Be Like Mike: Inclusion and collaboration are keys to success

A backlit basketball player does a slam dunk | Shutterstock / S Pytel

Michael Jordan said, “Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence win championships.” Developing relationships and good communication with other stakeholders for a project will certainly save time, increase profits and provide possible openings for future projects. In my experience, informed people are much more willing to cooperate and work together. Good communication skills go a long way.

Let’s start with co-workers and employees. No one likes to be kept in the dark. Today’s work environment makes that more difficult because everything is fast-tracked and everyone is expected to multitask. Every employee is expected to do everything they can for the company, but that gesture is not always returned.

Years ago, when the fire alarm industry was much more entrepreneurial, it was very common. Employers treated their staff with respect and openness. In return, employees were much more willing to be loyal because they felt like part of the family. Some of these entrepreneurs talked openly about projects and the company’s financial shape.

When people are included in part or all of the decision-making process and asked for opinions, everyone works harder to make it work. Unfortunately, in today’s mega-conglomerate world, there are basically no two-way communications.

When you are getting ready to start a project, it is smart to review all the details before beginning. Not all fire alarm designers are created equal. It is not uncommon that the responsibility for meeting codes gets passed down to the contractor. Study the details and ask the designer questions that will surely arise. Hopefully, you will get an answer.

It’s a must to have a relationship with the fire marshal, inspectors and plan reviewers if there’s any doubt about whether something is going to meet code, or if something seems to be missing. I am continually amazed at how many contractors do not want to involve these people. I know owners who are the same way. No one person knows everything, and the more you discuss solutions, the more likely it is the job will be finished correctly and on time.

Ask for input

Ask for interpretations of the specifications and the local codes. Explain why you need certain information. I know I am a lot more willing to step up if I am in the loop and treated with respect. As the saying goes, “The only stupid question is the one not asked.”

As the project continues, most fire alarms will be interconnected to other building systems. Communicating with the other contractors will definitely improve the likelihood of a successful, reliably installed life safety system.

When the project nears the end, and you are planning for the final inspection, invite each of the stakeholders’ representatives to participate, including the owner. If you can find out who will be responsible for the fire alarm, invite them, too. That knowledge gained will make them look more informed to their employers. You also need to invite representatives from each of the companies that have equipment connected to the fire alarm. The better your relationship, the better the odds they will be there when needed.

A common phrase in the working world is “That’s not my job.” Communicating, sharing important timelines and following up will reduce that. Coordinating the final test and inspection with the other stakeholders will make it easier.

Attend and participate in all construction meetings. Remember the fire alarm contractor is usually the last to start and the first one expected to be finished. Discuss and document conversations at these meeting. Your job is to install a reliable system that works when needed without unwanted alarms.

In my experience, the general contractor’s primary goal is to finish on time, or early, and on budget. You can’t put a horn on a wall that is not finished, so the more you discuss timeline details, the better. I know that not every project goes smoothly, but I also know that the more you collaborate with the other contractors, the smoother it goes.

Obviously, keeping open lines of communication is important in all aspects of our lives. It may sound old-school, but it works. Try it and you will see.

About the Author
Tom Hammerberg

Thomas P. Hammerberg

Life Safety Columnist

Thomas P. Hammerberg, SET, CFPS is an independent fire alarm presenter and consultant in The Villages, Fla. He can be reached at TomHammerberg@gmail.com.

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