate those words.

Change starts at the top!

CSI has struggled the last couple years with the database meltdown, loss of staff and the process of finding a new CEO.  We have moved through these struggles and good things, things most of us do not see, are happening every day to move back toward the organization we once were.  The truth of the matter is that we can’t make CSI great again until we move our organizational structure into this century.  The old model no longer works.  We need an operational structure that assures success so we can get into the weeds and really make all of our education, programs and events vibrant again.

We need to get back to a place where our members and the value we provide to them is the first priority.

This is the first huge step in that direction and we need to collectively get behind it, vote for it and support it. Just look at the Ends the Board put into place. It places members first.  We need to be the change.

There are many clean up items in the bylaw amendments.  There are three in particular that will likely cause the most discussion and are, in my opinion, the most important.

  1. Changes in Board vs. CEO roles, duties and accountability

This. Is. Huge!  I am not going into technical details of all this (You can read all about it here: http://www.csinet.org/bylawsreferendum)

It is time to modernize CSI. It is time to get in line with current business models, trends and member demographics.  It is time that membership value is the first priority for our Board.  It is time to eliminate personal agendas.  It is time for a clear, streamlined approach to delegation and accountability. It is time to let our CEO do his job without Board micromanagement. It is time for accountability and stated roles and responsibilities for our Board and CEO.

The proposed revisions to our bylaws will do exactly that.  Our CEO is a trained and certified association management professional.  Our Board is volunteers who understand our industry.  We need to have clear guidelines so that each of them can do the best job possible.  Our CSI staff needs a clear leader (the Board) with whom they can work and not be put in difficult positions because they receive conflicting instructions.

The amendment and the related policies draw very clear lines and has a heavy dose of accountability for all.  It is an up to date business model that we should have adopted a long time ago.  This model will put our membership needs at the forefront.  This model has been unanimously agreed upon by our current Board which, by the way, is almost unheard of.  It is smart and it will work.

  1. Changes in Board Positions

Again, we need to move out of the dark ages.  These amendments will change the former President, President-Elect, Vice Presidents model to a structure of Chair, Vice Chair, Officers and Directors.  I will be honest, when I joined CSI, I thought the President ran the whole show and the CEO was just an employee with no real power to do anything.

We need to move to a true Board of Directors model like any corporation.  A model with a clear succession plan and clear roles.  I never did understand why we had two Vice-Presidents who never moved up to President.  I also didn’t realize that some of our Board positions did not have any real job description.  It is time to clean this up and structure these positions to fit with the new organizational structure.  This one is just common sense.

 

  1. Changes in Terms of Office

Proposed changes to Terms of Office are Chair, Chair-Elect and Officers change from a one year term to two year terms.  Directors change from two year terms to three year terms.  These changes will have a roll-out plan that will eventually result in no more than 1/3 of the Board turning over in any given year.

For me personally, this one is a no-brainer.  In order to create great initiatives and implement them, you need consistency.  You need those people to be able to work it from beginning to end.

I was President-Elect in Portland CSI for one year.  I am just now about to wrap up my 2nd Term as President.  I will be immediate Past President for two more years.  This tenure has given me the opportunity to work with my Board on new and innovative programs and see them through to a solid and sustainable future.  Portland CSI is vibrant and getting better every day due to this consistency.  One year is not enough to do anything but get started.  We need this commitment and opportunity for our top leaders to finish what they start.

CSI, it is time to evolve and grow.  It is time to give our leaders the structure, clarity and accountability they need to do the work that they do best so our membership can benefit.  It is absolutely time to STOP saying “we have always done it that way” and step out of the box. Traditions are a good thing, but too much focus on tradition keeps us looking in the rearview mirror.

With what CSI has to offer, we should easily be at the forefront in everything that we do in the built environment.   How about we come together and make that happen again.  How about we grow up?

Please take the time and make the effort to vote on the upcoming bylaws referendum.

#CSIKraken

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Where are the Specifiers?

My assignment as the official CONSTRUCT blogger this month is to write about a hot topic in specifying.

