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3 Non-Negotiable Rules Every Firm Needs for Reviewing Proposals

During my 20+ year AEC career, I've worked with some amazingly-intelligent and creative professionals. Some of those folks were strong team players, which led to out-of-this-world outcomes. 

Others couldn't work well within their team, and the end results were average to sub-par.

For all of us, wherever we land on the spectrum, sometimes we just need some reminders of how to play nicely in the sandbox.


3 Non-Negotiable Rules

Recently I was reading a book for my kids' school, called An Ethic of Excellence by Ron Berger, a teacher in Massachusetts with over 25 years of classroom experience. As usual when I read any book, I found some amazing tidbits that apply perfectly to our AEC industry. 

From Ron, to me, and now to are Ron's 3 Non-Negotiable Rules. I recommend them for writing review comments, as well as managing/participating in review meetings. I hope you find them as useful as I have!

They're simpler than you think. Ready?


Be Kind. It's essential that the critique environment feel safe, and the [team] and I are vigilant to guard against any hurtful comments. This includes sarcasm.

Be Specific. No comments such as It's good or I like it; these just waste our time.

Be Helpful. The goal is to help the individual and the [team], not for the critic to be hears. Echoing the thoughts of others or cleverly pointing out details that are not significant to improving the [proposal] also wastes our time. 

So simple, yet sometimes these go out the window during a proposal markup. I've seen it happen more times than I'd like.

Choose to embrace these for yourself, and introduce them to your team.

Bonus Guidelines

But wait...there's more! He also has guidelines, which fit nicely with the above rules. Here are some of Ron's guidelines:

We critique the work, not the person.

We try to use I statements when possible: "I'm confused by this," rather than "This makes no sense."

We try to use a question format when possible: "I'm curious why you chose to begin with this...?" or "Have you considered including...?"


Have you tried any of these? Do you think trying them would help your team work better together?


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