Identifying a prominent issue within an architectural practice.
Can we identify and navigate hidden boundries in client meetings to improve overall firm efficiency?
Within the knowledge exchange module our aim is to identify a current issue within our own practice environment. We will then reduce or resolve this issue by coming with a strategy though the exchange of content and experience with other practice employees as well our own experiments and trials though knowledge exchange.
Within a practice it is clear that teaching and learning while in education has been limited and it is important to continue gaining knowledge while in the profession. It is crutial to continue to learn but also teach and share our knowledge and experiences in the process. Knowledge Exchange involves a series of collaborative feedback. The sessions consist of sharing individual professional experiences within the working practice.
As a company we need to look into the HIDDEN BOUNDRIES between ourselves and clients. There will be boundries that limit the company that are not clearly evident until analysed. Without realising, these boundires have an impact on how meetings evolve, the time spent on them and the efficiency outcome. This will allow for the company to be more productive and time efficient as we will have more control over how these hidden boundires are dealt with and navigated. This will be done though a ‘3 phase toolkit process’ leading up to and during a client meeting.
Aims and Objectives:
– To develop a healthy knowledge exchange and discussion platform within the company.
– To be more time and work efficient with client meeting.
– Have more control over client meetings.
By establishing hidden boundaries we are able to navigate the outcome if they have an impact on a situation.
These hidden boundries are things that have under lying control on a situation and could be:
– Amount of People
– Type of attendees
I will do this by producing analysis from meetings to create a ‘Meeting Toolkit’ that can be adapted to each ‘type’ of client and situation. This ‘Meeting Toolkit’ will give a structure to a meeting in terms of hidden boundries thst are apparent.
This will allow the company to be more productive and time efficient becuase client meetings could be orchestrated and tighly scheduled in a way that meetings stay efficent and not side tracked, which often wastes time and resources.
New model for recognition
During the start of the module when potential issues within my practice were being explored I looked into other data regarding practices. Sound Advice are a platform exploring spatial inequality in architecture through music. From their posts we can question as to what is hidden behind architecture.
The statement is relating to the point of a boundry still existing inbetween ethnicitys. Even though architects are designing spaces for all ‘types’ of backgrounds and cultures are they doing the same within practice? Are they backing up their own design concept in reality? Questions that arise from this are is it still apparent that designs are produced by a certain culture or ethnicity? Does this depend on the outcome of architecture – for both the designer and the user. Could this be the case in other sectors and not just architecture? Are things impacted by ‘hidden boundries’.
I then came across another platform which is a lecture series that invites practitioners from different disciplines to discuss how their work can change the models around which society is organised. These conversations address how we can shift power structures, socio-economic forces and structural inequalities present in society today to give us new tools to rethink the world around us. Sound Advice. (2020) This has inspired work with artists who disrupt or provoke aspects of the social sphere through distruction to reveal and understand. Ideas need to be collaborated from all types of cultures and views.
Defining Contemporary Professionalism
So are architects there to normalise cultural exchange as well as design? From listening to speakers and reading their columns it is clear that there are ‘visible and invisable diversities’.
We all have a distinct backstory and characteristic that intersect to create our individual identity; that identity plays a significant role in what and and how we contribute in our professional work environment. Architects will be able to contribute to the transformation of society and respond to and solve challenges. Alan Jones (2019) Postivitly disruptive programmes and mentoring within practice could help existing or progressing issues within the sector.
The Architecture Apprenticeships scheme and the Social Mobility Action Plan are some already in place.
This will improve the understanding of our clients and the communities we serve, result in greater innovation and creativity, increased skill set, and reach larger talent pools, etc. However, from an architectural and built environment perspective, diversity is important not because those currently under-represented design any better than those currently privileged. Rather, through our identities and lived experiences we all have something to contribute. When we put all our differing experience and considerations together we end up with a profession, buildings and spaces that are meaningful and relevant to the majority of society.
These characteristic controbutions to society could be categorised as hidden boundries. Something that is not obvious or spoken about but becomes apparent. Client meetings hold these hidden boundires and can navigate a situation.
