Communication

By: Chris Browne, LEEP AP
Vice President | Practice Area Leader – Planning & Visioning

The saying is true— “Communication is key.” From a professional project to a personal conversation, the most important aspect is clear dialog. As methods of communication in the workplace continue to evolve, EHRA Engineering focuses on maintaining effective communication both internally between team members and externally with clients as a critical element in delivering completed and successful projects.

My dad was an engineer for NASA, and I have marveled at how technology has allowed us to do such amazing things. Think about where communication has come in just the past 20 years. I used to listen to live broadcasts of space flights and the chats between Houston Mission Control and the space shuttle crew, amazed at what the NASA personnel were able to achieve. I thought to myself, “how have we come to this point that we can communicate to a person in SPACE from ground level so easily, yet communicating person to person is one of the hardest things we do?” Today we trust that through emails, phone calls and texts, the message we are trying to convey makes it there, and more importantly, is understood by the person receiving the message. But are we sure?

This, and other experiences I’ve had in my professional and personal life have helped me realize the impact communication has on a project’s success. Ineffective communication can be frustrating for team members and can lead to myriad problems and missed deadlines, which costs our clients money.  I’ve learned over the years that great communication in the workplace yields great project outcomes.

In 2008, EHRA devoted resources to the Houston Land Water Sustainability Forum design competition formed to provide exposure and encourage the adoption of new ideas, methods, and technologies aimed at positively impacting the sustainability of land and water resources. The final design was a collaborative effort that the EHRA team created together. When the results of the team’s design were displayed in the office, my first thought was, “This isn’t my work.” As I evaluated the end-product hanging on the wall, my next thought was that actually, “This is incredible!” The finished design was a product of an effective and communicative team that proved to be better than any one single idea, mine included.

Today I work with a great team of planners at EHRA that want to learn and grow. They listen. Listening without bias is as much a part of good communication as speaking with clarity. Communication must be both delivered and received. As a leader, I’m relishing my role now as a teacher more than anything else. I enjoy playing a part in others’ growth and demonstrating that our strength is in the team. If the team can communicate effectively, it will show in the outcome. I have moments when I realize, we just created something out of nothing. It is so satisfying to communicate concepts and then watch them come to fruition. I believe this is what good communication looks like in a project.

Although effective communication can be difficult, it is the foundation of understanding. It has been and will continue to be a pillar in both my professional success and teachings at EHRA.