Project delivery is the life-blood of our business. It’s the heart and soul of professional practice. And it’s broken.
Many clients don’t realize the extent to which the traditional project delivery process impacts their capital and operating costs. Everyone complains about how dysfunctional it is, but here we are…day after day…repeating the insanity. Inflated costs and environmental impacts persist and many feel helpless to change the paradigm. But change is possible, and this article will give you an exercise that can put your firm on a track to a better process.
It’s no mystery that the better the project delivery process, the better the product (good for client and good for bottom line). And the integrative design process (IDP) is simply better business, independent of green building. It enables smoother coordination and better decision-making, provides more control and yields better quality, more profitable projects. And outcomes are greener as well.
When IDP emerged as a topic – it freaked a lot of people out. Then, over time, everyone began to claim they practiced it. Now LEED v4 recognizes the importance of IDP through a new credit and challenges teams to prove that they’re doing it. The evidence required to achieve the credit is missing a critical ingredient – the project roadmap or workplan that illustrates how critical path decisions are being made and how all of the pieces relate to each other. Firms experienced with IDP do this as a matter of course. In truth, most firms are far from employing IDP and they don’t even know how to measure their effectiveness.
So what can you do? You can take a few hours and do our Project Delivery Mapping exercise! We’ve led this exercise with firms all around the country and it’s been extremely helpful in identifying clear and achievable changes that can be put in place right away. It’s proven so valuable we’ve written up instructions so you can do it on your own.
Why do it? This exercise will provide many benefits:
- It will open up conversations you don’t usually have the time to have about business development and client targets
- It will daylight issues that you suffer with all the time but don’t stop to think about
- It will help you transform your relationship with consultants so that you’re aligned
- It will help you identify missing resources, tools or capabilities you need to meet client demand
- It will help you have better control over what analysis gets done and how the results get used
- It results in the development of a firm-wide methodology for IDP that can be integrated into project management and institutionalized as opposed to leaving it to people’s individual comfort level (enhancing performance without hampering creativity)
- Most importantly, it will enable you to achieve much higher levels of performance on projects consistently and empower you to achieve performance on projects even when the client is not bought in to sustainability. Plus, it will help you get that LEED credit all the time!
Here’s a brief summary of how the exercise works (see link below for the full process):
Start by getting the right people in a room. These people ideally represent different levels of responsibility and roles on a project and should also include marketing, HR and IT staff. Having more than one project manager is ideal. You get the most value if you have a variety of perspectives and experiences.
You may want to focus on one major project type at a time. If your scope of work includes public schools, higher ed and health care – three very different contexts – you can select one and choose the participants who are related to that specific project type, plus marketing, HR, etc.
The exercise is made up of 3 parts.
- Collectively map out (on a roll of trace) the chronological steps within the project delivery process. These are the factual steps and milestones that you are contractually bound to as well as other internal or related activities. Pay particular attention to the beginning and end of projects. Does the process begin with the RFP? Or with the marketing you do to attract the ideal client? Is the endpoint a project a close-out or post-mortem meeting? Commissioning? Post-occupancy survey?
- For each milestone, articulate the barriers, challenges and issues that you struggle with and what impact each has on the project. These challenges often include conflicts with client, misalignment with consultants, issues with scheduling, resources or skills. Quantifying these impacts can help you prioritize efforts and make a case to your clients for changes.
- Look at each issue and begin to formulate solutions. These solutions typically include setting clear performance goals, establishing internal standards, developing clear and articulated expectations for consultants, and creating checklists and templates to frame conversations and analyses. Quality control and business development are greatly enhanced through this effort.
See? Not rocket science. Very do-able. It may even sound boring. It’s not. Employees at all levels love this; it raises morale and excites people to be talking proactively about their work instead of just being in reactive mode all the time, which is normal for the industry.
If you are signed on to the 2030 Commitment, this exercise is really mandatory – at one point or another you will hit a wall and this is one effort to help you unlock your firm’s potential. If you pursue LEED projects, the process will enable you to achieve (or surpass) your clients’ targets without breaking the bank. Even if you don’t pursue “green” projects, this will enable you to streamline and improve your delivery process and identify gaps and opportunities you haven’t had the time to think about before.
In the next article, we’ll show you how the outputs of this exercise relate to other issues in your company’s culture, infrastructure and professional development and how you can build on the exercise to address issues in those areas that will further enhance your work overall.