January 16, 2013

Talking About the Spec

Talk to your specifier?
Are you communicating with your specifier during construction administration? Are you, perhaps, a little afraid to tell your specifier about something that didn’t get built according to the spec?

I will tell you, that’s exactly the kind of feedback we specifiers most need, in order to serve you better. Don’t be afraid.

What’s the point of communicating with your specifier, once the specs are done? Well, there are a few points, and many of them can make your project better and your work better.
  • If you don’t understand your specs, your specifier should be able to explain them.
  • If you’re tempted not to enforce a requirement in the spec, your specifier can tell you why it’s there and help you judge whether your reason for ignoring it might really outweigh the reason it was included.
  • If there’s a problem with the spec, how your specifier handles it speaks volumes about how important your business is to the specifier.
  • If you plan to work with this specifier many times or recommend her to an officemate, communicating a project’s outcome this time can make the next spec better.
  • The better connected you are with your specifier, the better coordinated your projects are likely to be. Communication is a good habit to develop.
It’s precisely because of the feedback I get on my specs that I make myself available for construction administration consultation for every project. I also feel that this service improves my clients’ spec literacy, which makes the next project go more smoothly.

What if your specifier gets shocked or offended when you don’t enforce her spec? It’s worth examining your relationship. Think back on how you told her, first, and see if it’s reasonable for her to have thought you devalued or ignored her hard work. If that’s a reasonable interpretation, apologize. A happy consultant is a faithful, dedicated consultant, after all. On the other hand, if you have a specifier who is hostile or unreceptive to your feedback, you have a choice: find out whether the relationship can be improved, or go shopping for a more collaborative specifier.

When you're a good teammate, and so is your specifier, you have the specifier you deserve. And good teammates have nothing to fear in working together.

Photo: "Fear" from The Expression of Emotions in Man and Animals, London 1872. Charles Darwin (1809-1882).


  1. Awesome post Vivian, glad I found your blog! I have so much respect for specifiers because there is so much knowledge that goes into this.

  2. I have always had a good relationship with the field representatives. I like it when they tell me "paragraph x really saved us today--don't ever change it" and when they ask if we can tighten up some language in the spec master. Much of what is in Part 3 of my masters is the direct result of that interaction.

    1. Thank you for your comment! It's great when you can develop that rapport. I have a few Golden Reps who take good care of my projects. They help make my specs better in so many ways.

  3. love the article. Lets connect on Linkedin.

  4. Keep this going please, great job!


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