Understanding the way your colleagues think is a big part of successfully working alongside them

By: Vollie Brink

Understanding the way your colleagues think is a big part of successfully working alongside them

Dear Mr Plumber (and engineer and technologist)…

There are various levels of engineering practitioners and competencies required to design and build engineering projects. I don’t place them in order of a hierarchy where the one is of a higher rank than the other, because their input and importance is equally valued and needed from planning, design, construction, completion, and the eventual maintenance, which now have the ‘fancy’ name of facilities management.

A building cannot be built by one person who has all the necessary competencies, skills and capabilities. There are some super people who can do almost anything and we call them ‘Jack of all trades, but master of none’.

How engineers are trained is how they think and do

The normal setup is that we need various competencies from people in the spheres of developing, planning, financing, design, architecture, engineering, building, sub-contracting, and many more.

Each of these people have been trained (I hope so) to ‘think’ in a certain way and when you communicate with them, argue with them, or discuss an issue with them, it becomes clear how they were taught to ‘think’. And that is how they solve problems and carry out their tasks.

This is actually a wonderful element and part of the whole combined effort to build a building with all its services and facilities and utilities.

However it can also create stumbling blocks if it is not recognised, valued, and managed, and if there is no respect for how the other team members ‘think’ and act.

It is this diversity that becomes dynamic and gives energy to render an end product that is complete and can serve the owner/developer or community, and deliver housing and services and the building blocks of an economy.

It is also this diversity that comes out in the thought processes where regulations, rules or standards are made and then you can clearly identify how some people think and how they were educated and trained.

There are two categories of thinkers and do-ers and this is where the rational design and deem-to-satisfy-rules comes in. Rational thought is also split into two levels of the thinkers and the do-ers.

The do-ers are very important; they are educated and trained to think and work within a framework with boundaries. These boundaries may be shifted and expanded but the task must always be within a formal framework with formal boundaries.

The thinkers are supposed to think out-of-the-box so that they can create new horizons to promote science and new technology and above all innovation and progress.

The do-ers must protect the ‘frame work’ and the existing standards and apply it strictly and see that it is applied because it is ‘good practice’.

When we sit around the tables of the South African Bureau of Standards (SABS), it becomes clear ‘how’ people think and why they say what they say and where they have been educated how to think. The ‘do’ people want to follow the rules strictly; this is their comfort zone and how they were educated and trained. This is not wrong, by any means, but this is why there is often no synergy or agreement.

The ‘do’ people will argue a point such as that there must be a ‘fixed number’ or ‘value’ and that you must then not deviate from it, and a ‘thou shall only do it like this’ which then becomes a framework and you dare not step over the boundaries. This is then becomes a ‘one-size-fit-all’ solution, but it is solid and, if you apply it, there will be success and ‘nothing can go wrong’.

This one-size-fit-all can be a size too small in some cases or too large in other cases, and then not the most economical solution.

The thinkers want to have the freedom to explore other options, which is perhaps more suitable, more fit-for-purpose, and more economical.

Read the full feature in Plumbing Africa February 2016,page 51.

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