Monday 22 July 2019

What’s your Workflow?

Recently I’ve been working on updating my production workflow documentation, this is the documentation of the workflow required to deliver architectural projects, specifically Building Information Model (BIM) projects. A workflow is a roadmap that anyone can follow at any point on the path to project delivery, providing information through a graphical workflow diagram, associated documents, and resources for each phase of project delivery. It is a very clear, precise document that provides staff with a clear understanding of what they need to do. By providing clarity, direction, and purpose the results are improved job satisfaction, increased production (utilization) and greatly improved risk mitigation due to improved quality and clarity of tasks.

An effective workflow is extremely valuable. However, it is only valuable if it is being utilized, communicated, enforced and kept current to meet the rapidly evolving demands of your clients and the industry.

A workflow is an essential tool for any design process, however, I rarely see clear production workflows being used within the AEC industry. This may be because the main focus is on the Architecture of the building and communicating the design intent to the client rather than the production of the Architecture. As a production focused person I’m more interested in how we deliver the design as part of our contractual obligations, our deliverables are fairly consistent, therefore our process and workflows are also fairly consistent. Sure, each project is a prototype and has its own unique set of circumstances and requirements, but the process of production is common and can be based upon the same workflow framework. This lack of workflow framework is where many design firms lose profit and greatly increase risk.

The Solution: Spend time looking at your workflow, go through each step by step process from procurement to handover. You already have the information as you are already delivering projects, it just requires clarification, documentation, and fine tuning so your workflow can perform better.

A high performing workflow  = A high performing project team

Your workflow should include the tools you need to accomplish a task or deliverable, this would include the forms, checklists, documents, best practices and execution plans that clearly describe the expectations and outcomes (deliverables) at each phase, and, importantly, clarification on the project team roles and responsibilities so your team know the “who, what and when” of a project.   
Successfully implementing a workflow requires a change in culture, it demands effective communication and total buy-in from leadership, otherwise, it is doomed to failure. Implementation of an effective workflow requires a sense of urgency by all for it to be adopted successfully and therefore secure your successful future if it is maintained and enforced effectively.

Changing Culture by Changing Workflow

Make your workflow clear and easy to follow, make the resources current and readily accessible. Experience has proven that if it doesn’t work…change it. Often I find that there are too many processes that do not work and too many redundant resources inhibiting success, typically they’re too complex, ineffective or simply out of date. That doesn’t foster change, it inhibits change.

This process is not simple and takes planning, time, effort and investment, but it’s an investment in the sustainability and continued viability of the organization. Recently I’ve chatted with a number of people struggling with this in our industry and I often hear the comment “we're losing our key performers”, and  our best people are leaving, even if we offer an incentive package to stay”, what remains are those that are complacent and are quite happy to maintain the status quo… a process that is broken.

Change the Workflow, Change the Culture


  1. I'd like to hear more tales from this project, which has many benefits for the firm. One that I'd add is that a firm that takes time to think about its employees' daily production experience is one that respects the hours of their lives beyond a paycheck. No one wants to think, "I spent half of today on Yet Another Long Way Around, and I'm likely to do again tomorrow". Complex tools need some standards for how they should be used.

  2. Investing in your employees is investing in the future of your firm. Happy, productive employees contribute greatly to the success of a firm, it's unfortunate though that many organizations do not see that and are only concerned with the immediate revenue, not the strategic planning for the future. A little pain now will pay dividends later...