The Reality of Design Constraints

In the creative process, most of the time, the last thing a person or team doing the creating is thinking about as design constraints are budget and schedule.

But budget and schedule are design constraints; boundary conditions. We see it, feel it, work with it, live with it, sell it, and buy it every day. Products and services for a cost. I’m talking in the business context here. I’m not talking about the idea of just wide-open free time to create and develop something without any boundaries. That’s got its place in our personal lives to doodle, noodle, create, in many contexts. I am talking about selling or buying a created product or service, or buying the creative process.

We purchase goods and services every day that have been created with design constraints that include spec, budget, and schedule. Once the specified performance standard is defined or revealed, then we define a schedule and a price. The result of the process can’t be “Hey, I know we put a price and schedule on this, but the creative process is what it is. It takes whatever time it takes.” No it doesn’t. It takes the time we’ve allocated for the budget established within the specification we’ve defined to create a solution within the parameters. Want to buy a car? You’ll want to define the standard (spec), budget (what you can pay) and when it will be delivered (schedule.) A car, like any other product, is a created work. The same is true with a piece of paper, an engineering service, web design, software, and on and on. Schedule and budget define how much could be invested in creating and producing the product or service.

In fact, budgets and schedules are gifts to us; signposts, mile markers, fenced pastures, defining limits and contexts, giving us a direction, identity to the work, and an expectation to be fulfilled. Finishing something is satisfying. Finishing it on time, on budget, and delivering to a satisfied client, is an art in itself, and very satisfying to both parties.

Deliver to the standard, make it a positive experience, include the client in a collaborative manner, communicate along the way, listen, develop, define, deliver value. But finish it. Ship it. Complete it. Do it within the time and budget established.

We all need end dates by which to make decisions and complete the work. The creator that can complete it and deliver the value to the client, will be sought after.

Be that person.

Developing Identity vs Being Commodity

If we own or are working in a business, we are delivering a service or product. The client or customer expects to receive what it is they’ve purchased according to the specifications, scope, and price. This is a fact that is true, whether conscious in the mind of the buyer and seller or not. This is the baseline. Let’s dive deeper now.

All companies in a category are expected to deliver to the category. Let’s even say that we expect all the scope of work to be delivered to the exact same standard, that we could pick any one of the enterprises in the category, and expect the same exact results. What then would be the differentiator in selection? Price (cost) of course. If all things are 100% equal, then select and work with the lowest cost provider for the specified service or product.

But this is never the case. Products or services from different companies are not all delivered to the same standard. Why is this so? There are many reasons. But let’s focus on differentiation here; let’s focus on core purpose, core focus, core values. Defining the differentiators, the “why,” “what,” and “how,” define the difference, and create the unique value proposition of any enterprise. In fact, all companies have these defining attributes, they just don’t always know what they really are, or how to define them.

“Our Why”: Core Purpose.

This is our reason, our essence, why we do what we do. Unless we want to be more of a commodity, we need a core purpose; a “why;” a reason for the enterprise’s existence. This has nothing to do with WHAT we do, but why we do it. For instance in my company, we “Enable Facades that Inspire.” We “do” things to support that, but those “things” are not our “why.” We love to work on, and to help develop, improve, remediate, fix, oversee facades, building skins, building exteriors, in an inspired manner and to create inspiring outcomes. That’s why we show up every day.

“Our What:” Core Focus.

What is it that we deliver or do as a core focus to support our core purpose? This is the “what” to support the “why.” In my company for instance, we provide design, engineering, science and consulting to support the core purpose to enable facades that inspire. When you work with us you may “get engineering” for example among other things as part of the service, but you don’t buy “engineering” from us. You buy our core purpose (knowingly or not.) You work with us to support your vision on an inspiring facade or exterior building skin. To support that, one service we provide is “engineering” expressed in various forms. What we all do in enterprises is different than why we do it.

“Our How:” Core Values.

