5 ways to close the "design gap"
Among the most prevalent characteristics of the projects and engagements we take on is an initial resistance of our client's project leaders to be inclusive in shaping the project team. There are many logical reasons for this – thoughtfulness about people's time and other responsibilities, concerns over raising expectations that may not be fulfilled, apprehensions about project management scope and complexity, anxiety over the appearance of ceding authority, and others.
We've found, however, that the involvement of a good and faithful representation of the organization in day-to-day project development, and information gathered by surveys, observations, and other methods, provides the context to better understand the challenges and more effectively uncover the opportunities that shape the organization's operations and future.
Without that information richness there is the probability that the project may not reach its full potential and also the threat that the design solution, once implemented, may not satisfy the real needs of the organization.
The "design gap" and how to close it
There is a good article on this kind of problem – what the author calls the "design gap" – in the Dean and Provost newsletter. The article is about projects in the educational facility context, but we believe that the issues and principles it outlines are characteristic of projects in almost every sector.
Under-performing projects result from an inadequately or inappropriately shaped design process that is insufficiently inclusive, and that fails to define the problem accurately and communicate the vision accessibly.
The author points to five key components of successful projects that were derived from a specific engagement, and that we feel have relevance in any project. Closing the "design gap" can be achieved by using these principles –
- Engage a variety of stakeholders – the information they provide and the contexts they work in help greatly in understanding the problem and defining the project goals
- Make things tangible – use a number of tools to help make the concepts developing in the project both concrete and experiential
- Test multiple options – generating alternative concepts and project scenarios provides and opportunity to explore the effectiveness of the design solutions
- Think integration – for the whole to be greater than the sum of its parts, the design solution should be an integrated solution
- Connect design and use – the operational context in which people work will change over time, and the spaces and places where people should adapt and support those changing needs
[image from fwvs on flickr.com]