Thursday, October 11, 2012

October Meeting

Attendees: Dave Bleiman, Mario Guttman, Bruce Madsen, Marla Ushijima

The group was really stoked after the presentation last month from Doug Childs on Lean Design, so we continued the topic in our informal discussion this month.

We all agreed that Lean faces resistance from the design community, which generally views it as a manufacturing-focused methodology. Marla proposes that the specialized terminology of Lean can be off-putting to those adverse to Lean Design, but that the specific words aren't critical to following Lean principles. Those principles are in line with generally-accepted best business practices—listen to what the client wants, don't waste time on activities that don't advance those goals, and learn from past experience—so if project managers jettison the terminology they can still advance Lean principles and tools on a project basis. Mario feels that the ritual derived from more overt implementation is important for organizational implementation.

We discussed dangers of ritual as well, and the difference between theoretical and actual benefits. We likened it to LEED certification, which can sometimes lead to an emphasis on getting points rather than effective sustainability. Dave questioned the appropriateness of the new Google headquarters' LEED Platinum rating, Mario questioned the slavish reliance on photometrics and Ecotect analysis vs. innovative approaches to getting effective lighting. Dave pointed out the irony of daylighting when shades are positioned to prevent glare but left in that position indefinitely by occupants who then turn on the lights.

How does Lean benefit an organization? Design professions are all about getting the work, doing the work, and getting paid for the work. Lean is mostly about doing the work. Its value in getting the work—marketing—is debatable. Bruce questions whether clients care whether or not you're using Lean; Mario questions whether a firm should try to sell Lean to a client or just let attitudes and performance speak for itself. He suggests that using Lean Design shows a serious commitment to QA, which could be of value in marketing. Added client value and potential marketing opportunities could be a selling point for management buy-in, which Bruce feels is critical for follow-through on whole-office implementation. Dave says that competitive advantage speaks volumes, and compares it to the implementation of BIM. As a demonstration, Mario suggested choosing the most disliked process in the office—such as doing dishes or processing reimbursables—and use a Lean process to improve it.

If internal opposition to Lean is expected, Marla suggests stealth implementation by a committed project manager on an individual project—to start small and demonstrate the value of Lean processes. Bruce and Dave agree that any change represents risk to an organization, so a pilot project must be used for evaluation before spreading it to the broader organization.

Dave is hopeful that Lean would reduce the need  for staff to stay late for a crush at deadline time, through more effective project planning. As an aside, Mario praised sheet lists as remaining of value in the BIM process to identify, plan, and track the work effort. We all agreed that knowing when to NOT do something is the right thing to do—such as when there's insufficient information to proceed effectively. Dave points out that the creative instinct sometimes fights against such efficiency.

Marla asked Dave about PopIcon for Architecture, which is apparently in its beta 3 version. Dave says they're facing a conundrum because they've made the library folder structure rigid to prevent mistakes, but the lack of flexibility creates a problem for architects. Dave is concerned that if they provide more flexibility, PopIcon would become a scapegoat for the resulting user errors. He asked for additional feedback from the beta users.

Mario brought up library management issues with BIM. Perkins+Will has a well-defined nomenclature for family file names, but the folder structure is more difficult to police. Mario thinks it's important for family creators to take ownership of their families and is promoting a structure in which folder names indicate the author, software version, and the unit type (imperial vs. metric). Bruce commented that the person at HOK who was responsible for creating their library of custom content was laid off as an expendable overhead cost. The result is a well-crafted collection of families being overtaken by content created ad-hoc by various designers. Bruce is concerned that the legacy standards—which are really good—will degrade over time.

We discussed the idea of using Omniclass vs. folder structure to classify families and tie them into e-spec. Mario notes that currently specs are typically based on prototypes; Omniclass tends to be either too obvious or too obscure and the middle ground is too small for value. Marla suggested polling our Linked In group to see who's using e-specs.

Bruce asked whether Lean is anathema to design? Architects are typically not interested in "process." Marla points out that certain tasks in the design professions are amenable to process improvement, others not so much. Bruce mentioned "optioneering," a methodology to systematically explore a large number of design options using parametric design tools. Mario pointed out that staffing realities can mess with a balanced work flow. Bruce wonders if Lean can shorten the timeline of a project; Mario wonders whether it can improve accuracy.

Bruce asked us how many manufacturers we think are providing Revit-specific content. Mario guessed twenty are making good content, plus about 500 others. Bruce said there are over a thousand.

Mario says he's developed a batch processor for in-house use at Perkins+Will to create 3D and plan previews, drawn from defined views within the BIM file. Marla asked whether parameters are included in the preview information; Mario doesn't see that as a high priority, and thinks a notes field would be of more value. He wonders whether he could mine the parameters in a family to populate a notes field.

There are several industry events coming up: Arcadia and Greenbuild will both be held in San Francisco, as will AIA|CC's Now • Next • Future conference. Autodesk will be in Las Vegas; both HOK and P+W will be sending speakers only.

Dave proposes a future meeting focusing on the Lean A3 document; he thinks it's really valuable. Marla would like to further examine the ties between Lean, BIM, and IPD. Bruce has a great interest in all the things required for successful BIM use that aren't part of the software package. He believes those things are a hundred times as expensive as the software itself. He has offered to host next month's meeting at HOK on the subject of BOB—BIM Outside the Box.

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