Finding A Better Way

I am sure if you asked anyone to tell you what they like about their job and what they don’t, they wouldn’t have trouble listing at least a few things in either category.

Be open to new ideas.

When I think about my job, there are things that I find that can be done more efficiently, so I suggest ways to do them better. I am fortunate that my supervisor supports me, is open to my ideas, and isn’t afraid to change things if he thinks they can be done better or more efficiently.

Lack of efficiency and corporate bureaucracy are two very big reasons why I left my last firm. That job was my first exposure to working for a global firm, and there were many processes in place -- for good reason.

Many times, different offices within the firm would collaborate on projects based on the teams’ strengths, abilities, and availability. It was important for the project manager to form the strongest team possible when putting a proposal together and also to expose those with less experience to the project in order for them to gain much needed experience in a changing marketplace.

If you have worked at your office for very long, I am sure you have noticed idiosyncrasies that arise from time to time that make your job more challenging. If you have not, just ask around; I would bet your co-workers could name a few.

Of course, there are pros and cons to working for both large and small firms. I know I have spent my fair share of lunch hours debating the merits of each with my colleagues.

When I think about what is most important to me in a job, affecting change for the good of the group is something that ranks high on the list. It has been my experience that this usually (though not always) works best at a smaller firm.

Which brings me to where I am now.

I spent the last couple of days working on what we call a “submittal review”. Basically, the plans and specifications for the project are complete and the contractor has been awarded the job. He is now securing cut sheets and shop drawings for everything that he proposes to use during construction.

Because we are a subcontractor on the project, we have been receiving these “submittals” in stages. When we write our specifications, we use products we are familiar with and know will work. However, to be fair, we must list the product and include “or an approved equal”.

The contractor then secures bids for the materials and submits the cut sheets to us and we have to verify that everything the contractor wants to use meets the listed specifications.

There are times that I am secretly convinced that contractors disregard the listed part and opt for the “approved equal” just to be funny. Or perhaps it is out of spite, I am not quite sure. But what I do know is that it does get laborious having to research page upon page of manufacturers’ cut sheets to verify that the part or product meets the same standard listed in the specifications.

Whether working for a large firm or a small firm, I have always found this to be the most time consuming and frustrating part of my job. It seems that every firm I have worked at has treated these “reviews” in similar fashion, and no one has yet to build a better mousetrap.

Perhaps someday we will.

Have you struggled with this in your role at work? Perhaps you deal with something you find even more frustrating and have yet to find a better way to handle it?

If you have, I would love to hear about it. Feel free to leave a comment below, send me a tweet, or even an email. I look forward to hearing from you.

Have a great weekend!

Boyd Coleman is a landscape architect in Phoenix, Arizona. He can be reached on twitter at @CDGLA or email: