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A university president recently asked us the question – how does one start a project with the right team from the start?  They went on to identify the two “losing” options that they seem to face on every project.

  • Option 1: “It’s great to have a lot of people involved in the dreaming of the project, to get everyone’s ideas and opinions.  But the more people that are involved up front, the more people I have to say no to later when budget, or other restrictions come into play.”
  • Option 2: “If I involve fewer people upfront, it’s more difficult to get buy-in on the project aspects that may not be completely necessary to the project but are desired by a large amount of the staff.”

“How can I start a project with buy-in from everyone from the start?”

It’s a question we get a lot.  One we get to answer so often that we have developed or proprietary Fingerprint™ process to guide clients through these, sometimes choppy waters.  How does this process work? – Our solution is one of consensus leadership with focused questions to diverse (often large) stakeholder groups, alongside a parallel track of deep, data driven, analysis.  In short, successful project are built from the heart, and the mind.

The Heart.

This is the qualitative aspect of the project.  It’s where we discover the “why.”  With a broad group of stakeholders we define the goals that will enrich the design, deepen the story, and tailor the project to the uniqueness of the university. It’s about defining the elements that will make this a game-changing project for all stakeholders (students, faculty, community, advancement, etc.). In this stage of discovery, we ask questions like; “looking back on the success of this project 10 years from now, how has this changed your university?”, or “how will this project relate to your mission, vision and values?”, or “tell us a memorable story from your time here. How will this project enhance those stories for future generations?”. The answers from these visioning sessions are then crafted into a project vision. These “why” statements become the guides that will be used to evaluate future project decisions. They are the guardrails that define both what the project is, and what the project isn’t. They prioritize spending, space allocation, and along with a myriad of other crucial project decisions relating to quality, size, and experience. Defining the project “why” with the entire group of stakeholders generates consensus, understanding, and depth to the experience and mission that the building will serve. This is the heart of the project.

Taylor University Campus Center
Taylor University Campus Center
Quantitative Project Planning

The Mind.

This is where we focus on the quantitative aspect of the project – determining needs and data that will ensure that the building will perform. This is where do a classroom utilization studies, a facility conditions assessment that will answer the question whether the existing building can be renewed and remodeled or should be demolished and built new. We look at university and departmental growth plans, design standards, necessary adjacencies, strategic plans, as well as budget and schedule needs. Anything that can be answered with a yes, no or a number is looked at here. These answers define what the project needs to be in order to be successful. This provides the “what” to the “why.”  It defines the project limits and also provides the back-up information often needed by university leaders, boards, discerning donors, and interested community members. The mind is the project “what.” – the “why” is the direction, and the “what” are the limits.

Quantitative Project Planning

The Secret.

Our advice is simple. Successful projects are best achieved through clear goal setting with multiple stakeholders early on in the process, looking at the project from both the heart and the mind. That’s how we establish clear decision-making metrics that have buy-in from the diverse perspectives often at the table at various points in the project. It doesn’t change the hard decisions that will still often need to be made along the way, but it does align key stakeholders from the start and still lets the project benefit from the diverse perspectives and areas of expertise needed to deliver a successful project.

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