4.1. First Iteration: Development, Action Planning, and Implementation
The first iteration focused on design management practices, and problems connected with the neglect of flow and value views and social factors were tackled. Specifically, client and user engagement, design quality, the planning and control of design processes, communication, and collaboration and coordination were addressed.
As a first step, the lead author of this paper facilitated the development of a common design management system (framework), which was discussed and agreed on with members of the design organization. Woods [48
] argued that frameworks are important: “The form of … frameworks is as much about the order that our own minds require to move forward effectively as it is about the accuracy with which some aspect of the world has been captured”.
The configuration of the design project management framework is shown in Figure 5
. First, the typical design project life-cycle from the perspective of the organization was divided into three stages: sales, delivery, and closeout. Next, the three design management functions (design system design, design system operation, and design system improvement) were mapped onto the project life-cycle stages. It was agreed with members of the organization that design managers and lead designers needed to be involved as early as the end of the sales stage and up until the design project closeout so that false promises would not be made to the customer and the team would be able to learn from project successes and failures. Design system design and design system improvement partially overlap with the delivery period. These overlaps are justified, as design of the design system and improvement of the design system are managerial functions that continue throughout all stages of design delivery. Design system operation, divided into plan, execute, and control management activities, falls within the delivery period.
The delivery period, broken down according to the new process model (Figure 4
), and in accordance with the Estonian Building Design Standard, comprises the brief, concept, and schematic design stages of design project discovery and the preliminary design, design development, and construction documentation stages of design project delivery. Other ideas related to the new design model, such as design contexts, which provide different perspectives of the object and subject-oriented activities and design iterations, were also introduced to design managers and designers [34
Next, on the basis of this common framework, the logic of the LPS [30
] was aligned with design management processes. The LPS was devised to ensure reliable design process flow by enabling the right conversations and establishing a network of commitments. Thus, means were established to facilitate both technical aspects (designing the design process) and social aspects (conversations between project parties) of design process management. The implementation of the framework followed.
The lead author of this paper worked together with the project manager, design team, and client to establish a master schedule, quality plan, communication plan, and financial plan during the project briefing stage. The lead author also supported the design team in its efforts to implement the LPS in a design project in eastern Estonia. Each design phase began with phase scheduling based on ‘pull’ principles to help the design team better manage the sequence of work through the communication of what needed to be done, why they needed to do it, and what the best way for them to do it was. As part of the pull planning, the required clash detection and intermediate design review meetings were introduced.
During the implementation of the framework, an emphasis was placed on ‘lookahead’ planning, which was connected to the tasks identified in the pull planning. The ‘lookahead’ plan was continually managed and tracked by the project manager. Every second week, a client meeting was held to provide the client with an update on progress, plans, and problems that needed to be addressed. After each client meeting, a team meeting was held, and the necessary changes in the pull schedule were made.
Thus, problems were addressed by implementing the common design management framework. This new understanding was implemented together with the LPS, bi-weekly client meetings, required clash detection, and design review meetings. The input required from the client was determined in the collaborative pull planning meetings. Poor technical coordination was addressed by adding the necessary BIM-enabled design coordination tasks and meetings to the phase plans. Similarly, the lack of quality was addressed by including compulsory design reviews in phase plans for individual designs and the design as a whole.
4.2. Second Iteration: Development, Action Planning, and Implementation
In the second iteration, problems related to client and user engagement, requirements analysis and the systematic study of alternatives, design quality, the planning and control of design processes, communication, collaboration and coordination, design (project) management and the understanding of design were addressed. This focus was selected on the basis of the initial feedback from designers and design managers.
First, a simplified structure for phases was established. Every phase was agreed to begin with the design briefing and end with a design review meeting involving all stakeholders in the design project. The structuring of the process was inspired by the new design model, while the focus would first be on the rhetorical perspective (subject-oriented activities), then on the method of analysis perspective (object-oriented activities), and finally, back on the rhetorical perspective (subject-oriented activities).
At the beginning of each phase, the rhetorical approach was concerned with the establishment of expected value propositions and a commitment to phase objectives, while at the end of the phase, it was concerned with an evaluation of design solutions when measured against value propositions. In other words, two meetings were required: a design briefing meeting and a client review meeting. For these meetings, a standardized structure and procedures were established (objectives, participants, typical agenda, and expected outputs); i.e., the means to structure and facilitate social interactions in the design process were established.
From the managerial perspective, the planning, execution, and control phase consisted of two sub-cycles of planning, execution, and control: weekly or bi-weekly and daily cycles. The weekly or bi-weekly cycles describe the work flow from the planning of meetings between the client and team, to work execution and control, then to the coordination of work-in-progress through model coordination and resolution, and finally, back to team planning sessions. The daily cycle is followed by individual designers in their daily work.
From the design perspective, the flow from one milestone to the next requires completion of activities and deliverables that form a baseline for the subsequent phase. Two types of standardized second level process descriptions were developed based on the high-level framework, one for project briefing and the other for the remaining design phases.
The managerial and design activities in the project briefing stage were mostly related to strategic aspects of the project, such as assessment of the need for a technology project, surveys, research, resources, and trade partners. Activities also included the development of a project program and establishment of a shared understanding of project objectives, working methods, collaboration practices, and expected behaviors through team and start-up meetings.
Second level process descriptions were also developed for other project delivery phases. Standardized phase descriptions were developed on the assumption that each phase would involve a similar process. Of course, in reality, processes are never the same, and it is the skill and experience of project managers, lead architects, and engineers that determines which activities are necessary or not in a given phase. These interventions were introduced to the whole organization, department-wise, by participants at the model development meeting; i.e., the structural engineering lead introduced the model to the structural engineering department, the architecture lead to the architecture department, etc.
The design model also became the basis for the development of further improvements, including but not limited to the following: checklists, a new classification system for design activities, a BIM execution plan, and visual control tools. Key tasks from the common design management framework were included on the checklists for design managers. On the checklists for designers, questions were structured according to design project stages, material type, and part of the building (e.g., walls).
Notably, to make the new process-oriented management of the projects more effective, departments were replaced by disciplines in the organizational structure. The typical tasks of the heads of the departments were shared by the CEO, project managers, lead designers, and engineers. Also, the bonus system was changed from department-based to project-based, where bonuses were tied to a project’s overall success, thus motivating different disciplines to work together.
In summary, many interventions were introduced in the second iteration. Most importantly, problems were addressed by introducing process models, checklists, meeting templates and structures, and visual controls. A new organizational structure and bonus system were also introduced to align the interests of different participants in the organization.