In the design and construction industries, learning never stops. While you may develop expertise in your field, there’s always one more lesson you could learn, training session you could take and skill you could acquire to improve your work. Jason Radcliff, Landscape Architect, Principal and Director of Quality Management at dwg., realized this quite early on in his career and it’s the reason why he stays passionate about his field today. Today, he embraces each day as an opportunity to refine and grow in his work at the design firm.
“The philosophy of kaizen, or ‘continual improvement,’ is what keeps me motivated,” he notes.
In this edition of Behind the Build, we speak with Jason on how his “practice” in the design and construction world has transformed over the years, as well as how technology has helped him on his journey. Read below to learn more.
Do you have any stories from your first experience on the job?
During senior year of college, a professor warned me that this degree was only “a license to learn.” However, it wasn’t until several years after college that I truly understood what he meant. I had been ignorant about the commercial real estate development and construction industries and how they operate together. Nevertheless, being in a design field, I quickly learned how important the exchange of ideas and understanding were within the communication streams between these entities.
Why do you continue to design today?
I now understand why they call our profession a “practice” as opposed to a “perfection.” Some may become an “expert” in his/her field of study or “master” in his/her trade, but no one ever actually perfects the craft. The philosophy of kaizen, or “continual improvement,” is what keeps me motivated.
I’m much too curious to stop trying new ideas with our internal design and production teams–test, observe, provide feedback, try again, re-test, etc.–as part of our internal quality management process. I then take that process out of the office all of the way through construction, having the general and sub contractors provide feedback on how we could have improved our drawings and specifications. Ultimately, I have facility management teams provide valuable feedback for my R&D team, vendor and trade partners and sub consultants to incorporate into the next series of tests. It is an endless, fascinating process where we improve from each success, and even more so from each failure.
How has technology changed the way you work in construction?
When I first started working in a professional design firm, email had just replaced mailing/couriering discs of CAD files between design consultant teams. Exchanging files more frequently allowed better coordination among the various disciplines. It wasn’t until online conferencing and web-based project management tools became commonplace, that I saw a noticeable increase in a team’s ability to coordinate more effectively and efficiently throughout the entire project.
Of course, this eventually evolved into a more holistic, integrated development for design and construction teams. When used well, these tools minimize the cracks through which items and responsibilities fall and mistakes occur. Overall, accessibility, accountability and flexibility are the biggest workflow and lifestyle influencers I see that technology has afforded us today.
How would you describe PlanGrid to a peer who has never used it before?
“You’re going to want to sit down for this… and brace yourself.”
Since I began using it in 2015, it has revolutionized the way that I graphically communicate with anyone–inside or outside of the office while utilizing any device available.
What big wins or ‘ah-ha’ moments have you had since using PlanGrid? Do you look at PlanGrid as something that has given you a competitive advantage?
If you’re three clicks away from confidently making a more collaborative and sound decision, and I’m five clicks away–you win.
As my mind and memory ages, I’m constantly looking for the best “digital crutches” available while younger and smarter professionals enter the marketplace with my job in their crosshairs. Having near-immediate access to the most accurate information within all of our projects is key for me. PlanGrid provides that power.
Any recommendations or thoughts you want to share with the next generation of builders?
With all of the new flash-in-the-pan digital tools available on the market these days that promise to solve all of our problems, or make us more collaborative or profitable–don’t forget the importance of restoring the humanity of our service by picking up the phone or having that face-to-face meeting. Sometimes there’s no app for replacing that opportunity to really connect with team members and to effectively facilitate this exchange of ideas and level of understanding required to deliver projects–better than our last.