Process Management is the organized effort to get better at doing something. There are three primary schools of thought today:
- Lean Thinking
- Theory of Constraints
“Lean” as a term signifying system and process improvement was popularized by James P. Womack and Daniel T. Jones in their seminal book “LEAN THINKING: BANISH WASTE AND CREATE WEALTH IN YOUR CORPORATION”, © 1996. It has been applied to the now famous Toyota Production System with its relentless effort to eliminate waste and the development of innovative practices such as “Just In Time” manufacturing.
Other management approaches worth noting are Six Sigma, developed by Motorola for reducing variation among individual processes; and the Theory of Constraints by Elihu Goldratt which seeks to optimize an entire system by the identification and elimination of constraints. More could be said about each approach than this article will address. Suffice it to say there is much for architectural firms to learn from each of these. Their tenets can be applied to every firm and team practice to bring about improvement in project delivery.
From these I've distilled 3 Goals -
Structure Work to Flow - streamline project delivery processes across your office. Progress projects concurrently, addressing aesthetics, function, and life safety while at the same time ensuring they are constructible and within budget. Do not allow problems (design issues) to accumulate as the project progresses. Put in place simple documentation systems that allow you to rapidly document work with greater consistency and accuracy.
Reduce Variation - it is not uncommon for offices to have as many ways for delivering projects as they have principals. A single way of working that allows for some variation by building type can go along way to getting work done more consistently. This results in fewer errors, simplifies training and allows staff to transition more easily from one project to another.
Eliminate or mitigate obstacles to progressing the work - look at your office and your projects with an eye to understanding what can help the work flow better. Make changes and then look again.