Situations where engaging in research may be ethically undesirable. People may feel exposed by the questions and answers given so it is important to know how to approach the situation. We can be open with the purpose of the research but also sensitive in the way the questions are asked or be seletive about what infornation that is being asked aswell as produced for research. Following on from this alot of people find it hard to understand what research means “Researchers to explain their research ﬁndings in a style which can be understood by most people”. Paul Oliver (2010) It is also important to understand the wider impact of the research and the results. If people were in a position to know they will controbute or understand the findings to be of interest too them it not only gives them a purpose to particiate but also makes the process easier for the researcher.
Each participant was made fully aware of the process they were taking part in though a ‘Letter of introduction and informed consent’. Sample below.
So is our practice efficient?
An report found that the average employee wastes 31 hours in unproductive meetings every month. Chang Chen (2020)
These main issue revolve around the time and efficiency of the firm when dealing with clients. It is imporant to create a report and relationship with our cliental but also to make sure time isnt wasted and to keep meetings to a schedule. Client meetings vary from one to the other however they dont have a present structure which impacts the efficiency of the meeting.
Main meeting issues include:
– Exceeds the meeting time given – Impacting other project work time/meetings.
– Off topic – Too much time spent on subjects not to do with the project.
– Minimal Progress – The meeting exceeds the time needed to discuss the topic.
– Client controls the meeting – No schedule control from us.
These conclusions were founded only though first hand experience but also data collected within the firm though colleague questions and client questionnaires. Samples seen below.
Progress with the methods of engagement with clients
After gaining knowledge from the engagement with colleagues and clients it became apparent that it is important to implement methods correctly and in an adaptable way.
“Architectural research can be conducted and communicated by means other than the written text and the difference in understanding can often be said to lie in the quality with which one is able to read the drawings” Ray Lucas (2016) Drawings can tell alot about the drawer aswell as create alot about the atmosphere. The viewer has to fully understand the drawing to appricate it and this is the responsbility of the drawer. It is about understanding the full journey of the user to create a visual that they would understand.
Ways to communicate:
Qualities of a visual piece or drawing communicates something, and allows you to make informed choices not only about what you draw, but also how you do it and why.
By exploring the types of environments that our client meetings are held in it can explain and reveal alot of the hidden boundries. Meeting environments can reveal how formal or informal a meeting is as well as the seating arrangement revealing the hierachy within the meeting.
From this I explored 2 different meeting situations from experience. I have compared them using the possible hidden boundaries and why or how this impacts each one differently.
From this it revealed links between hidden boundaries and meeting outcomes. From this I decided to develop a schedule and process for meetings. This was a 3 phase process.
The Meeting Methods
To make client meeting more efficient and productive, below are 3 phases i have produced.
Phase 1: Pre-meeting: Toolkit
– This will discover whether the meeting needs ot be held in the first place and define the simple factors that are existing or missing for a worthy meeting.
– Following on from this is the meeting is to be organised and scheduled the project will move onto Phase 2.
Phase 2: Pre-meeting: Flaws of a client meeting discussion
– This is a workshop-tailored toolkit. It has been created to foster conversations during brainstorming sessions and meetings between collegues, to envisage provocative concepts and to build scenarios for debates to improve the client meeting within the company.
– This is so the meeting attendees within the company can be fully prepared for the scheduled client meeting.
– Phase 3 is then in place when the meeting is happening.
Phase 3: During-meeting: The Game
– This game involves both the client and the firm. It uses flashing cards within the meeting to politly make a specific statement or response. A easy, simple, non-confrontational way to refocus the conversation. Aswell as prompt questions for the client, being fully benefical to the firms required knowledge for the project.
After carrying out these phases the firm should have more control over client meetings and overall be more efficient. Problems have been resolved or reduced and all requied information is known.
By following this phase process before and during a client meeting it was clear that by having this defined structure within the practice regarding meetings made a huge difference.
Phase 1 reduced the amount of meeting by 30% per week within the office. This was tested over a 4 week period during the course of the knowledge exchange module. Before every possible project meeting that was going to be held per week this process of the toolkit was carried out. This allowed us as a firm to prioritise projects and meeting reasonings over others, using our time more efficiently and not wasting time on project meetings that were not needed. Using this toolkit alone allowed us to establish a simple yet effective way of managing our firms projects.
