Democratic vs Autocratic Design Process Pros & Cons
Controlling the needs analysis and design process in any facilities renovation or relocation process is usually a challenge. Many organizations feel that they will lose control of the process if they receive too much input from numerous stakeholders. Feeling this way, they short-cut the process of gaining valuable information from those people who will be living in the new space for a good chunk of their waking hours. They make assumptions of what the end-user’s needs will be. Many times those assumptions are wrong. If wrong assumptions have been made, it is expensive and disruptive to go back after the move-in to modify space once it is built. On the other hand, some organizations make the process too democratic which may slow down the project while you conduct too many interviews and end-user surveys.
There is a happy medium approach:
Pre-selecting an internal project team with a representative from each department and major support area, who is supportive of the project, has a positive attitude, has the respect of their staff and management and can understand drawings, will always be the successful foundation of any renovation or relocation project.
Once this team is in place, get them familiar with the project goals and objectives, project budget constraints and schedule. They can now become the cheerleaders for the project as well as the voice of reason when dealing with their staff and management.
Conduct a town-hall meeting(s) to discuss the project with the rank and file staff to conduct a project orientation, review the potential benefits of the project, conduct a Q&A session and address any wish list items that may be important to the end-users. Addressing what currently works well in your existing space and what doesn’t work well is valuable feedback that can be addressed at this time. This approach is more effective than sending out an impersonal survey, which could raise people’s expectations or not effectively address specific areas of concerns.
The project team member representatives are also a conduit of information to the project leadership when it comes to relaying important feedback from their staff. They should maintain an open flow of communication with the group that they represent throughout the project.
Giving the End-Users a Say:
Once the basic project design has been vetted for alignment with the project budget and schedule, it is recommended that you receive constructive feedback from the end-users on their choice of design options. This can include finish options, furniture options (through evaluating mock-ups), accessories and seating. We recently went through this process with interested staff at the new site that they are going to move to. This allowed the stakeholders to get a better feel for their future building and the views from the windows. Having color floor plans showing department layouts, visualization renderings, and boards illustrating finish option also help add to the excitement. Allowing voting on finish and furniture options also contributes to a sense of buy-in from the staff.
Controlling a semi-democratic process is more time consuming than an autocratic process but will result in across-the-board project buy-in and happier end-users come move-in day as well as fewer client-initiated change orders.
End User Buy-In Tools & Techniques:
Here is a check list of buy-in tools and techniques, mentioned in this article, that you can use to successfully implement a semi-democratic needs analysis:
- Develop an internal project team made up of representatives from each department and major support areas
- Get your design professional, who will be developing the design, involved with any meetings and interviews with your project team and end users
- Kick off the project with town hall meeting(s) orienting the end-users on the project goals, objectives and process
- Develop visualization renderings and finish boards with finish options to vote on
- Build mock-ups if you are changing space and/or furniture standards
- Conduct scheduled site walk-throughs with the end-users and tally votes on preferred options-report the findings
- Send out regular updates on the progress of the project. Use photos, a live web cam for base building projects and other appropriate visuals
- For larger, longer term projects, consider utilizing a project management website with limited access for end-users that allows them to see information real-time. Include information on neighborhood amenities