A large construction project such as a major-league sports stadium can include significant expanses of runoff-generating hardscape. A venue...
Communication in the storm water industry
Perhaps my most valuable lesson in communication came during my college senior design project. Everyone was looking forward to doing some real engineering through our capstone project of “designing” a few high-profile projects happening around the city—an airport expansion, realignment of a major interstate and infrastructure improvements for a global medical research company. However, this project was not traditional. The entire class was surprised to find a group of architects and planners waiting for us at the design studio the first day of the semester. We were put in groups representing each discipline. Each of us had different industry lingo, thought processes and problem-solving approaches.
As I recently reflected on this experience, I started to consider how communication in the storm water industry is very similar. The world of storm water management is probably one of the most communication-complex industries because of the diversity of professions. It is not uncommon to work with design engineers, environmental scientists, conservationists, academia, owners and developers, elected officials, and members of the general public. Add architects, landscape architects, planners, and aquatic biologists to this mix and there is sure to be confusion when trying to convey a condensed, cohesive message about the importance of storm water management.
Each of the professions can be very different in preferred communication styles and critical thinking approaches. Each discipline requires a unique education track with different desired skill sets and problem-solving approaches. In our day-to-day job responsibilities, it is easy to become accustomed to working with other like-minded professionals and routinely using our industry jargon without second thought. However, as we participate in stakeholder groups developing new regulations, give presentations to diverse audiences, or attend public meetings to present sensitive projects, specific communication and messaging are necessary to leave the audience with a lasting impression and accomplish the targeted goals.
As we all carry our torches forward to protect our precious water resources, here are a few communication reminders for meaningful conversations:
While we all spend countless hours to improve water quality, let’s make sure we take the time to have meaningful conversations, as well.