Think ! About estimating, ants and Star Trek

Lately my head seems like a crossroad where classic work ethos collides with the strangest thoughts.

80% of my time these days is spent on budget control. 
A client hires my services as a back-up and reflection chamber for the hospital he is building. Not really a small one: 105.000 m² which means an investment of 327 million euros.
It started as a classic building project in 2008. The only thing different back then was the use of BIM, Building Information Modelling, combined with three different designer companies: one for the architecture, one for stability issues and one for technical installations. Very new at the time but not revolutionary since the software has been around for more than a decade. 
The first contractor was appointed in 2013 through a tender procedure. But not the classic one which gives the order to the lowest price. My client had followed a workshop lead by me some years ago and remembered that a set of criteria through which the contractor could show his eye for quality and process control was necessary. So he went that way. Brave but again, not really revolutionary.  

And yet, this project can indeed be called truely revolutionary !

Not by the use of the most fancy software or process methodology but by its mindset. 
The revolution at this project takes place in the meeting room. The way we work and interact as a team, even though we are different companies with an agenda of our own.
I hear you thinking: this is the utmost normal way of behaviour ! 
Well, not in the Belgian Construction World for the last decades: a meeting is normally a battle field where there is way to much testosteron in the air. You are supposed to work as less as possible and to sheet as much as possible. No person will admit it but deep down in their hart they know it's true. At the new hospital we're building: none of that ! The workload is shared, mistakes are admitted and solved without raised voices. And budget and planning is still under control.

But there is more: we question every step of what is considered to be daily business and don't hesitate to turn it around when it means less administration. 
Again, you're thinking: of course ! What else would you do ? 
One exemple: I dare you to find Belgian architects and contractors who work without monthly time consuming quantity surveys even though everyone is convinced that this is an enormous burden to get your money without gaining any knowledge. Well, we skipped it and replaced it by a far better system that demands less time and generates way more knowledge ! 

The other 20% of my time I spend teaching estimation to unemployed people with very different backgrounds and of very different ages. Without estimation software. Well, I don't consider Microsoft Office software. Excel has become as ordinary as pencil and paper. 
The emphasis is on the thinking. 
Analyzing the project means finding the story of the design. Making the estimation means creating the sequel of the building. Estimation software can help you finding the words, perhaps finding shreds of sentences and offering some grammar rules. But it won't tell the story of the project. Finding and continuing the story is how a job, which is perceived to be boring and often useless - in case the estimation doesn't results into a contract, which can run up as high as 9 times out of 10 - , when that job turns into a quest for knowledge.
This is my message to estimators: think, be active ! Don't let software turn you into a robot. 

A while ago Peter Hinssen posted a tweet or facebook message (I don't recall which one it was) about ants and wondered if this would be our future: equally looking creatures performing seemingly imposed tasks ? Becoming a kind of robot controlled by others ?

Recently I searched the internet and found it again:  
I think this will be our future indeed but I also think we won't mind looking the same and the tasks we will perform won't be imposed.

In the sixties Star Trek came to the screen and got violent reactions because humans where presented so differently: a black woman who was an officer was in those days not heared of ! At that time everyone in the Western world could dress the way they wanted but were stuck in their social position by the colour of their skin, their gender, the people they knew. Start Trek is very different: almost no distinction in outer appearance but what a mixture of characters ! Characters who help them to excel at their job. Characters who can turn their differences into a benifit for the team. Characters who respect each other for what they are; the good ànd the bad sides.

Even today we are still far from the Star Trek situation: we still want to look very different on the outside but prefer to be the same on the inside. 

We are no victim of our society and do create thoughts and ideas of our own but the most of us will only express them as long as they are harmless for the organisations who control our lives: companies, politics, labour unions, health insurances, etc. However, the number of people who lack the possible dangers is growing by the day. And it will turn our society upside-down !

The availability of data, big data, will structure our daily life because information will be available to every single one of us at any given moment in space-time. 

Rigid organisations, which have their own survival as their number one priority, will disappear. Organisations will become contemporary, rather organic things, brought to life to fill a need which springs from the bottom of society. Need fulfilled, organisation gone. Or the organisation reinvents itself to help solving another up-popping need.

A lot of people think that innovation is creating an artificial market which, by means of the right marketing strategy, will find it's way to the consumer. Some companies let us believe that they search for the "needs" of society and are not "just doing something". 
But according to what I can see around me, I don't think they fully grasp the idea and contemplate themselves with just some green-washing because this is the fashion of the day. Start Trek and the ants seem to be far away ... 

Yet, some people have started thinking and that is important.
Something is on the move ... :o)