woman-1169324_1280A reason Lean in design feels difficult is that the industry has a babelesque understanding about the work to be accomplished. In conversations with architects and engineers declarations of completed work are often phrased in terms of  90% schematic design completion, 50% design development completion, or 75% construction document completion. That would be fine if everyone understood what these terms meant with regard to the actual work completed. But we don’t, and one conversation with a team of architects and engineers is all that is needed to illustrate that point.

This is why it is important for a design team (and a Lean design team will include the owner, architect, engineers and builders) start by designing the work before beginning to design the building. Asking and answering these questions is a start:

  • What information is needed and when?
  • What information do we normally provide that is superfluous?
  • What information is usually missing and who should be providing that information?
  • Who is making decisions, when do they need to make them, what information do they need to make them, and how long will it take to make them?
  • Where and how often will we be working in a shared space?
  • What method will we use to structure design and workflow conversations?

The initial answers may turn out to not be fully correct, so the team needs to regularly test understandings of the work and make the necessary adjustments. Designing the work takes time, and never fully ends until the project is completed. It also saves time, as it limits the confusion caused by unspoken assumptions and the resulting rework, unneeded work, and delays.