With the ever increasing speed and change in projects and products every day, this blog could have been about anything.  I chose to write about something that I am not hearing much about but that I am seeing with increased frequency.
Something that really concerns me:  Where are the trained Specifiers?  Am I the only one noticing a major shortage?

Please understand that when I say “trained” specifier, I am referring to the folks that have had contract document, project delivery and specifications education.  I am talking about the folks who are well versed in the latest and greatest in the products worlds and know exactly how to incorporate that information into the Contract Documents for the best possible project outcome.  I am not talking about all the folks out there who write specs but do not have this very special and specific training.

I am aware of a number of firms, in different locations around the country, who are having a very difficult time finding a specifier with this kind of training.

Why is that?  I will tell you what I think (which anyone who knows me would expect).

Please note that there is no scientific research or analytics behind this blog.  It is merely my observations in my local area and other parts of the country as a result of my involvement and connections in CSI.

I think we dropped the ball and I think two recessions have taken a huge toll on Generation X.  Trained specifiers are a rare breed as it is.  I see tons of (untrained) people in our industry writing or editing specs and creating risk and potential conflicts in the process because they do not know what they are doing.  The hard cold truth is that it is common in our industry to discriminate against the specs.  It is common to treat them as less important than the drawings.  It is common to see only cursory attention given to this CONTRACT document.  This document that carries equal weight with the drawings in the eyes of the law.  As a result, many firms will let anyone in the office dump information into the specs.  That is a critical mistake and I have seen the fallout of this decision first hand.  More than once.

On the flip side of that coin, the firms that are smart enough to hire trained spec writers can’t find them.  Finding a trained spec writer to hire these days is like looking for Bigfoot.

Why are we so short in this valuable, absolutely necessary resource in Architecture, Engineering and Construction (AEC)?  Here is my take:

  • Baby Boomers are retiring at alarming rates and they are taking their expertise with them.
  • Generation X (that would be mine) took two hits in two recessions and we lost a lot of people who might have stepped into those shoes.  People who left AEC and never came back.
  • Generation X only has (overall) approximately 45 million people to fill the exiting 75 million Baby Boomer positions.  That is OVERALL.  Imagine the imbalance for specifiers.
  • Almost no disciplines outside of Architecture are getting this education which is limiting the “trained” folks even more.
  • Traditionally in Architecture, a person would transition into the Role of Spec Writer mid-career after spending a number of years designing, doing construction administration and project management.  That experience would then translate nicely into moving into a role of spec writer.  That means we would need a chunk of Generation X’ers to transition.  We don’t have them.
  • Millenials don’t have enough experience and don’t want to be pigeonholed into being a spec writer that early in their career and I don’t blame them.  After all, most of them went to school to design and administer projects.  They need that experience to be a good spec writer.  This means most of them are not interested in this role for another 10-15 years.

So where does that leave us?  That leaves us without qualified, trained spec writers to fill the shoes of the exiting Baby Boomer spec writers (which, honestly, is the majority of them).  What is the consequence?  Firms are letting anybody with a pen in their hand write specs and the conflicts on projects are increasing.

What can we do about it?  It’s not like we can close our eyes, twinkle our nose and have a boatload of trained Generation X specifiers appear out of nowhere.

We have to change the way we think about our Contract Documents and their importance.  We have to change the way we educate our staff.  We have to give the millennials the skills they need, far earlier than we have ever done before, so they can step into these empty shoes and incorporate spec education and knowledge into their design experience.

WE HAVE TO CHANGE!

  • We NEED to get every single one of our AEC professionals, in ALL disciplines trained in Contract Documents.  No, they do not get this education in school!
  • We have to teach our young AEC professionals how to write specs or, at the very least, teach them the basics so they understand where things belong, why they belong there and how to get the information they need.
  • We have to emphasize the equal importance of the specs to the drawings.
  • We have to bring everyone to the table.
  • We have to reduce risk and conflict which typically rears its ugly head during construction.

 How do we do this?  There are many ways.

