Changemakers On: Teams – Digital Magazine


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Strong teams are the cornerstone of successful projects. For this topic, we spoke with three change agents from the world of industrialized architecture and construction to explore the theme of teamwork. Our approach: How can leaders unleash the best in their teams?

All of our change agents agreed that ensuring teams have access to project information as soon as possible, regardless of their seniority level, can unlock great potential.

They told us about models leaders can use to better understand and improve how teams work together on projects. Why team leaders must embrace vulnerability to create a strong team culture. And he described old habits that must die so new ways of working together can flourish.

Why set-based design improves teamwork

For teams making room, don’t start with the whole building, he says stan chiu, director of healthcare at global architecture and design firm Gensler. “It’s kind of a crazy idea. Instead of studying everything at once, you study each component and study them for as long as you can.”

This approach has a name: set-based design, or SBD. Inspired by the Lean methodology, it is a practice in which construction requirements and design options are kept flexible for as long as possible during the development process. With SBD, teams first seek insight and data before making design decisions, rather than the legacy practice of committing to a set of requirements and a single design strategy from the outset.

Let’s take a hospital as an example. Rather than thinking about the entire project or the entire hospital, Chiu says, an SBD approach would take the nursing unit, emergency department, and exam rooms, and study each component independently without trying to coordinate everything in advance. . The size of an exam room will matter, so decisions for that space can be made early on, but design decisions about a public restroom in the building can be made much later, she says.

Once you have the components, Chiu says, the leaders organize the team and cross-functional groups that need to study the components, so you’re not just an architect.

“You have this team that has the ultimate knowledge involved on the design front end. The recommendations that each subgroup makes regarding which component to move forward are based on the criteria it established in advance.

For Chiu, a large-scale healthcare project in California opened his eyes to scenario-based design because the team moved together rather than in silos.

“It’s kind of a crazy idea. Instead of studying everything at once, you study each component and study them for as long as you can.”


“That was the a-ha moment. The team themselves chose the direction, we knew that we could meet the schedule, we knew that we could meet the budget, and we knew that this was the best in terms of attention. And, in the middle of that, we still said, ‘Okay, no one needs to approve it because they’re all integrated into the design team.'”

Main point

Design mishaps occur when assumptions are made early in a project that don’t hold up throughout the process. Projects that are executed in waves where decisions are made as more information becomes available, and those that involve more than one point of view, are more likely to be successful.

Vulnerable leadership empowers people to excel on teams

“All teams go through the same stages of development over time in four phases: formation, storm, normalization and performance, or FSNP,” he says. Ronnie Belizaire, Vice President of JLL and recently elected President of the International Interior Design Association (IIDA). “It’s that final stage, the performance, that is so powerful if an organization can do it.”

FSNP was developed in the mid-1960s as a framework for recognizing a team’s behavior patterns over time.

In the training stage, a team meets and learns about each other, the project and the objectives. In Storming, teams are more chaotic as they determine how things get done collaboratively. In standardization, the team has an understanding of how they are working to achieve project goals and productivity gains. In the performance stage, a team is continually making significant progress toward the goal.

Acting is the elusive phase, says Belizaire. “Because someone on the team is going to leave whether they find another opportunity or something takes them away from the team, or they get promoted.”

What FSNP makes clear is the reality that team dynamics are always in a state of flux, she says. “So it’s about getting comfortable knowing that change is inevitable and whether or not each teammate recognizes that you can still function through the storm and normalization.”

Belizaire offers advice for anyone looking to navigate the tumultuous nature of change on a team: Build trust. Vulnerability is a way to build trust among team members, which is critical to empowering people to navigate change when working as part of a team.

“The best leaders are the ones who are vulnerable enough to tell their teams, ‘I don’t have all the answers and that’s why you’re here.’”


“Leaders often feel like they have to present themselves as all-knowing,” says Belizaire. “To me, the best leaders are the ones who are vulnerable enough to tell their teams, ‘I don’t have all the answers and that’s why you’re here.’”

Another area where leaders can play a critical role is deliberately building a team with a mix of perspectives and experience. “Many times when we are in the process of building an internal team, we look for people who are similar to us. That leads to teams with the same perspectives and that lack of diversity of thought will undermine performance,” he says.

“Ultimately, team building is not a design company problem. It is not a problem of the construction company. It’s not a corporate real estate problem. It’s everyone’s problem,” says Belizaire. “When done right, teamwork can produce amazing results. That’s part of my challenge over the next few years: to help make that come to life.”

Main point

Building strong teams is important to producing successful results in the face of constant change. Leaders who want to build high-performing teams will admit when they don’t know something and recruit from a diverse talent pool who can draw on different perspectives and experiences.

Building great teams starts with breaking old habits.

Old habits must die.

laura anthonyDirector of Operations for Strategic Projects at DIRTT, has some very simple advice for anyone building teams that need to deliver construction projects more efficiently and effectively: Eliminate outdated, hierarchical construction project management where information is siled and only a few they know .

“Typically, the architects lead the design effort, the general contractors lead the build effort, and then those two teams manage everyone below them,” says Antony, who works with design-build clients and partners. that build interior spaces.

“I believe that in a more collaborative project, especially when prefabrication is a means of construction, forward-thinking leaders in the architecture and construction communities understand the value of bringing specialist consultants and other project collaborators to the table, engaging them at throughout the project and welcome them. everyone to contribute to a more level playing field,” she says.

For Antony, that level playing field includes not assuming that the person with the most experience on the project has the best answers.

“When there’s a challenge, it’s often best to bring in the entry-level people who are closest to the project. They will often have the best perspective and the best answers. Typically, an executive from a client is talking to an executive from, say, a manufacturer. While this is the accepted standard practice in our industry, it is one that needs to evolve,” she says.

In addition to flattening hierarchies, the accelerating and growing demand for space in workplaces, healthcare facilities, and higher education also requires teams to build work processes to support better collaboration.

“I’ve been on very few projects where we have the client, the architect, the subcontractors and the general contractor all at the same table,” says Antony. “The start of a project that brings all parties together has a remarkable impact. If you can do a commissioning with your team early in the design phase, and again before construction begins, it can really help the overall success of a project.”

None of these things will eliminate the bumps in the road. There will still be conflicts and effective conflict resolution will be critical to the success of the project. But as part of that, it’s worth remembering, even in our often virtual Zoom-centric world, that we’re all human.

“Each person on a team has their own personal stuff,” says Antony. “Recently, I had a team member who is a marathon runner who was dealing with dehydration issues. So we send you a water bottle that helps you keep track of how much water you’re drinking. And she was so grateful that we understood that running was a big part of her life.”

Antony is a big fan of small gestures and believes that smooth teamwork is often about finding moments where we recognize each other as human.

“We can go far when we do that,” she says.

When there’s a challenge, it’s often best to bring in the entry-level people who are closest to the project. They will often have the best perspective and the best answers.


Main point

Creating silos when construction projects are starting is a death sentence. To produce successful results within the built environment, all key participants and decision makers need to be at the table from the start.

Explore more of the DIRTT Changemaker Series

This article is part of a series in which we speak with industry leaders about the issues, changes, and opportunities facing leaders in design, construction, real estate, and business. Explore more topics and hear from more change agents.


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