WHY DOES IT MATTER?
So why does effectiveness matter?
This is the beginning of a new series we're opening on studying and improving effectiveness. Now this was essentially seven years of organization and personal changes on a journey I was on to improve being effective as a professional. And we'll talk about what all went into this process. But today to start us off, why does effectiveness matter?
Well, first as an introduction, I'm Joe Meyer. I'm out of St. Louis, Missouri. I'm a fire protection engineer with a background in consulting, shop drawing, design, and stock listing. I've worked for architects, owners and contractors.
In this segment, we're gonna talk about why does effectiveness matter? Why care about effectiveness is motivation? How does motivation play in? Is motivation taught? What are our options for being able to get more work done? What even is the difference between effective versus efficient?
We'll go through what would we have to change to be more effective in our role? How do we gather ideas for improving our own effectiveness? We'll go into an example on improving just a single process and the kind of time impact that it has. We'll talk about time as an investment and how building resources for ourselves now pays off over time.
We'll talk about where our time actually goes and what that data says about that. We'll talk about what options we have to improve effectiveness overall. We'll look at data from a two-year task by task time study, where we evaluated time to the minute across 58 projects and what it took to complete those jobs from start to finish. We'll look at lessons learned from that two-year data driven time study, and then we'll take all of that and summarize and come away with how can we be more effective in our role.
PROCESS DRIVEN STUDY
Now the context of this study and this presentation is through my lens. This is much of my personal journey that I've been on. Like I said, through the last seven years. So, when I talk about examples, I think of mostly suppression or shop drawing design or consulting from the perspective of a fire protection engineer. But a lot of this is process driven. It's not specific to what we're actually doing. So the lessons learned, the takeaways, the importance, that affects everybody.
If we're a consultant or if we're in insurance or if we're a contractor, what our process is, is gonna change what the actual step by step of how we do our individual roles is going to be different. And that's a good thing.
But a lot of the takeaways that we look at when we're thinking holistically about being effective in our role and why it's important is how we go about bringing change and improving our own processes. Well, that's universal. And I think that you'll find it is. I hope you'll find that there's a lot to learn when we look at how we spend our time and how we can improve that process.
This essentially applies to any sort of role. This essentially applies to any sort of role that is project based or has repetitive elements. If you're ever doing a process more than once, this is the series for you. A lot of times, we like to step back and think, oh, well, no two projects were the same or my reports are always custom to the client, or my process changes depending on what the scope of work actually is. I can understand that.
I can sympathize that no two projects are exactly the same and you don't necessarily treat every project exactly the same or every client exactly the same or every report exactly the same. But I do think that there are takeaways and there's things that we learn over time. Or if we improve our process, if we get a better starting point or we think about time a little bit differently that we can make our own work life a whole lot healthier, a whole lot more streamlined, a whole lot more transparent and make it far more effective than what it is today.
DISCLAIMERS 1 - TAKE WHAT WORKS FOR YOU
So, some important disclaimers that go along with this series, one. is that you need to implement this at your own risk. And I mean this out of the side of my mouth, some things are gonna be good that you can take away and implement on your own, right? Some things you should bring in some level of skepticism, other things you're just gonna listen to and say, “Hey, this Joe guy’s crazy.” I get that. Not everything works for everybody.
Organizations are different. Company structures are different. What might work for a volunteer organization that's small and rural and knows everybody may not play well when you get into a large corporate environment where there's a lot of underlying pressures going on. I understand that you have to take what works for you.
DISCLAIMER 2 - IT’S NOT ABOUT WORKING DOUBLE TIME
Number two. My hope is that you don't take away, well, Joe said you can work twice as hard. So you should. I wouldn't want to hear that from a boss's perspective. I wouldn't want to hear that from an employee's perspective. This is really not a corporate seminar explaining that you can work twice as hard, so therefore you should work twice as hard.
What I'm really focused on is how do we improve your overall effectiveness? Not just I'm gonna run twice as fast and work twice as hard or work twice as many hours. That's not what we're going for here.
There are causes that I want to support, but your boss coming in and saying, you can work twice as hard because Joe said you could, is just not the sword I wanna fall on.
DISCLAIMER 3 - NO GAIN WITHOUT PAIN
Then my last disclaimer for this series is there's really no gain without pain. A lot of these processes are from a personal perspective and from an organizational perspective. There were things that we tried that didn't work and there were things that we tried that did work. I'm mostly gonna focus on the things that we can pull lessons out of and not necessarily walk through every single scab that we developed along the way. So, I'm sharing the wins here, not the pain with relevant takeaways from that whole process.
Especially when we look at organizations and getting buy-in from multiple parties, we're never gonna get to a point where we have total agreement among all parties. That's okay. Diversity of perspective is a really good thing.
But I just want to be clear that this development, especially when we look at the organizational aspects, well, it's not universal and there's not always total agreement from day one. It takes a lot of buy in over time.
So what is it, what are we actually talking about in this series? Well, this is a personal journey over seven years. So when it started out, I worked for another company. The company was a small MEP and fire protection firm and we were interested in finding ways that we could do high quality work better.
Through small group initiatives within that organization and through larger initiatives within that organization, we made some change happen. That was a real positive thing. And then later on, I went to work for myself and I kind of went into obsessed mode about finding ways to be more efficient and more effective.
And at that time, I started recording task by task, minute by minute, where I was spending my time to try and find gaps, find ways in which I was wasting time and improve my own process. That led to a time study of 58 projects over two years where I collected data on every task, through that whole process and found some important takeaways that we could get from the data.