  • Join The Construction Specifications Institute (CSI).  The only organization that I have found that offers this all-inclusive education and includes all disciplines as equal members.
  • Bring Contract Document education to your staff.  This can be done in very cost effective ways.  Contact CSI and they can help you.
  • Encourage our institutes of higher education to include this education in their degree programs.  How we have gone this long without this being required is totally beyond me.
  • Attend CONSTRUCT.  I learn more in one conference from the education sessions, show floor and other professionals, than I often can learn in months or longer.
  • The fact of the matter is, due to the generational imbalance, we are being forced to change the way we work.  This is a good thing.


We have two choices here: 

  • Continue to throw bandaids on the problem and allow untrained people to write specs.  Take this road at your own (very big) risk.

Or

  • Make Contract Document education and Specifications (finally) the priority that they should be and provide better, more coordinated projects.

Seems like the answer is simple. It’s time to do a better job.

I hope you join me at CONSTRUCT to start learning how you or your firm can change.  Official CONSRUCT Website: https://constructshow.com/

*See my blog next month about the 2nd Annual Young Professionals Day at CONSTRUCT.  An awesome event that all firms should want their YP’s to attend!

#CSIKraken

CONSTRUCT Blog Page: http://bit.ly/1rkNH3N

Are You Saying Thank You?

It’s Award and Award Nomination season in CSI.  This is the time of year that we are preparing to recognize members at a chapter, regional and Institute level.  Some of us do a better job of this than others.

Award nominations, especially at the regional or Institute level, can take some time and effort to prepare.  I have seen this effort fall victim to the ever present ‘I don’t have time’ or ‘I’m too busy’.  Oh, how I hate those words.  What those words say to me is ‘It’s not a priority’ or ‘You are not important’.

Our hard working leaders and volunteers ARE important, invaluable and the key to our progress and success.  This effort should be a number one priority.

I have heard some say that it is just another certificate that is thrown in a box.  I have also seen many beam with pride when the recognition of their accomplishments and hard work is shared and acknowledged.

I am lucky enough to be on both sides of this fence.

I am currently winding down my last quarter in a two year term as the President of Portland CSI.  Considering I will be celebrating only my 5th anniversary in October, I am pretty proud of this and a little nostalgic and sad to be passing the baton and moving on to other things.

Portland CSI is one of the largest in the country but it suffered like many others after the economy tanked.  I have been very lucky to have a group of vibrant, passionate and forward thinking leaders to turn our Chapter back around.  And turn it around they have.   I digress, that is another blog.

It is my job to not only accept nominations recognizing notable accomplishments but to also give my own set of awards in June recognizing the hard work of some of these great people.  I take this very seriously and will put a good amount of effort into doing it right.

On the flip side of that coin, I have been honored to receive a number of Chapter Awards, two Institute awards and a DJC AEC Woman of Vision award.  For me, those are definitely not another certificate to throw in a box.  They are meaningful and I am proud of them.

While honored to receive all of them, I think the one that impacted me the most was the President’s award that I received at CONSTRUCT from Casey Robb in Baltimore in 2014.  This award is given at the discretion of the outgoing Institute President, it is not announced in advance and is typically issued to members that President recognizes as making notable contributions to the advancement of the Institute.  There is no application or forms to fill out.

Since I had not even been in CSI 3 years at that point, I certainly wouldn’t have even imagined that I might be considered.  Honestly, I was tweeting when Casey started talking about my award at CONSTRUCT and not really paying attention.  He was halfway through the intro of the award when I heard the word “Kraken” and realized he was talking about me.  Dang, I wasn’t even in a cute outfit and now I had to go up on stage.

To say that I was moved would be an understatement.  It made me cry.  The surprise of being acknowledged for my efforts in Portland and at the Institute level from the very top leadership in CSI was overwhelming.  To be called inspiring touched my heart.  I will admit it – I still get the warm fuzzies thinking about it.  I am damned proud of that award.

Normally, I don’t even talk about these recognitions.  It feels a bit awkward.  On the other hand, I think it is vitally important for our leadership and members to know how it makes a person feel to be recognized.

