Megan Scott, CPSM

Associate/Marketing Manager


You never know what you might learn in one of Schmidt Associates’ internal trainings called Schmidt Academy. The session might explore advances in technology, discuss enhancing our design presence, teach us to be nimble and efficient, or to strengthen our leadership skills. Last week, we had one called, “Project Managers Debrief – Getting Better at What We Do”. The room was packed with staff at all levels, curious to hear about our successes and challenges on a few recent projects. Being in the marketing department at Schmidt Associates, I find these ‘technical’ sessions extremely informing and love learning more about what our designers do each day.

This session featured five different project managers and their experiences on two different projects. As they talked about what made the projects most successful, or created the most challenges, something became clear to me. It seems like success revolves around communication. It was interesting to hear how all the different types of communication impacted the projects.  Here’s some examples I learned:

  • Internal Communication
    • Having full-team discussions early in the project is critical. It’s just as important for the engineers to understand the goals, budget, and scope as it is for the architects. This helps ensure the design fully reflects the project goals and budget. You never want to design something and then hear, “we can’t afford that at all, let’s start over.”
    • If younger staff are working on the project, it’s important for them to have a mentor who can help them fully understand the type of space they are designing. It’s necessary to nurture their development.
  • Full-Team Communication
    • Understanding who the final decision maker is with the Owner, and making sure they are at meetings where key decisions needs to be made, helps ensure the project schedule is maintained. Having to wait for the Owner’s response can take unnecessary time and create redundancies that have a lasting impact on the project.
    • Knowing the Client and all the stakeholder groups well makes sure each person or group is communicated with in their preferred style. After you work on a few projects together, you develop a strong rapport and can anticipate their needs.
  • Correspondence
    • Having a clear meeting agenda, and detailed post-meeting notes helps document decisions. This can become especially important as the project progresses and someone questions why something is the way it is. Being able to provide the documentation of why it is that way can help break the ice in what could become a controversial issue.

At the end of the session, the attendees helped develop a ‘Top 10’ list for making sure a project runs smoothly. A lot of the items were centered around the topic of communication. Hearing everyone ask questions and provide ideas was inspiring. It reminded me how much I personally love the commitment Schmidt Associates has made in our staff development and how our staff is eager to learn and improve.