By Guest Blogger: Dace A. Campbell, AIA, LEED AP
"The price of success is hard work, dedication to the job at hand, and the determination that whether we win or lose, we have applied the best of ourselves to the task at hand."
– Vince Lombardi
It's Super Bowl week, and whether you're cheering for football's best offense in the Denver Broncos, or the Seattle Seahawks league-best defense, at the end of the game only one team will emerge from the swamps of New Jersey as the champion of the National Football League.
Of course, in our industry, we hear about champions all the time. "She's our Sustainability Champion, and specializes in all things Green" or, "As the Quality Champion, we look to him to sustain excellence." Like in sports, champions in our industry are winners. They own subject domain expertise, and are often highly sought after for it.
At Autodesk, we often have the pleasure of working with industry "BIM Champions" when we interface with our customers who use our tools and solutions. They're certainly a fun group of people to engage, consult with, and collaborate with. But I'm here to tell you, in no uncertain terms, don't be a BIM Champion.
To champion (verb)
Subject Matter Expert
Don't Be a BIM Champion
That's right, if you're a "BIM Champion," you should not be satisfied with that title. Expertise is fleeting, and if you don't leverage it into something greater, you'll be unwelcome. BIM Champions, an evolutionary necessity in BIM adoption, are imminently becoming yesterday's news: a temporary missing link on the way to something bigger and better.
Here's what I mean: A "champion," as a noun, is the winner, the victor, the one who has defeated all others. In a professional setting, the champion is the "go-to guy" (or gal) and the one people look to as the specialist with the answers. That's fine on the surface, as our industry is comprised of technical and professional specialists.
But when it comes to BIM, is that really enough? Are we satisfied with technical specialists who own and guard the answers, peck away at the keyboard in a back office, and solve problems on behalf of project teams? How can the approach of a BIM "army" of specialists and gate-keepers scale up, so that BIM can become pervasive in operations? Where is the career path or growth for a BIM Champion, at risk of burning out or plateauing? How can BIM truly become integrated within a culture, if it's relegated to a few high priests, cowboys, and gurus who have, and protect, the keys to unlocking the technology?
To the BIM Champions, I say: BIM does not belong to you. It belongs to the project team, where those in operations are solving real-world problems, getting designs documented and buildings built. BIM doesn't belong relegated to the specialists, the "champions," in a back room. BIM is best when it is democratized, scaled, and pervasive in a firm and culture. Much like safety, BIM should be everyone's responsibility.
Instead, Champion BIM
Some firms understand this, and are moving beyond the BIM-specialist approach to a more mature, elevated stance of integrating BIM with firm culture and practice. By doing so, they are leveraging an approach in which "champion" is not seen as a noun, but as a verb. That is, to champion something is to defend, support, and advocate. It is not to have the answers, it is to inspire and inform others to discover the answers they seek.
Championing BIM, as with anything transformative, requires relentlessness and dedication. It demands humility and determination. It requires "BIM Champions" to evolve and adopt a new attitude towards their subject matter expertise.
BIM expertise is not the end in itself; rather, it should be seen as the means to a greater end of transforming your firm and your industry for the better.
Former BIM specialists should enable this transformation, and empower their colleagues by becoming mentors, coaches, and evangelists. It is not about guarding your specialized knowledge of BIM, it is about broadcasting it and finding ways to insert it into others' everyday work. Successful coaches don't play the game, they inspire those around them to execute at their best.
Change Your Culture
Only when a firm's professional staff is saturated with BIM knowledge, and empowered to apply it on all of their projects, can you transform a firm's culture and come out on top.
The method of championing and democratizing BIM, as opposed to hoarding it within a group of specialists, is not without its challenges. First and foremost, upper management needs to recognize that democratization of BIM beyond specialist subject matter experts is an appropriate next step in the evolution of BIM adoption. Yet even with executive buy-in or mandates, as you train project operations staff to embrace BIM, there will be institutional inertia, protective project managers, and even pockets of resistance to be addressed. There may be fewer, or less dramatically stellar, BIM successes – a potential trade-off for consistency, steadily increasing adoption, standardization, and predictability. BIM Champions may lose their rock-star status, but the firm will be better for it with enterprise-wide gains in efficiency.
Within firms who embrace this elevated stance, BIM departments may ultimately shrink or even dissolve. Some former BIM specialists become trainers, lead R&D or broader innovation efforts, join sales and marketing, or IT and support. Other former BIM champions become BIM-savvy "power" users on project teams, better integrated into the profession, enjoying a long and prosperous career path in operations. There is no doubt, however, that those who succeed in changing their firm's culture with BIM have an abundance of healthy career directions in front of them.
Stop defending your turf as a winner, and stop limiting your career, your firm, and your industry as a specialist "BIM Champion." Start actively championing BIM to those around you, and you may find there really is nothing stopping you, and your firm, from winning it all.