How do we do what we do to deliver why we do it? These are the core values; the “how.” What’s our personality, and what values do we live out, manifest, and provide as a group, an enterprise, an organization? Core values (the how) are our guard rails, our sign posts. For instance, at our company we have five core values, developed as a team. They are as follows: communication, integrity, collaboration, client conscious, and capable. Everything we “do” is filtered through this grid, this reality. These are not aspirational, they are reality. These core values define us. For instance, if you don’t want to communicate, and it’s not a value for you, then you wouldn’t want to work for us. The core values are in every job offer, discussed during recruiting, and measured during annual reviews. You don’t have to be perfect in living out the core values, but you have to care, to buy into them, be committed to improvement, and to be accountable to them. Goods and services are delivered with, through and by the core values.

The Story:

So the “why,” the “what,” and the “how” allow us to build our story, a common story, that anyone in the company can express. It gives us a common context to work within, a common reality, a shared experience. This is a powerful lever in advancing with focus and velocity. The story may be manifested or experienced in different forms and expressions. But in the big picture, if talking to someone in the elevator, at the coffee bar, or on break at the conference, asking us, “So what do you do,” we could say something like this, “Well, we enable facades that inspire through services like engineering, design, science, and consulting. You you can count on us to be communicative, and express integrity around commitments and solutions. Plus, we really focus on collaboration, building a shared experience, with a client conscious focus throughout (beginning with the end in in mind). With all that we are as capable as they come.” This is one version of our “story.” This is what you get when you get “us.”

Closing Thoughts and Remarks

So are all enterprises the same? When we purchase a service or product to a spec, a definition, a scope, can we expect the exact same experience from all? Obviously not.

With whom would we rather work? The no purpose, low cost provider, or the clearly purposed, value driven niche company?

Without a “why” everything looks the same. Without a “what” there’s no clarity on what service or product is expected to be delivered and received. Without a “how” it’s all just colorless and without consistent experience; there’s no value added.

Without the core purpose, focus and values, we are just a commodity, a nameless, faceless organization that can only rely on being less expensive. This is a tough reality to live within; impossible really.

Does cost matter? Of course. But that is a topic for another blog post.

Get excited. Start defining today. There’s a process by which you can do so. Put it in writing. Shout it from the roof tops. Make a difference.

A Simple Business Differentiator

“Because I really like working with them….” is an acceptable reason for selecting and maintaining a business relationship.

Assuming all other things being equal in the product or service, “likeability,” or “ease of working relationship,” in itself can be a differentiator.

A good goal is to leave any person or interaction more “energy positive” and to provide value in whatever way is appropriate to the assignment or situation; to provide a solution, path to solution, recommendation, or to help simplify to a point of clarity.

Be the person others like working with.

Meetings – Tips for Productive Outcomes

**On the topic of MEETINGS**

People say, “meetings are a waste of time, or “meetings are unproductive.”

Yet, I don’t think this is true, in the right context.

Everything is about context.

Poorly planned, unscripted, no-agenda, purposeless meetings for the sake of meeting are a waste of time.

Scheduled, planned, intentional, agenda-driven, purpose driven meetings with expected outcomes are valuable.

I don’t think it’s productive to make “carte-blanche” statements about anything that categorizes it as “all or nothing.”

I think perhaps most of us don’t know how to achieve positive outcomes to meetings without a script, plan, outline, experience. Plus, meetings take many formats depending on who is leading.

I recommend some of the following as a starting point:

1. Establish a consistent meeting format for your entire organization. Same format, context, pattern for each, at every level.

2. Use a meeting system like, or similar to the EOS Worldwide System (if you aren’t an EOS company already using their IDS style.)

3. Identify the issues to be discussed, discuss them, and solve them.

4. A meeting without “solves” is not a productive meeting.

5. If the issues are not solved in the meeting, set “to-do’s.” To-do’s require a specific deadline and owner of the to-do. Write it down, keep it transparent, follow up. The person assigned is accountable to complete it. When the to-do is done, the issue is solved.

6. Make sure the facilitator keeps the meeting on track.

7. Don’t interrupt others, ever.

8. Start and end on time. That is the first priority. Be on time, prepared, ready to engage.

Leveraging the time with a team can be differentiator.

If you want to continue to avoid meetings or not utilize them well, then you may fall behind. Those who do meetings well and get things done as aligned team, have the advantage, as they multiply progress.

This list isn’t 100% comprehensive, but has some key recommendations.

If you’re doing meetings work to increase their value.