Conference Calls are Killing Me

At some point, somebody thought instead of having face-to-face meetings, conference calls would be a good idea. They were wrong because it’s a bad idea … just like ordering anything from a “food” truck is a bad idea. Just a warning, I am writing today’s post while balanced upon my soapbox.

architect on the telephone

I have a project I have been working on that seems to have every possible consultant possible involved – Structural, Civil, MEP, Smart Building, Door Hardware, Interior Design, Specification Writer, Information Technology, Low Voltage, Building Automation, Sound Masking, and Security … I think the only consultant we are missing is a Zookeeper. Due to the number of consultants (twelve if you were counting), we have a lot of meetings and a lot of conference calls … and conference calls are one of the biggest time-sucks ever known to mankind.

There are probably a lot of you out there thinking:

You’re crazy, conference calls save so much time, they are an incredibly effective use of my greatest resource … time.”

If you are that person, you are probably part of the problem. As the architect on the project, I have to talk to all of these consultants constantly, literally hours and hours and hours each week, whereas most of those consultants only have to talk to one or two other people from that list, and even then, only occasionally (and I’m on all of those calls). When working on a project with that many consultants, one of my roles is to make sure that nothing falls through the cracks and that the work is coordinated between all the associated individuals. When a conference call is involved, 9 times out of 10, the person I am speaking with just starts looking at the information we are supposed to be discussing while we are on the phone.

Am I the only person who actually prepares for conference calls?!? Recent observations have led me to conclude that conference calls are a crutch to allow people to postpone doing their work ahead of time. If you are sitting across the table from me and you aren’t prepared, there’s nowhere for you to hide … you will see me looking intensely at you as if I were your mother and I just caught you doing something that we both know you shouldn’t have been doing.

The amount of time I spend acting as “Quality Control” for someone else’s scope of work seems endless. I’m not sure when it happened, but somewhere along the way, the architect has become responsible for making sure that everyone else is actually doing their job … and if I wanted to do their job, I’d be whatever it is that they are. Apparently, it is now my job to check everybody else’s work and cover such low-hanging fruit like:

“You can’t physically put this here, that’s a wall”


“Why are there sound-masking devices in the parking garage?”


“You have abbreviations for everything, including the manufacturer … you’re going to have to provide a legend.”

or my favorite

“You have the wrong project name in the specifications.”

I know that these are highly trained and intelligent people, so what’s going on? Have I slipped into a cycle where people know that I will check their work and as a result, stopped doing it themselves? As the architect, and project lead, it is my job to coordinate the work of all my consultants … I totally get that and I am on-board for providing that service, but these days it seems like I am an extension of all my consultant’s firms and my job description includes performing quality control on their scope of work.

If you think I am complaining, you would be correct.

Stop the madness, or I’m going to send you to bed without your dinner.

Bob signature FAIA

Source: Life of an Architect