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Making Your Process Stick

An Article for Programa by Andrew Mitchell

(Founder of The Design Coach and director at MR. MITCHELL Interiors)


Image by Olena Bohovyk, Unsplash

Working with designers and architects on a regular basis, I’m often reminded of the challenge that lies in the actual implementation of our process, accurately and consistently. With all the external influences that come into play (clients, collaborators, trades, etc) during the rollout of a project, it’s no surprise that making our process “stick” becomes a little tricky.


In a past Programa article about the importance of process, Command Your Business, we spoke about the benefits of adopting a solid, reliable process, and gave some tips on how to go about setting up your own process.


In this article, I want to further investigate the true benefits of operating with a consistent process, as the most important factor that will encourage your own resolve in make your process stick, is your belief that the benefits make doing so worth the effort. I’d also like to provide some tips for helping you to make your process stick.



Me in the early years. Fresh-faced, but with no idea about process, or how to run a business!

MY EARLY YEARS - AN “ORGANIC” APPROACH


In the early years of my design business (more than 2 decades ago), I meandered my way through each project, secretly hoping that my clients wouldn’t discover that I really didn’t know exactly what came next. Don’t get me wrong, I was clear on the starting point (getting a clear brief), and the end point (a completed room/house), and I knew what I needed to deliver along the way (eg: concepts, documentation, quotes) but everything else in between was a bit hazy.


I chose to believe that I had an organic approach that was very client centric. In allowing my clients to take control of the process, I believed I was offering them an outstanding level of service.


In the beginning, my process wasn’t documented, nor was it implemented consistently. I was following what I knew as a logical sequence of steps, but there was nothing formal to reference, nor communicate to my clients. My scope of work was more a list of rooms and items that needed to be included in the designs, like a checklist or an inventory. Even when I developed a basic 5 stage process that followed the standard architectural model (Concept > Design Development > Documentation > Estimation > Project Management), I was jumping between stages, largely driven by the demands of the clients and/or trades. For example, I’d go shopping for taps and tiles with the client before a concept had been formulated or an overall budget discussed, because the client or builder believed that was a priority.


At other times I might be getting quotes from trades prior to a documentation package being finalised, as the client was impatient about getting project costs.



Image by Brooke Cagle, Unsplash

THE COSTS OF AN “ORGANIC” APPROACH


Even though I was doing my best to please everyone on the project, things would often go wrong and, all too often, fingers would be pointed at me. Considering the above example of tap and tile shopping early in the project, this could result in the selection of products that ultimately didn’t fit within the budget, and so needed to be reselected (which was usually done in my own time).


Ultimately, in my efforts to please the clients I was doing them a disservice. I wasn’t working organically; I was working reactively.


Fortunately, I’ve never had to deal with any issues of great consequence, but in these early years the client experience was often lacking finesse. More important to point out is the possibility that such issues could have been very costly, or at worst, could have had serious legal implications.


It’s also important to note that, despite the aforementioned challenges, these clients often came back for repeat work and referred me on to friends and family. This was largely due to my relentless drive to please them by making amends for these inconsistencies (hello to all the fellow people-pleasers out there!), and delivering outcomes that went above and beyond, often at personal cost.


Does this all sound familiar? If so, don’t despair! Most of the designers and architects I coach struggle to make their process stick. Here we provide 7 tips for making the consistent implementation of your design process easier.



Image by Cathryn Lavery, Unsplash

TIPS FOR MAKING YOUR PROCESS STICK


Tip 1: Customise.


  1. Start with a solid Design Process (download our free TDC 9 Stage Design Process)

  2. Customise your Design Process to suit your business needs and your clientele.

  3. Add services that are specific to your particular way of working (eg: sourcing vintage lighting, or specifying investment artwork).

  4. Making the process specific to your way of working will make it easier to consistently implement.


Tip 2: Document.


  1. Ensure all your documents are updated.

  2. Update your Design Proposal template to reflect your new process.

  3. Create a How We Work document that graphically outlines your process and highlights key steps within each stage. (download our free e-Book How To Create a Rock Solid Scope of Work)

  4. Having your process represented in these documents makes you accountable.



Image by Priscilla Du Preez 🇨🇦, Unsplash

TIP 3: Share.


  1. Share your design process with the clients from the first communication and explain the advantages.

  2. Once they’ve booked an Initial Consultation, send them your How We Work document.

  3. Use your design process to create the Scope of Work for every project.

  4. Voicing your commitment to the process will strengthen your resolve.


TIP 4: Template and Automate.


  1. Create templates for your Scope of Work and Design Proposal using your design process.

  2. Transpose your design process to a project management software program such as Programa.

  3. Create checklists for each stage of the process, assign responsibilities and set due dates.

  4. Automate reminders using the software program.



Programa Project Management Software

TIP 5: Enrol.


  1. Enrol your team to come on board with the process.

  2. Sell them on the benefits of following a well-resolved design process.

  3. Set a good example by practicing what you preach!

  4. Get regular feedback from your team about how they find the process.


Tip 6: Elaborate and Update.


  1. Add benchmarks and examples to help explain what is expected at each stage.

  2. Update as you find new ways of working.

  3. When things go wrong, take the opportunity to review your process and consider how it can be improved.

  4. Review your process annually.



Image by Maranda Vandergriff, Unsplash

TIP 7: Communicate.


  1. Use your process to communicate consistently with everyone: team, clients, contractors.

  2. Provide your clients with regular updates about where they are at in the process.

  3. At the end of each stage, let your clients know what comes next.

  4. If you get pulled away from your process, get back on track again with clear communication.


Achieving successful project outcomes is much more than just following a set of steps; it's about truly believing in the value of your process, instilling a culture of accountability within your team, and ultimately elevating the overall client experience.


Need some help consistently implementing your process? Commencing in April 2024, our Premium Group Coaching Program provides designers and architects with access to 6 months of transformative coaching within a supportive network of likeminded small business owners.


To find out more about The Design Coach, book a free Discovery Call today.


Stay well and believe in you!

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