Manpower, Not Method

Posted on July 29, 2011


I often get caught up supporting or defending a particular way of executing a project, arguing for design-build (DB) for instance. I am a huge supporter of DB, but even I know it is not right for every organization. My message in those cases has been method, method, method.

Method, however, is only part of the solution. Without the right people, the method is irrelevant. Yes, expertise embodied in human form is what a client hires. People are who you talk to and people will be doing the work.

In my architectural internship, many years were spent learning how to produce high quality construction documents (CDs), the documents a contractor uses to assemble the building. Between the contractor’s team’s embodied knowledge and instructions in the specifications and CDs, the building will need to be built. A intern who thinks about who will be building the project— specifically that person or team’s education, training and techical bias—will be able to create drawings that are more useful. Machines do not build buildings (at least not yet), people do.

A particular construction method may help get a project built, but people are the real differentiator. And when two teams say they can deliver the same thing, the people are what tips the scale. Skilled professionals we respect, trust and can work with are who we choose do business with.

For most businesses and industries, colleagues (and their collective knowledge and creativity) are arguably the only true competitive advantage one company has over another. Knowledge management and application is what delivers value for clients, and expertise is the most valuable resource. People deliver it.

So despite a lot of discussion about how the work is done, let us not forget that debate should not happen until after the choice of who will do the work is made. How do you know your team is the right team?