Who’s Bad!

As a public service to the AEC profession, we offer Project Management tips (PMt’s) based on our experiences. The basics of project management can be distilled into two ‘tasks’- scheduling and open communication. Master these and you’ll be well on your way to successfully managing projects and becoming a competent architect.

There’s an old phrase I’m sure most of you have heard. The basic format is “Do you want the good news first or the bad news first?” It gives one an option on how to receive conflicting information. Do you want the bad news first and then good news to cheer you up? Do you want the good news first to ‘cut the edge’ of the bad news? At parties it morphs into horrid jokes such as:

Doctor: “I have some good news and I have some bad news.”

Patient: “What’s the good news?”

Doctor: “The good news is the test show you have 24 hours to live.”

Patient: “That’s the good news? What’s the bad news?”

Doctor: “The bad news is that I forgot to tell you yesterday!”

When it comes to the AEC profession, this format doesn’t apply so well. Clients expect the architect to give them good news. Good news is, well it’s good. Usually no big hooray from the client when it’s delivered, that’s what they want, and expect, to hear from the architect. Bad news is… well… it’s bad and most are uncomfortable addressing. However, to be a successful architect, you need to be comfortable with bad news. Construction is a complicated process and stuff will happen that’s bad. To provide your clients with the best service possible, you better channel your inner MJ and tell them Who’s Bad!

To be an effective architect and run successful projects, you need to be the bearer of bad news. This falls under open communication and ranks up there as a difficult technique to become comfortable with. However, mastering this will have a lasting impact on your client relations. Clients don’t recall much of the good news of a project. However, they do recall every bit of bad news and how it was handled. Don’t wait for someone else to inform the client of bad news. Phone the client, or better yet meet face to face- no email, no singing telegrams, no text messages, no twitter update, no snap chat, and no sky writing– and inform them of the issue.

Explain the how/why it happened, what it may impact- budget, schedule, etc. Most importantly, explain how it will be addressed and resolved. Clients understand (for the most part) that sh** happens. It’s how the architect deals with the sh** that matters. If you bring the issue to the client’s attention and explain how it will be resolved, your client’s going to know that you are actively managing the project and truly have their best interests in mind- which you must! However, what will the client think of you if they hear bad news from someone else or worse, there’s an attempt to ‘hide’ it from them? If you don’t know the answer to that, none of my PMt’s can help you.

Continue to deliver the good news to the client, after all it’s good. Everyone loves hearing good news, but keep in mind that’s why they hired you, good news is expected. To endear yourself to your client, become adept with bad news and its’ delivery. Stay tuned, future posts will offer even more tried and tested PMt’s that you can implement on your projects… or ignore, your call. A revised good news/ bad news joke more apt of the AEC profession:

‘Seasoned’ Architect: “I have some good news and I have some bad news.”

Intern: “What’s the bad news?”

‘Seasoned’ Architect: “The slab pour is wrong and it’s going to set the schedule back 38 weeks!”

Intern: “Oh crap, that sucketh. What could possibly be the good news?”

‘Seasoned’ Architect: “You need to ‘learn’ how to deal with bad news… text the client and let ‘em know… see you tomorrow!”


Design On,

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* This post is part of the ArchiTalks series in which a group of ‘blog-ing’ architects select a topic and the group all post on the same day and promote each other’s blogs and read varying takes on the topic. This month’s topic is ‘Communication.’ To read how other architects interpreted the topic please click the links below:


Jeff Echols – Architect Of The Internet (@Jeff_Echols)
Communication and the Question of Relevance

Lee Calisti, AIA – Think Architect (@LeeCalisti)
what does it communicate?

Lora Teagarden – L² Design, LLC (@L2DesignLLC)
Types of communication in architecture

Eric T. Faulkner – Rock Talk (@wishingrockhome)
Talk, Write, Draw — A Com Hat Trick

Michele Grace Hottel – Michele Grace Hottel, Architect (@mghottel)

Meghana Joshi – IRA Consultants, LLC (@MeghanaIRA)
Architalks #36: Project Amplify

Brian Paletz – The Emerging Architect (@bpaletz)
Communication – What, How, Why?

Jeffrey Pelletier – Board & Vellum (@boardandvellum)
Tips for Communicating with Your Architect, Interior Designer, or Landscape Architect

Samantha R. Markham – The Aspiring Architect (@TheAspiringArch)
Why Communication Skills are a Must for Aspiring Architects

Jim Mehaffey – Yeoman Architect (@jamesmehaffey)
Communication in a Yada Yada World

Mark Stephens – Mark Stephens Architects (@architectmark)

Jane Vorbrodt – Kuno Architecture (@janevorbrodt)
Explain Yourself…

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