It is a number one priority that we say thank you.  It should be the first thing on your chapters to-do list to express our gratitude.

Our leaders and volunteers are giving their time and energy, some in a very big way, to move forward and help get what CSI has to offer out to the rest of the AEC world.  That needs a spotlight.

I don’t care what it is that you do in your life, gratitude is essential.

Our members bust their butts and give up a lot of personal time.  Without a thank you, kind words or recognition – they start to feel unappreciated.  We start to look ungrateful.  Motivation and passion to continue starts to fall away.  I mean really, someone does all that work and nobody notices? How does that make you feel?

Institute Award nominations are open now and due soon http://bit.ly/1RUItSl.  Your Chapters should be preparing for your own Awards event.  Do not let this fall to the wayside, it is too important.  The people in CSI are incredible and their efforts need to be a priority right now.  I urge all of our CSI Leaders to put this at the top of the list.

While all of our chapters should be finding ways to recognize and acknowledge their member’s year around, right now is the opportunity to do it big.  To make it notable.  To make somebody cry.

It is time to say THANK YOU!

#CSIKraken

What Sets CONSTRUCT Apart? Bigger is not always better!

 

My assignment this month is to share what I think sets CONSTRUCT apart from other industry shows.

This assignment has been a bit of a struggle since I have written, on multiple occasions, about what makes both CSI and CONSTRUCT special.  What could I say that is new and fresh that will accurately portray the benefits of this event?  How can I adequately express why this is my #1 choice among all the shows and educational events that are offered in our industry?

Any Industry show has its value.  You will return from any event of this kind with something you can use.  Just last week I had my first adventure to World of Concrete (WOC) for their 2016 show.  The show is absolutely huge, I learned a lot, had a great time and hope to attend again.

While I met some incredible people at some of the larger industry shows and made a whole batch of new friends, there was something that I get at CONSTRUCT that I don’t at other shows.

The People
When you attend a show of this caliber and size, if you put yourself out there, you get to know people very quickly.  The people that attend this event are a diverse crowd and very committed to improving project coordination, collaboration and communication.  They are problem solvers and they come from every discipline which is invaluable in the learning environment.  They are welcoming, warm and ready to share information to improve the world in which they work.

I have made so many friends in my four years of attendance that it sometimes becomes difficult walking through this event without stopping to talk to someone every ten seconds.  I have so many professionals from so many areas of the industry that I can consult to solve any professional issue that I am trying to improve and they help me all year long.  They are consummate professionals, valued mentors and my friends.

There is no way that I could learn, connect and interact at this level at the huge shows.

The Variety
The educational events at CONSTRUCT are varied, pertinent to my work and interactive.  The nature of this event requires a diverse offering of education because so many professionals from so many different disciplines attend.  The education is often geared to have something for anyone in the room.  Since I am not sitting in a classroom with hundreds of attendees, these sessions often offer more opportunities to see and hear different viewpoints.  Because we work in a team environment, we can’t afford to learn in a bubble so this benefit is important.

While my job is to write specifications, I can attend an education session on a particular topic and hear feedback from a Contractor, and Engineer, an Architect, a Product Rep, an Attorney and even an Owner on that same topic.  This is CRUCIAL to me being able to do my job well.

The show floor is cram packed with information and additional show floor education, again across disciplines.  Because of the intimacy of this show, I have also become friends with many of the Reps.  These are my trusted advisors.  I know, because of their involvement with CSI, that they have learned what I need from them to do my job well.  I can often skip the whole sales pitch on things I don’t use and get right down to business with the things that I do.  The manufacturers also offer many hands on opportunities and show floor sessions to add more bang for your buck in education on the specific products that you need to learn more about.

These trusted advisors are my ‘go to’ professionals every time.  They are the ones who ‘get it’!

OK, I would be remiss if I didn’t talk about the fun.  The networking and social events at CONSTRUCT are unparalleled.  Whether it is CSI Night Out, the Host Chapter event, the Young Professionals Mixer or any of the multitude of ‘fun on the fly’ events that come up, you are going to be busy with some great people who welcome you with open arms and know how to have a good time.

