Posts filed under ‘Project Management’

World’s Tallest Building Opens -How Tall Is Too Tall?

By Carol A. Metzner
President, The Metzner Group, LLC and
Managing Partner, A/E/P Central, LLC home of CivilEngineeringCentral.com

The Burj Dubai – Arabic for Dubai Tower – opens today, January 4, at a supposed height of 2,717 feet. Construction began on September 21, 2004, with the exterior of the structure completed on October 1, 2009.

Skidmore, Owings and Merrill, LLP (Chicago) are listed as the architect and engineer of record. Bill Baker, the Chief Structural Engineer for the project, invented the buttressed core structural system in order to enable the tower to achieve such heights economically.  Adrian Smith, who worked with Skidmore, Owings and Merrill (SOM) until 2006, was the Design Partner on the project. Turner Construction Company was selected as the construction project manager. Under UAE law, the Contractor and the Engineer of Record are jointly and severally liable for the performance of Burj Dubai. Therefore, by adoption of SOM’s design and by being appointed as Architect and Engineer of Record, Hyder Consulting is legally the Design Consultant for the tower.

The total budget for the Burj Khalifa project is about US $1.5 billion; and for the entire new “Downtown Dubai”, US $20 billion. The metal-and-glass spire is touted as a “vertical city” of luxury apartments and offices. It boasts four swimming pools, a private library and a hotel designed by Giorgio Armani.

According to the Burj’s developers, they are “confident in the safety of the tower, which is more than twice the height of New York’s Empire State Building’s roof.  Greg Sang, Emaar’s director of projects, said the Burj has ‘refuge floors’ at 25 to 30 story intervals that are more fire resistant and have separate air supplies in case of emergency. And its reinforced concrete structure, he said, makes it stronger than steel-frame skyscrapers.”

Engineer Baker reported that the Burj developer continued to push the design higher even after construction began, eventually putting it about 984 feet taller than its nearest competitor. This push came from Dubai’s determination to “reshape itself into a cosmopolitan urban giant packed with skyscrapers.”

How tall is too tall for a building? How complicated is too complicated for a bridge?  What do you think?

AP photo/Kamran Jebreili

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January 4, 2010 at 6:14 pm 7 comments

The Key to Success Starts With Listening not Answering


Featured Guest Blogger: Anthony Fasano, P.E., CPC, LEED AP
Maser Consulting
Associate Civil Engineer and Certified Professional Career Development Coach
Click to Connect With Anthony on Linkedin and Facebook
Read The Career Development Blog – A Newly Created Support Forum for Civil Engineers

Ernest Hemingway one said, “When people talk, listen completely.  Most people never listen.”  I believe this quote to be so very true.  Until I attended coaching school and learned how to listen, I was often guilty of selective hearing.  I believe this was in large part due to my engineering background.  Engineers as well as other technical professionals are always geared towards problem solving.  Therefore when we listen, we listen for “answers” needed to solve problems.  Once we have these “answers” we tend to tune out the rest of the conversation as we are already solving the problem in our heads or we start looking for the next problem to solve!

Why don’t people listen?  People like to hear themselves talk.  Admit it, we all do!  We have a lot of thoughts and experiences on our mind and we want to share them.  Sharing your thoughts is great but engaging and listening to those we are speaking with is important to your relationships both personally and professionally.  Do you find yourself cutting people off before they finish their sentences?  We are all anxious to keep moving forward, so much so, that we sometimes don’t hear important messages that people are trying to tell us including managers, co-workers, clients, friends, spouses, children, etc.

There is  a very valuable skill called Acknowledging.  Acknowledging is when you repeat back to someone the words they just told you.  For example, a client may say to you, “This is our largest project and it means a lot to us.”  You would acknowledge the client by saying, “Bob, we understand that this is your largest project and that it means the world to you and that is why we have our best civil engineers working on the project non-stop!”  This shows the client that you are listening to them and as trivial as acknowledging may sound, it can be extremely powerful in building relationships.

How many times have you heard someone attribute a problem in the workplace to “mis-communication?”  Do they mean “mis-communication” or do they mean someone wasn’t listening and missed out on what they were supposed to do?  I believe many times it is the latter.  Communication is a two way street, it has to be!  If someone tells you something and you don’t listen, what’s the point?

