Southwest airlines realized they made money when planes were in the air.  An operation was developed around this idea and coupled with outstanding service.  What can design professionals learn from this? At the most basic level, the purpose of a design firm is to make a profit.  And while the creation and delivery of great design is a motivation for many, ultimately it remains a means to an end.

If the purpose of our businesses is to make a profit, then we should learn how to get better at it.  One step in that direction is to recognize how to progress work rapidly and with flexibility.

In the game of football it is essential to move the ball forward towards the goal line.  The uniforms may be colorful, the concessions great, and the technology used on the sidelines, state of the art – but to win you must score points.  Everything else is peripheral.  Similarly, advancing the project is a key to earning revenue and making a profit.

Having a work (or game) plan is not enough – you still have to do the right thing at the right time, and do it well.  Success entails much more than drawing.

Some thoughts:

  • Approach project development with a critical path methodology by identifying what needs to happen at the appropriate time and building in coordination efforts between disciplines.  Look ahead to identify and eliminate potential roadblocks.  It’s always more productive to prevent problems from happening as opposed to expending effort later to detect and correct.
  • Concurrently design, engineer and make your buildings constructible.  Where possible, major design and decision making coupled with simultaneous costing and value engineering should be complete by the end of Design Development. 
  • Plan your projects and avoid the tendency to work as hard as you can without first knowing what you intend to accomplish.