The Intimacy
CONSTRUCT, while a good sized show, is not the biggest show you will have the opportunity to attend.  BUT, bigger is not always better.  Those huge shows can be overwhelming, exhausting and you can’t possibly see everything that you need to see.

CONSTRUCT, while offering more than enough, is easier to navigate and leaves more opportunity to make those important connections and delve deeper into specific areas of interest.  I get as much education and information from the people I have met at CONSTRUCT as I do from the education and events.

This September in Austin will mark my 5th attendance at CONSTRUCT.  I no longer feel like a newbie and have learned how to get the most out of this valuable event.  I would truly be heartbroken if anything prevented me from attending.

CONSTRUCT has become a crucial part of my professional development and the benefits of attending are astronomical.  For me, professionally, CONSTRUCT is ‘coming home’.

Hope to see you in Austin in September!
#CSIKraken

Are You Listening?

I am a listener.  I hear the things that people don’t say.  Hell, I even notice changes in ‘tone’ in online communications.  I am a people watcher.  I see things people don’t even realize they are putting out there.  I notice things, little seemingly inconsequential things.  I notice things that many others do not.  Few people know this about me and no, I am not crazy hearing voices or seeing apparitions.  I just pay attention.  Close attention.

I have been more aware of this lately and more curious as to why I seem to have this gift (or curse, depending on how you want to look at it).  I was curious enough to go find some online tests on perception and take them.  These tests were ultra tricky.  Each question was never what you thought it was going to be and, had you not picked up some very subtle things in previous questions/images, you would have no clue how to answer it because there was no way to predict what was coming.  I suppose that I shouldn’t have been surprised that I scored out of the box on every one of them.

This ‘hobby’ probably started when I was very young.  I was raised by a single mom and we had very little until she went back to school and finally got a good job when I was a teenager.  I often had to entertain myself for hours at her work, school or other places because she couldn’t afford childcare.  In that environment, you either get lost in a book, your imagination or you watch people.  Nobody ever really notices a little kid sitting around all day so I had unfiltered people watching opportunities.

Fast forward to the here and now.  If I had a dollar for every time someone said to me “how did you know that” or “I guess you know me better than I thought”, I would be a rich woman.

It’s dumb little things like noticing the smile crack a little when someone thinks nobody is looking, body language like pulling away, noticing when someone gets quiet or distracted, hearing when someone doesn’t respond in a way you would typically expect them to – just little subtle nuances that tell you something is wrong or off.  There are clear signs when someone is happy or excited as well but I am less concerned about those even though I notice them.  I could list a million things that I have seen over the years that were so clear had anyone been paying attention.

This is a blessing in that I have often been able to be there for someone because I noticed just one little thing that made me ask “Are you OK?” and the dam broke.  It can be an equal curse, especially if those ‘little things’ are aimed directly at you.  Just because you see it doesn’t mean you mention it.  That can hurt. A lot.

All of that is really just an explanation of what brought me to writing this blog in the first place.

I recently wrapped up what turned out to be two of the most difficult years of my life.  As details slowly emerged near the end of this period, so many said to me “I had no idea?”  People I saw all the time.  I am not faulting anybody but was rather surprised it wasn’t totally obvious.  I am fortunate to have some absolutely incredible people in my life but not everybody has that kind of support.

When was the last time you REALLY paid attention?  When was the last time you REALLY listened?

There are people we love, like or care about all around us.  Everyone has ups and downs.  Good times and bad.  Are you really paying attention?  Are you stopping long enough to notice those subtle changes that say they might need you?  One soft shoulder can make all the difference if someone is having difficulties, pondering a major change or struggling with a decision.  People don’t like to ask for help but will often take it if offered.  Are you noticing enough to be that safe harbor?

On the reverse side of that coin, have you ever considered what message you are sending?  When was the last time in a period of conflict, indecision or misunderstanding that you took a moment to put yourself in the other person’s shoes to try to see how they may have perceived your actions, words or behavior?   I can’t believe how many times I have seen a relationship fail or a friendship end because one person meant one thing but the other received it in a completely different way.

