blog article

The agile architect


How We’ve Increased Our Agility  

How we’ve become agile architects.

Agile is a buzzword used in project management and software development to describe a flexible team. “The Agile Method is a particular approach to project management that is utilized in software development. This method assists teams in responding to the unpredictability of constructing software. It uses incremental, iterative work sequences that are commonly known as sprints.

Have you ever thought to ask your Architect if they are Agile? Will they be prepared for the unexpected delays? The hurry up and wait atmosphere that comes along with the building design and construction process?

Property development can become a lengthy endeavor. Some small projects may only take 6-9 months, whereas larger projects can take many years to complete. Although there’s no guarantee in the course of a property development project, that every team member will be at the ready the very moment they get approvals to move forward with the next phase, there are team management styles that are more conducive towards flexibility.

Key values and work styles that a design team has will inform you as to whether or not they will be flexible enough to handle the project over the long haul.

Look for a team that values human interactions over process tools. In the litigious world that we live in, it is necessary to document items in writing with the use of email, but if that is the only way your designer communicates with you, then you’re missing out on personal interaction.

Being on the phone or sitting face to face, and having a “live” conversation, each person can be involved in creating fresh ideas and participate in problem-solving brainstorming sessions. There’s also less risk of mis-communicating when we speak in person.

If I say to my client, “So you want somewhere for the parents to check their student in on a keypad?”, The client can immediately understand what I’m asking and clarify if I am correct or not. Their response may be, “No, I need two keypad check-in locations.”, or “No, we check students in person at the attendance desk.” If this conversation were to occur over email, the resulting details and locations might be completely skipped over because it is too lengthy and difficult to email the correct details.

Becoming an agile architect is about collaborating with clients to create a solution that works for them. As a team, more can be accomplished in a 30-minute phone call that can be accomplished in a week-long string of emails. Discussing the details of a project or a contract negotiation is much more productive when each person can listen and respond to the others requests and come up with compromises that make both parties happy in real time.

During the kick-off of a project, we meet with our clients and consultants to come up with a project plan outlining who, what, and when project specific tasks will occur. Keep in mind that a project plan is not chiseled in stone. Delays may happen, it is a plan after all, until it is not. Like you may plan to watch your son’s baseball game at 2 pm on Saturday, but then a rain storm passes through, and the game is delayed until 3:30 pm. It is a plan until it is not.

Everyone needs to be able to respond to changes as they occur, and that includes a delay in the project plan. The initial plan may be to begin the Design Phase in December and move on to Construction Phase in June. But if local ordinances are discovered during our codes research, it may become necessary to apply for zoning variances before moving into Construction. The new requirements will delay the project plan, just as a rainstorm delays a baseball game. An agile architect will respond to the delay, adjust to meet the change of project scope, and work around the change in schedule.

Architecture is a knowledge activity; it is not production or manufacturing. The “machines” of building design are humans who are skilled at dealing with business operations, program requirements, construction processes, people management, building technology, communication, and collaboration.

Is there some means of measuring agility?  Some metric or a unit?

Or is it a gut feeling?  How would you define agility in your architect?

Architecture = {elements + form + rationale}

To see how we use scrum boards to be agile, get in touch with Calbert Design Group today.