Once a project had been scheduled in phase 2 was carried out. This was done over a 2 week period and before every individual project meeting held. This phase was carried out for a total of 5 meetings. Even though our meetings do always satisfy client in all areas this allowed us to be prepared for what each meeting may run like. For example, by carrying out phase 2 before a large project meeting this allowed us to prepare for what we felt may come up. Due to the large number of people involved we allowed for a buffer arrival time so that us as a firm were not waiting around for attendees but still getting on with other project work. This is one of the hidden boundaries – Type/amount of attendees. All participants were aware that there was arrival period and if they were not seated after a particular time the meeting would still proceed. This established a level of respect for attendees to stick to a time frame for the meeting and everyone attended the meeting in the allocated time. Another meeting that was held after using the phase 2 process was a family residential dwelling. We knew that younger members of the family would be attending so we had time to prepare for different levels of understanding. Hidden boundary – Level of understanding / Age. This allowed us as a firm to use more tangible way to present the project, a video, so all participants understood what was being shown as well as explained. This meeting was very efficient and actually finished earlier than the allocated time. All participants were satisfied and went away with no further questions as the type of explanation given was clear and effective. Phase 2 was shown to be a success as it not only prepared us as a firm for each meeting with a tailored aspect but also allowed us to know what time should be allocated and the type of work to present. This preparation process proved to be a crucial part in the running of our client meetings.
Phase 3 was carried out over the final week of the module. This was used within 2 project meetings. The first project meeting the ‘game’ was played in was a formal larger meeting for a residential apartment scheme. This meeting involved different types of people including the local authority, surveyors and the client. The cards were allocated and the parking lot attendant decided. This proved to work well as any queries during the meeting that were not answered were revisited, meaning there were no further questions after the meeting over email or phone. This saves the firm time after the meeting as further explanation is not necessary. During this meeting the main cards used over ‘Attendant cards’ and Player cards’ were to do with over explanation and giving a clear answer. By being able to play these cards people within the meeting who still did not fully understand something were able to speak up without feeling like they were interrupting. A simple flash of the card refocused the speaker and still formally allowed the discussion to continue. By also using the schedule cards all topics of the project were covered without the risk of forgetting to discuss them. This proved to be a success and the feedback from the attendees of the meeting were positive, individuals said they would recommend it in further meeting with us and externally.
The second meeting held which played the ‘game’ was the residential family dwelling with younger members involved. Cards that were mainly played here involved ‘too much chatter’ and ‘speak up’ which actually gave more of a formality to the meeting as no one was interrupted or stopped when speaking nor hesitant to ask for further opinion. It worked out well as all attendees were involved in the discussions and had their opinion listened too unlike previous family meetings where not everyone has their opinion vocalised. By having the ‘Schedule Cards’ even though the meeting was more casual than normal it allowed the meeting to stay on track whilst developing the relationship with the client. The client said that for future meetings they would like to see this type of structure, especially when younger members were involved, as it kept them on track and allowed the meeting to progress efficiently and effectively. It kept the younger members involved and focused.
The phases proved to be a success in making client meeting more efficient for the firm. Moving forward the phases could develop to be more tailored but by having a simple generic process it defiantly had a positive effect on the firm as well as our clients.
Advice S. (2020) Instagram. London
Advice S. (2020) A New Model for Recognition London, Architectural Association Inc
Chen. C (2020) Shocking Meeting Statistics In 2020 That Will Take You By Surprise. Otter.ai.
Denscombe, M. (2001) Uncertain identities and health-risking behaviour: The case of young people and smoking in late modernity, British Journal of Sociology , 52:
Jones. A and Hyde. R (2019) Defining Contemporary Professionalism : For Architects in Practice and Education, RIBA Publications. ProQuest Ebook Central, http://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/bcu/detail.action?docID=5963249.
Lucas. R (2016) “The sketchbook as a storeroom for ideas” Chapter 14: Drawing, diagrams and maps of Research Methods for Architecture
Oliver. P (2010) The Student’s Guide to Research Ethics. McGraw-Hill Education
Unwin, S. (2003) Analysing Architecture. London: Routledge.
Wattenmaker (2000) Domains and knowledge effects: Strategies in object and social classi ﬁ cation, American Journal of Psychology , 113: 405 – 29.