THE WHY – REASON 1
So why does this even matter? Seth Godin, one of my favorite authors says, start with why. Why? Why even talk about efficiency and effectiveness?
Well, number one, because our industry needs it. And number two, because it's too important not to.
Okay, Joe. So why don't we talk about this? Well, most companies don't because there's a competitive advantage to being very efficient in your role. If company A is far more efficient than company B, well they can have more profit margin on the same amount of work.
We tend to think that if we're more efficient, then that can be our competitive advantage as a company that allows us to make better margin on the jobs that we work on, allows us to be more profitable than our competitors, allows us to hire more people or have a better culture or fill in the blank and whatever advantage you get from that.
So, we don't like to talk across company lines about how we're being more efficient in our role. And to be honest, that's probably the biggest roadblock as to why we don't talk about that today.
The other reason we don't talk about efficiency, especially in terms of consulting, consultants don't like to talk across company lines about efficiency and neither do contractors. Now, in the AHJ space or in the insurance space, it may be a little bit less adversarial. So the different organizations might be more willing to collaborate on what they're doing overall, but at least on the competitive side for contractors and consultants, it's just a very hush hush topic that not a lot of people want to share their company secrets. If you know something, if you have a better process of doing it, you tend to hold that really tight to the chest and not tell the world. That's just how it's operated to date.
THE WHY – REASON 2
The number two reason that this isn't discussed very often is it can be perceived as a top down issue. So as an employee or as a designer or as a novice in the office, I don't particularly care to hear my boss or supervisor come in and tell me how I need to be more efficient in my role or how I need to be working harder or how I need to be more effective. It's perceived as a slight on what I'm doing. And so supervisors, bosses, it's not a very comfortable topic to talk about, but that it's also not very well received. So that friction naturally makes it something that we just don’t like to talk about all that often.
INDUSTRY IN NEED
So going back to, why do we need to talk about it? Well, the number one reason, our industry needs it.
Right now at the beginning of the 2020s, demand for fire protection work and fire protection expertise is very high. Our industry needs it. Our supply is low and the demand is high. Why is that? For one, we're dealing with a great resignation.
Call it the experience Exodus or the great white retirement or whatever label you wanna put on it. We're losing a lot of expertise when the last of the baby boomers are retiring. This is a phenomenon in the US as far as post-war babies in the very last of the baby boom are now retiring, but it's only gonna be a trend that continues for us here in the next two to five years. We're losing a lot of experience and we don't have the numbers to come in behind it and make up for that gap. The data proves that out as well.
Why else is demand high? Well, there's more demand for fire protection designed than there ever has been before. If you look at the involvement that's required across projects and across different owners just talking about fire protection engineers alone, the demand is significantly higher than it used to be.
When you look at major changes to fire protection engineering involvement in the last 15 to 20 years, there's major stakeholders that have amped up their requirements for positions like fire protection engineers. Not only do they have more fire protection engineering involvement on the review side, but they also require more fire protection engineering involvement on their projects.
Just US federal projects, for example, under the unified facilities criteria requirements, UFC, there's now a whole lot more requirements for fire protection engineering involvement on projects across the board. This didn't used to exist. And because of that requirement, we're seeing huge increases in demands for fire protection engineering.
Well, when fire protection engineers get pulled into certain sectors that ,opens up opportunities for others, too-fire sprinkler design, fire, alarm design. There's a lot of technician help that needs to happen to help displace that demand. And so just because one specific title or one specific designation sees a whole lot of written requirements for demand and their involvement on projects, that means that it gets spread out throughout the whole industry and we as a whole are seeing more demand for fire protection specific design and engineering than we ever have before.
The other way that we see increasing demand is the greater complexity that we have in our building systems than we ever had before. NFPA 13 back in the day, started out as a pamphlet, like literally a pamphlet.
The requirements for sprinkler systems, just as an example, used to be relatively consolidated in a short volume. Now, NFPA 13 handbook, just the handbook and just that one single standard is over a thousand pages long. I think you and I would both contend that if you understand NFPA 13, that doesn't itself mean, you know, everything that there is to know about suppression systems. But as a quantitative example of how our building systems and our buildings and the requirements around them have gotten more complex is just look at the length of these standards over time.
We also are seeing parts of our industry that are seeing huge expansions and complexity and involvement and that's smoke control systems. That's egress modeling, that's performance-based fire protection. There's a lot of opportunities that we have today that involve more complexity than we ever have had before.
So, the number two reason why we should talk about it is because it's just too important. Now, I totally understand that I'm preaching a little bit to the choir here. And if you're on this platform, it means you care about fire protection.
But in the big picture, if you’re more effective in your role and you’re able to do more and have greater impact with high quality, that means that you can help us improve the industry.
Fire protection is still a real issue. It affects a lot of lives and a lot of property. We as an industry need you to be as effective as you can in your role, because our cause is so important.
If the devastating losses from the Brazilian museum fire or the loss of life in the MGM grand fire have taught us anything, it's that we need knowledgeable, intentional thought about how we go about providing fire protection in our buildings.
In our next module, we'll talk about that central issue that I personally feel is plaguing our industry with stakeholders who don't care about fire protection and how that affects our buildings. And then we'll get into how that affects our approach and understanding of being effective in our role as for our protection professional.
I'm Joe Meyer, this is MeyerFire University.
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