Over the next few weeks, make it a point to listen.  Even during the holidays with your family, try acknowledging them, you’ll be surprised at the response you get.  Companies lose money, projects and employees when people repeatedly don’t listen.  By improving your listening skills you will set yourself apart from other professionals and your professional and personal life will be much more rewarding!

Remember the key to success starts with listening not answering!

Happy Holidays!

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December 15, 2009 at 8:58 pm 7 comments

One More Blog About Form vs. Function

Babette Burdick
Sales Aerobics for Engineers
Internet Business Development Strategies for Manufacturers, Distributors and Service Companies

Babette Burdick Head ShotFeatured Guest Blogger: Babette Burdick
Sales Aerobics for Engineers
Internet Business Development Strategies for Manufacturers, Distributors and Service Companies
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Read The Sales Aerobics For Engineers Blog

Stop salivating. I’m not going to be discussing the eternal dialectic between architects and engineers. I know the engineers take what architects design and somehow make it function. I know architects take what engineers design and make it aesthetically pleasing.

I’m talking about what form you take to make yourself functional. In any context.

How would you characterize your form? Are you a shape shifter? Do you constantly morph? Are you the same form regardless of situation? Does anyone know what – or whom – to expect when you interface with them? Do you take your form on and off like a suit of clothes? Are you play-acting? Are you authentic…Ever?

How does the form you take impact your function – and your value – to your organization? Are you the loose cannon no one wants to deal with because they never get the same “you” twice? Do you hide behind your engineering degree and your technical jargon so that you are impenetrable except to your peers – and therefore difficult to communicate with? Are you constantly striving to earn style points (literally) by putting yourself on an artistic pedestal and making your clients feel uncomfortable – even though they are the ones writing the checks for your services? Are you confused about what folks are expecting of you, and therefore inconsistent in actions and, consequently, performance?

We are at the time of the year – and this year particularly – when we need to take stock of ourselves. This is a thought process we should always be engaging in an ongoing basis. You know, continuous self improvement? Why just confine it to your architectural, engineering and planning projects?

If you are so many different things to so many different people based on what you think they want, how do you keep all this functional role-playing straight? Why on earth do you feel that you wouldn’t meet yourself coming and going, eventually?

It’s easier to shape shift than taking some personal inventory and aligning yourself so your form and function are fluid, continuous and authentic time after time. No surprises for anyone anymore. Although this new “you” may surprise you, yourself. Have you ever thought how it would be to effortlessly answer a question from a unified form-function position without thinking out a scripted response aligned with whatever politics you feel you need to support at that time?

So you guys think you don’t have time for this stuff. Too busy hustling new business or completing projects by year end? Compartmentalizing your professional form with function again?

Guess again. There’s no better time than now to figure out how to create steady-state dynamics between your form and function. Unfortunately they didn’t teach you – or any of us – about this in engineering school. The real world throws continuous curve balls at us. Most of us spend our lives dodging them or avoiding them rather than anticipating them and incorporating them. The big secret is that compartmentalization of the personal from the professional side of things doesn’t work.

Look around you and figure out how many shape-shifters are in your workplace. Is shape shifting encouraged? Does it result from a management style that leaves everyone in the dark…. Perhaps on purpose? Is this type of atmosphere toxic to your career and personal development? Are you ignoring this situation and hoping things resolve? How functional is all this shape shifting?

OK. I’ve made my point. I also encourage you to follow a similar discussion titled: “Are You Impeccable With Your Word?” on my blog at Sales Aerobics for Engineers. You see, I couldn’t compartmentalize this week, writing one distinct blog for my readers and another for the Civil Engineering Central audience. The two blogs are both parts of a whole. They invite dialogue.

Your thoughts?

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November 30, 2009 at 10:49 pm 5 comments

Are You Doing The Heavy Lifting?

Babette Burdick
Sales Aerobics for Engineers
Internet Business Development Strategies for Manufacturers, Distributors and Service Companies

Babette Burdick Head ShotFeatured Guest Blogger: Babette Burdick
Sales Aerobics for Engineers
Internet Business Development Strategies for Manufacturers, Distributors and Service Companies
Connect With Babette On Linkedin Linkedin Logo
Read The Sales Aerobics For Engineers Blog

At the 2008 Pack Expo, after a successful presentation, one of my colleagues complemented me and told me I really knew how to do the heavy lifting on a project. I had never heard the phrase before (yes, sometimes it’s like I live under a rock). It’s just the way I do things, and the way the folks I respect go about their business.  After he explained the phrase to me, I thanked him and thought to myself : “Is there any other way to do things?”

