Different approaches to Design Management

A few years ago, we were invited to a Design Management forum attended by representatives of all of the key players that you would expect on a typical project; Clients, Developers, Contractors, Consultants, Architects and of course our own Design Management team.

The purpose of this workshop series was to agree a joint and industry wide approach to Design Management including role, definition and purpose. The forum gradually withered away and in hindsight it is easy to see why. The Project Managers were approaching the definition from their own perspective. Design Management is part of their remit across the whole project lifecycle and who has not had to experience of a Project Manager cracking the whip in respect of meeting target dates during the design period? Likewise, the Contractor teams had a different perspective; Design Management was related to a more technical co-ordination of package interfaces and management of information prepared by the Design Team, Contractor and sub-contractors.

Each party had different perspectives and opinions on what Design Management was. In reality, there is no correct definition and no perspective takes priority over another.

Within Plan A Consultants, we naturally approach Design Management from a different perspective to that of both Project Managers and Contractors.

When the Architect is not taking responsibility for the performance of the overall team (appointed under a Lead Consultancy arrangement), the Architect is generally responsible for co-coordinating Design Team activities under a Lead Designer set-up. The Plan A approach is to work as an integrated member within the Design Team to support the Architect in carrying out these duties. We have built up our unique way of working over many years as this approach to Design Management requires specific tools, processes and experience.

Our approach to Design Management is centred around understanding the Architects aspirations and then building an environment and project culture to help achieve them. We have found from experience that the different approaches to Design Management are not interchangeable to the different scenarios. For example, a Project Manager (usually appointed by a Client) may struggle in carrying out his/ her typical approach within a Design Team. The different definitions of Design Management require different methods and techniques.

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