Evaluating your own actions and words is equally as important as noticing the subtle nuances in another.

All I ask is to STOP.  Breathe, be quiet, listen to what you are not hearing, notice what you are not seeing.  Isn’t that lady at work usually more chipper?  Why is that little boy acting out and so moody?  Why does that man you sometimes have a drink with after work have a little more a slump to his shoulders?  Why hasn’t my girl kissed me goodbye in two weeks?  Why didn’t my guy even notice I asked him a question or spoke to him, multiple times?

This has been on my mind for some time.  We are moving too fast.  We are too distracted.  We are too busy.  We are too stressed.  We are too confined by society’s expectations.  We are too afraid.

We are losing the real and true connections with others that make life so incredibly amazing.  We are losing what really matters.  This breaks my heart.

Make the time.  Please notice.

Who is Listening to Subcontractors?

This past week, for the first time, I attended the World of Concrete in Las Vegas.  I was invited by the Tao Group for their Praxis event to do a presentation on Specs 101 for anyone who cared to attend.  Tao Group is passionate about maintaining design intent and providing the best possible outcome for the Owner.  I was thrilled to be asked to share some CSI contract document education with folks who traditionally do not get exposure to it.

Like anyone in our industry, I have areas where I am particularly passionate.  One of those areas is better interaction and education for our emerging professionals.  Another, and the subject of this blog, is improving communication, coordination and collaboration on our projects.  I will take any opportunity that I can get to share this education across disciplines.  I am especially grateful now that I had this opportunity at World of Concrete.

I would venture to guess that I get out of my specifier cave a little more than some due to my rather aggressive involvement in CSI and ever increasing speaking engagements.  This gives me the chance to talk to folks from a lot of disciplines which is invaluable.  What I learned this week is that I need to get my hands dirty.

Like a lot of people who work strictly as a specifier, I don’t have many opportunities to get out on the jobsites and talk to the people who are actually doing the work.  There has been very little opportunity to get feedback from the people who are using and interpreting the specifications that I write.  There has been almost no chance to see, first hand, how it all comes together.  How it actually gets built.

This has been a critical mistake and it changes today.

I have done this Specs 101 class a number of times.  It is geared to provide some very general knowledge of specifications, contract documents, roles and responsibilities and risk.  You can only cover so much in 1.5 hours so I try to lightly hit a lot of pertinent areas to hopefully spark my attendees to ask more questions and get further education in contract documents and project delivery.

I have presented this class to architects, contractors, engineers, product reps and manufacturers – in and outside of CSI.   Not once has anyone told me that the information was not helpful.  The attendees always walk away with some homework they intend to do because I said something they didn’t know or didn’t understand.

At World of Concrete my audience for this particular presentation was approximately 50 concrete subcontractors.  With the exception of a scattering of subs among my other presentations, I don’t typically see this group at CSI meetings or in my presentations.  I was thrilled to have a chance to talk with them.  I was thrilled not only because I want to know what I don’t know, but I also had a chance to clear up misconceptions about specifications.  I wanted  to learn how it really goes down once those documents leave my hands.

I started with a couple of questions:

  • How many of you read the Division 3 (Concrete) specs? 2 hands went up.
  • How many of you read the Division 9 (Finishes, specifically floor coverings) specs to know what is going on top of your slab when you are finished? 1 hand went up.
  • How the hell do you know what to build? The answer “We look at the drawings, do what the Contractor says and build what we know.  We are the craftsman here.”
  • Why don’t you read the specs? Answer “They are never right and have conflicting requirements that can’t be built or shouldn’t be built in that particular application.”

I also heard some very interesting stories about some of the challenges that subcontractors face on the jobsite when they find things that are wrong or can be done better.  Houston, we have a problem.

Damn if I hadn’t just received a 2×4 smack in the head.  How have I been missing this knowledgeable and valuable group in my CSI adventures!  How have I not been getting this crucial feedback so that I can do a better job?