I got curious. And being an observer, I started paying attention to Random Episodes Of Heavy Lifting throughout 2009.

I found out there weren’t any. Random acts, that is.

Heavy Lifting is a conscious decision. You Heavy Lifters out there, you know who you are. Some of you own your own companies. Others of you have incredible working relationships across departments within your organization. You may not even be the top dog or the top salesperson or the top achiever. You may not even be a world leader or the captain of the team. You are, however, known as being The Person To Go To: the individual who brings excellence and perspective to the task at hand.

Heavy Lifters are not the same folks as the Hard Workers. Nor are they the same folks as the Savvy Employees. This isn’t about churning and burning or game playing. It pretty much encompasses your  code of personal ethics, which you carry into your work ethics. You either do the work, and do it thoroughly and most excellently, or you don’t do it at all. And you encourage others to join you in doing excellent work. You bring out the best in your collaborators. And you inspire. Because ultimately, when you present, you evangelize because you believe in what you and your team are doing. You plant Possibilities in the minds of others.

Heavy Lifters do not Go Through The Motions. They are not Smiling Joes. Heavy Lifters do not survive because of thin veneers or changing agendas. There is no recipe for Heavy Lifting. You learn by doing. You do so because it’s part of who you are.  And you are not afraid of falling flat on your face, trying.

So who are the Heavy Lifters in your organization? Are they recognized? Are you in a position to recognize them? Do I need to suggest that you recognize them? And incorporate them into your team, if you haven’t already done so?

I’ve had so many extraordinary client discussions in the past few weeks with Owners who are entrepreneurial yet fiscally rooted. They have done the due diligence and heavy lifting to move their organizations out of the economic mire, in a forward direction.

I’m having some wonderful LinkedIn discussions with engineers who have done the heavy lifting necessary to implement change management into their organizations, resulting in new product or service capabilities.  And the potential for creating new revenue streams.

These are the Heavy Lifters. They end up moving mountains, but not alone. They are ordinary folks who become extraordinary simply because they don’t back down in their belief in what they bring to the table on behalf of their organization.  And they have vision – which means they always have their eye NOT on the prize…. but on the horizon.

We are in the midst of creating a new economic business paradigm shift. And perhaps we are making it up, winging it, as we go along. Aren’t most paradigm shifts achieved in this manner?

What can you bring to your organization by shifting your focus to the horizon? Or taking a 50,000 foot eagle’s eye view of your organization? Are you capable of heavy lifting? It shouldn’t be something to shy away from. It’s probably always been your forte. Perhaps you have dumbed it down for various reasons.

Wouldn’t it be so much more comfortable to do what you do naturally?

Are you a Heavy Lifter?

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Trust Me, I’m an (Unlicensed) Architect
If you don’t have an architectural license, it’s illegal to call yourself an architect or perform architectural services—but people still do. Who are they, who’s policing them, and can they be stopped?

November 4, 2009 at 10:49 pm 2 comments

When “It’s Not My Problem” Becomes Your Problem

Babette Burdick
Sales Aerobics for Engineers
Internet Business Development Strategies for Manufacturers, Distributors and Service Companies

Babette Burdick Head ShotFeatured Guest Blogger: Babette Burdick
Sales Aerobics for Engineers
Internet Business Development Strategies for Manufacturers, Distributors and Service Companies
Connect With Babette On Linkedin Linkedin Logo
Read The Sales Aerobics For Engineers Blog

Siloed approaches to participation on a civil engineering project team usually aren’t the best technique for demonstrating value to your organization. In fact, successful participation on a project team should be a matter of asking yourself “what YOU would do” if you were doing another team member’s job – as well as your own.  If you can fulfill your functional role, yet anticipate the mindset of all of your team members as they fulfill their respective functional roles, the outcome is robust. Everybody wins.

denial

Unfortunately, in the real world, project team members are working for civil engineering companies which are now extremely lean and mean.  Perhaps even desperate for business. With less staff doing more work and wearing multiple hats, project management sometimes resembles a game of “hot potato.” Which can create quality problems as well.  Perhaps the production and engineering department is part of a fiefdom. Regardless of the size of your company, and its organization, the result is the same. The individuals fulfilling functional obligations perceive their job as “piece work” for handoff to the other members of the project team for implementation.  These individuals perceive that once they’ve fulfilled their engineering (or other) function on the team, they are off duty.  They’ve completed their work. It’s no longer their problem. They can go back to their cubicle and work on the next project.

