Quality, Consequences and the Construction Industrial Complex (part 324).
What is better, an optimistic or skeptical mindset?
For project management and building commissioning I would argue a skeptical mindset is better and probably necessary to be good at your job. If you seek comfort and perpetual agreement with everyone you will be gullible and ineffective in high stakes project roles.
Building design and construction is intense, it produces enormous amounts of data and information that requires synthesizing and prioritization. To survive and be effective, AEC professionals must wade through a sea of data, information, meetings, inspections and human intelligence to determine what is relevant and actionable. In short, to be effective you need to reduce noise and find the truth in everything.
What is a Skeptical Mindset?
For me, I think of a skeptical mindset as being “Un-Gullible”. This does not mean being negative, it means seeking truth in what is before you.
“A skeptic is one who prefers beliefs and conclusions that are reliable and valid to ones that are comforting or convenient, therefore rigorously and openly applies the methods of science and reason to all empirical claims, especially their own.” (Source: Steven Novella)
This is a way of saying that all hypotheses and claims need to stand up to investigation and verifiable evidence. Skepticism begins by learning to spot the inconsistencies, it is the application of reason and critical thinking to determine validity. It is a process of using valid data to formulate conclusions, not looking for things to support opinions.
A skeptical mindset helps fight pre-programming and importantly for project work, group think, manipulation and peer pressure. Skeptics seek truth via evidence. Sounds like a project management and building commissioning mindset to me!
How Does a Skeptical Mindset Help?
A skeptical mindset provides structure for decision making and insurance against bullshit.
Project Management requires the intake of massive amounts of data, information and empirical evidence to determine next actions. Building commissioning seeks to answer the how questions?
- How is this project meeting specification?
- How is this project low carbon?
- How is this building performing?
In both project management & building commissioning, the levels of poor data, delusion and misdirection are epic. To survive and thrive at a high level you have be right, you have to make decisions based on a scientific approach using a logical process to derive answers. This typically involves the following steps:
- Ask a question, e.g. is this installation ready for power? is this system performing? is building completion on track?
- Research and gather data + evidence
- Test data + evidence against physical realty i.e. verify
- Decide and take action
For me, being a skeptic helps me survive and make better decisions. I recommend skepticism because it has been key to saving my ass on many projects.
Does this make sense or are you skeptical?
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