I also shared a few things with them:

  • Not every spec that they receive is written by a trained spec writer. Many specs come from designers with no contract document education.  Spec writing is much more than just putting the products in the document and they needed to understand how to spot potential conflicts.
  • The Drawings AND the Specifications are the Contract. You are legally bound to them, whether you read them or not.  If you provide something different, you may end up paying for it.
  • There is more to a spec than Division 3. You need to read ALL of the Division 01 Administrative Requirements and the specs for the other products that are going to touch your work (most importantly floor coverings).
  • There are specified processes to fix the things that are wrong in the specs so you don’t take on additional risk. Understanding those and knowing where to find them is key to protecting yourself and the project.

There seems to be what I call ‘problem children’ on projects.  Those areas of the project that continually have coordination issues.  Roofing is one of them.  The building envelope is another.  Hands down – concrete, concrete moisture and the later installation of floor coverings is probably at the top of the list.

It drives me insane when I see a continuing problem that doesn’t get fixed.  What drives you crazy at work?  That question always results in the areas we need to improve.  This is one of those areas and change starts with me.

There is no way that I am taking on concrete issues in construction in this blog.  I don’t even pretend to be knowledgeable enough to do that.  BUT I will tell you what I am going to do:

  • I am going to get out on the job site more, talk to the folks doing the work and find out where my documents are falling down. I am going to learn what I need to learn.
  • I am going to actively and aggressively pursue the subcontractors to get involved in CSI and bring this feedback to the table for all of the other disciplines. They are a voice that is not being heard.
  • I am going to look for opportunities to speak to, work with and learn from the trades. They know better than anyone when it comes to what works and what doesn’t.  Knowledge exchange is crucial.
  • I am going to look for opportunities to bring multiple trades whose work affects each other into the same room to find better ways of collaboration and increase understanding of each other and the work they are asked to do.
  • I am going to ask quality tradesmen to teach me.
  • I am going to bring the subcontractors into the conversation.

We cannot promote positive, forward moving change if we don’t step out of our comfortable little cave and do something different.  It has to start somewhere and it always starts with shared knowledge.

Today, I invite my CSI compatriots to do the same.

World of Concrete was an amazing experience that I didn’t see coming.  I now wish I would have stayed all week.  I thank all of the subcontractors and tradesmen who took the time to share with me, show me things and let me play with the big toys.  I have the utmost respect for the work that they do.  I definitely hope to have the opportunity to attend next year and really get my hands dirty.  I encourage anyone to go outside your industry and learn from others in the process.

Be the change you wish to see in this world!

Are You Reaching Out?

Most of my connections here are in Architecture, Engineering and Construction.  Almost all of us belong to some sort of industry organization.  Whether it is AIA, CSI, ASHRAE, AGC, ASPE, BEC or any of the others out there, we join these organizations to network and learn from our peers.

Personally, and certainly no secret, my choice is CSI – The Construction Specifications Institute.  I am not only a member but also the current President of my Chapter as well as Chair of an Institute Committee.

In my humble opinion, CSI’s name is a bit of a misnomer.  While the organization started a bazillion years ago to bring some organization and standardization to specifications, it has become much more than that in the years since its inception.  CSI is about complete project delivery education and this is why it is my choice.

What makes CSI unique, and the reason it is my choice, is because it brings all members of the project team to the table.  All disciplines are equal members in CSI.  I have talked about this before but, in case you have not read my previous blogs, you should know that I choose CSI because I know that when I walk into a meeting or event, I can get the perspective of an Architect, a Contractor, an Engineer, a Product Rep, an Attorney and even Owners on any given topic of the day.  I can’t get this anywhere else.  While there is great value in learning and growing in your craft from your peers, it is priceless to be able to solve your project issues with input from all involved.  This kind of interaction eliminates working in a vacuum.

As a leader in CSI, this membership structure can create challenges when trying to plan chapter meetings/events.  We are lucky in Portland to have one of the largest chapters in the country.  This gives us the opportunity to explore and do things that some smaller chapters just don’t have the resources to implement.  Our large chapter size does not eliminate the need to provide Chapter programs that appeal to our varied member disciplines.

In Portland, we try to keep our Chapter meeting topics broad enough to appeal to all of our disciplines.  We are lucky enough to also have a monthly education program – $10 for beer, pizza, a presentation – in and out in 1.5 hours.  In this education series, we can drill into the weeds and focus in one area or another as needed.

While Portland CSI has always been involved at some level with many of our industry partner associations, we have stepped it up in this area.

We are reaching out!

Back in the day, before the economy did a number on all of us, many of our industry associations pretty much kept to themselves.  I always felt there was this unspoken fear that they would potentially lose members if they partnered with other organizations, especially if that organization was larger or stronger.  When the economy took a nosedive, all of our industry organizations took a hit.  People were getting laid off, employers were no longer supporting memberships and/or events and honestly, people just couldn’t afford it.  We ALL lost members, motivation and passion to grow.  Hell, many of us were not even working in our industry (including me for a while) and, if we were lucky enough to still have a job, were working twice the hours for half the money.

Every single one of our valuable organizations suffered.  I know of a couple formerly vibrant associations in my area that barely even exist now.  Luckily, things have ever so slowly changed.  We are steadily getting busier and construction in many areas of the country is on a steady uptick.

This is a very good thing but now our struggling associations have to catch up.  We have to get back our passion and vibrancy.  Honestly, with the generational imbalance, it is even more important now that it ever has been before.  Not only do we need to reinvigorate our organizations but we also have to revitalize and change to accommodate the huge numbers of emerging professionals coming up the ranks.  We do not have time to sit back and ‘see how it goes’!  We have to move and we have to move fast.  The Baby Boomers are leaving and taking their knowledge with them.  We cannot afford to lose that valuable education, across all disciplines.

One way to stem that flow is to reach out.  We no longer have the luxury of being EXCLUSIVE!  It is time to extend a hand across our organizations and start to share this knowledge, expertise and resources.

Portland CSI started working harder at this a number of months ago.  We are not only inviting other organizations to our meetings but we are also offering up speakers to others, partnering for events with member rates for both organizations, offering our CDT emerging professional scholarships to all disciplines, member or not and a variety of other things to start building these bridges.

A perfect example is our Chapter Meeting next week.  On February 9th, Portland CSI will hold its 4th Meeting in the “Grill the . . . .” Series we started three years ago.  Next week our meeting is “Grill the Estimator”.  We previously did “Grill the Specifier, Contractor and Product Rep”.  These meetings have been very popular.

For our Grill the Estimator (and yes, this should be fun) meeting, we invited the local ASPE #54 (American Society of Professional Estimators) members to attend at our member rates.  We also invited a few of their members to be on the Panel.  We built a bridge with this group over a year ago when they invited me to speak at one of their chapter meetings at the suggestion of one of our CSI Members who is also an ASPE Member.  This relationship has grown.

Now how awesome is it that ASPE liked this idea so much that they decided, also in February (the 16th) to do the exact same meeting only they are going to do “Grill the Architect”.  They have invited our CSI Members to attend at member rates and also to be on their panel.  What an awesome double whammy between the two organizations in the Month of February.

Portland CSI is getting out there.  We are talking to AIA, have had speakers at ASHRAE and ASPE, are working on a series of classes with DBIA, have partnered with a number of emerging professional groups, we are talking about some ideas with BEC, we will have a presence at World of Concrete with the Contractors and are not only sharing resources and extending a hand but also spreading the CSI message and clearing up misconceptions about what we have to offer everywhere we go.

Folks, the days of being “EXCLUSIVE” are over.  For all of us, it is time to reach out, educate our young professionals, get our seasoned professionals up to speed and do it by circling the wagons and sharing our resources to make it as vibrant and relevant as possible.  I am reaching out my hand, will you take it?

It is time to Release the Kraken!

#CSIKraken

The Accidental Leader

Cherise Lakeside CSI, CDT - They call me the Kraken

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