Guess again.

All of us have projects where we put the final dot on an “I” and cross the final “t” and can’t wait to get that project off our desk. However, we’ve taught ourselves we don’t operate in silos.  But we certainly know folks within our organization who do. And like the kids on the playground who don’t get selected first, or even second, for that pickup game of dodge ball at recess, they don’t get it.  Project management is a team sport.

In this challenging economy, there is even less of a place within an organization for individuals who don’t understand the dynamics of the sales process and how difficult it is to win the business in the first place. They may not understand the business cycle or have a complete grasp of the multiple disciplines and roles required to move a project towards a successful outcome.  These individuals may not grasp the difficulty involved in customer retention. When these types of project team members finish their work, in their mind, they have done their job and that portion of the project ceases to become their responsibility. It’s not their problem anymore. And I’m not just talking about junior staffers, either.

Project outcomes are always everyone’s responsibility. So everyone owns the problems.  And the rewards.  I’m sure there are quite a few of you out there who have participated in at least one highly successful project team that had a marvelous project outcome. These types of project outcomes and the teams that achieve them are truly unforgettable – and rare- as though the stars were aligned from the beginning. Highly successful project outcomes and teams don’t happen by accident or serendipity. Many highly successful project outcomes are a result of ordinary folks – not your corporation’s rock stars – assuming responsibility and stretching themselves beyond what was required of them, resulting in a robust and innovative outcome. Successful project outcomes happen because all of the project team members are truly engaged in understanding each other’s functional roles . They incorporate that mutual respect into what they bring to their own individual area of responsibility.  No silos. Just synergy.

For those of you who interact with project teams that are not necessarily characterized by “synergy” or “mutual respect,” the tendency is to complete your portion of the project and hand it off. Or be less than communicative over the duration of that project, over multiple project team meetings.  Your siloed approach shortchanges everyone, including you. If someone falls down in their functional role it’s far costlier to compensate for the error in rework than have anticipated the probability of the error in the first place. The nature of the error may be lack of time, interest or less than brilliant execution.  A travel schedule that creates gaps in project meeting attendance. Team meeting notes that are not circulated in a timely manner or are not as detailed as they should be. Lack of communication or follow through in between project team meetings. Telephone conversations with the client and changes to the project that need to be immediately communicated to the project team. It’s those little things, the details that you feel aren’t your problem, that ultimately become your problem down the road.

Hybridizing the engineering approach you bring to the project team is going to be critical to not only your career, but the longevity of your company in the consulting civil engineering marketplace. There’s a lot of talk going on these days about innovation, which I’ll be addressing in a future guest blog on this site. However, the assumption by most folks is that innovation is best left up to, well, the innovators:  the braniacs.  Actually, innovation is a matter of self-discipline and the ability of incorporating the perspectives of everyone seated around your table into what you bring to the table.  Just do a little something differently than you’ve done before. That’s innovation.

So the next time you are assigned to a project team, take a different approach. An innovative approach. Find out what everyone does on your team. No matter how well you think you know them.  No matter how many times you’ve worked with them in the past.  Even if you are part of their sand volleyball team on Wednesdays. Take a few minutes out of your workweek to talk to them about the project – outside of team meetings. And then start your functional project work as though you are the entire team.  It’s hard to take a siloed approach with this hybridized perspective, isn’t it?

All of us have projects where we put the final dot on an “I” and cross the final “t” and can’t wait to get that project off our desk. However, we’ve taught ourselves we don’t operate in silos.  But we certainly know folks within our organization who do. And like the kids on the playground who don’t get selected first, or even second, for that pickup game of dodge ball at recess, they don’t get it.  Project management is a team sport.
In this challenging economy, there is even less of a place within an organization for individuals who don’t understand the dynamics of the sales process and how difficult it is to win the business in the first place. They may not understand the business cycle or have a complete grasp of the multiple disciplines and roles required to move a project towards a successful outcome.  These individuals may not grasp the difficulty involved in customer retention. When these types of project team members finish their work, in their mind, they have done their job and that portion of the project ceases to become their responsibility. It’s not their problem anymore. And I’m not just talking about junior staffers, either

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civil engineering jobs :: civil engineering resumes :: civil engineering blog :: civil engineering discussion

September 30, 2009 at 2:53 pm 2 comments

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