15. Getting To Team-based Solutions

You probably don’t need to worry to much about the your engineering on that project. You’re experienced and the design is solid. Focus your attention on dealing with the people. They’re the ones who will make or break it for you and they’re a lot more complicated than a variable flow chilled water system.

-Principle engineer discussing a project with his project engineer

Frequently, the most difficult problems for commissioning professionals are not the engineering challenges we are presented with by the systems we test. Rather, they are the challenges associated with the “people issues”. Resolving conflicts in order to arrive at a team-based solution takes skill and experience. The following list of basic rules for conflict resolution can help you get to team-based solutions with greater ease.

·       Identify the problem (state it clearly and get agreement)

·       Focus on the problem, finding the root cause, and getting to the solution

·       Attack the problem, not the person or people involved

·       Listen with an open mind to everyone involved (keep from jumping to conclusions or becoming accusatory)

·       Use respectful language through out the process (no blaming or put-downs)

Beyond the basic rules, commissioning professionals should consider the following tips:

·       Be fair and honest. Most people are ultimately interested in a fair and equitable solution to a problem. They may not like it, and it may take a while to get them to accept it, especially if it will place them under financial pressures. However, in most cases, the individuals involved want to deliver a satisfactory product.

·       Work to find common ground. Many problems in a construction project are integration issues and are not the fault of any one person or group. In some cases, unanticipated issues require brainstorming a creative solution.

·       Trust physics. It’s difficult to get angry and emotional when the problem comes down to an equation.

For the building and its systems to work, everyone involved has to want them to work and have some measure of dedication to the process. Commissioning professionals are hired to take a holistic view of the project, which puts them in a good position to nurture that attitude. In doing so, the commissioning process can foster everyone’s success.