Project Management insights…
We apply phased methodologies with milestone reviews to develop projects from research and ideation phase, into feasibility and through concept development. In many instances, our concepts are handed off to an internal Client team or supplier to further develop production release deliverables. The overall project timeline and costs can be compressed when the concept deliverables are robust, accurate and developed with production constraints in mind.
As many companies and technologies work to develop less siloed approaches to design and development the traditional phased approach still leaves much to be desired. We have focused our time and resources to develop a design team focused on bridging these silos to digest the key information from one phase and get a jump start on applying it in a fashion that is digestible to the next phase or team.
The ongoing pandemic has forced companies to reduce headcount to contain fixed costs. In addition, there has been a widely reported exodus of experienced talent entering early retirement. These two conditions have resulted in a significant talent exodus from core teams at a time when smart and seasoned project management is needed to develop innovative solutions.
To compound the challenges, inflation is eroding the buying power of corporations and increased competition demands reduced costs to develop products and services. We are, indeed, living in interesting times!
During a recent project review, we sparked a discussion about different ways to improve team performance. An initial comment led to an impromptu workshop about our role with Clients and different ways to improve team performance. We work as an extension of the Client design and engineering team, and we are all accountable for our deliverables. We win only when our clients win.
We identified several key features of a successful project that should be applied to all innovation initiatives with creative and technical teams. Here we go…
Take the time to write a well-defined project brief…
Work diligently with your cross-functional team to construct a clearly written design, engineering, or project brief. This key document will guide the team through the twisting journey traveled to take an idea through feasibility and proof of concept and physical property development.
Our experience with leading companies in diverse industries has shown that most teams rush through the design brief to start moving on the project. This is especially true of lean teams working with reduced headcount and erosion of experienced management.
Teams get stressed when unrealistic budgets and deadlines are shared with little planning or rationale for the demands. This leads to attrition and ultimately the challenges of recruiting new talent in a hyper competitive landscape.
We provide a guide on how to develop a well-defined project brief on our website. This can be found here: Fredricks Design Step by Step Guide to Building a Realistic RFP
Plan the work and work the plan…
After all members of the team have provided input to the brief and approved the document, an equal amount of energy and focus should be dedicated to the plan for key phases of the project.
In many cases, the early phases of the project are compressed to reflect a short timeline for ideation, feasibility, and concept development to make room for additional time and capital to complete production engineering and tooling.
It is our belief that if sufficient time is planned for the early phase of any project, the investment will be returned in later phases via reduced iterations, leaner design and an enhanced end-user experience. A lack of well-informed planning in early stages of development begins an uphill battle that leads to increased iterations due to unexpected feedback from production and engineering teams. This effect snowballs throughout the program forcing delays in timing and headaches for all parties involved.
Team growth and flexibility…
CEOs and leadership teams are now beginning to consider options for growth. Do we recruit and hire for our core team, engage with external resources, or pursue a hybrid model blending incremental growth to the internal team while working with flexible resources?
We have found success through turbulent times in the hybrid model. Our core design and engineering team is lean, and we engage with proven, flexible resources to scale up for sold projects.
We have also forged a strong partnership with Prefix Companies to offer turn-key solutions from sketch through manufacturing, assembly test and installation of vehicles, rides, animated props, and furniture. This flexible offering provides our clients with a wide range of services scaled to the unique requirements of each project. We are liberated to identify the best materials, processes, and methodologies for each project.
We welcome your comments on this article. Please visit us at www.fredricks.com and download any of our content offers. We look forward to working together when the time is right!
Best wishes for future success on all of your projects!
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Work as a collaborative team to reduce iterations and improve project flow.
Our work with marketing, design and engineering teams over the past several decades has been an interesting and challenging journey. We have been lucky in our work with diverse teams in different industries.
There are common challenges and goals for all teams working on concepts for innovative products and services. Whatever business you are in, there are a few fundamentals for application in the planning and execution of your projects.
The Design Brief is the project roadmap.
Every project begins with a design brief including constraints on time, budget, and performance metrics. These guidelines, of course, are established after an agreement is reached on the design or project brief with key stakeholders. The problem statement, resources, assignments and measurable goals must be included in the brief. A well-written brief will help guide the team from research through production release and market launch.
Northwestern University Design Thinking Communication Fall Term 2021
I traveled to Northwestern University in Evanston on Saturday, December 4, 2021 to attend the final team presentations for a sponsored project. The skies were clear with minimal traffic as I made my way “around the horn” of Lake Michigan and northbound through Chicago on Lake Shore Drive. The conditions were ideal for my homecoming to campus following almost two years of hybrid and/or remote collaboration resultant from the pandemic.
We embarked on the sponsored project in August 2021 with a ten-week timeline for the three teams to develop solutions to this problem statement…
K-6 Study at Home Solutions
Young students are challenged with study at home and organization of homework, electronics, and artwork supplies. Quick packing, unpacking and organization of a wide range of materials and electronics is repetitive and wastes time and energy. Research, sketch, mockup and develop a concept including a working prototype for a compact, flexible, modular storage solution that provides organization, power charging and ease of use.
We developed Freddy Furniture USA – Kids Study from Home Desks as a flexible desking solution engineered to ergonomic standards for K-6 students.
Conor Fredricks, our lead industrial designer and I presented an overview of the problem statement and a deck illustrating our process and methodologies to help guide end-user interviews, research and ideation over the first few weeks of the class. Our interaction with the teams and professors Ignatius Aloysuis and Tirdad Kiamanesh was via Zoom and a simple camera setup in the classroom at Northwestern. Although it was not an ideal setup, we made it work and the teams launched into the front-end exploratory work to develop divergent ideas.
Our second design review was hosted during week 6 of the term. We were blown away with the diversity of ideas presented by the three teams and the body of work developed. The teams were made up of freshman engineering students and most of the team members had never worked together on projects. We provided feedback to the teams and answered a few questions. From there, the teams went back to work to complete the deliverables for final presentations on December 4, 2021.
I was absolutely blown away by the presentations and deliverables developed by our teams. The deliverables included prototypes,
posters, a written final report and, most importantly, stand up presentations. The skills and team cooperation will go forward with all of our students for future application in educational, professional and personal endeavors.
As I drove south towards Chicago and home, I reflected on my two wonderful years at the Ford Building, my classmates, Green Team members and our excellent professors. I was lucky to attend Northwestern and now, humbled and honored to teach at McCormick.
There has been a lot written lately about the “great resignation” underway across most industries. My brief visit to Northwestern University left me feeling positive about the future of innovation and higher education in America. We are a country of innovators and “can do” entrepreneurs. Innovation is a team- based activity and creativity is alive and doing well in Evanston, Illinois! Go Northwestern and Go USA!
Investment in our students and their education
Fredricks Design will continue our mission to help guide young design and engineering talent both in and out of the classroom. These sponsored or “live” projects bring a level of real-world experience that offers insights on how products are developed in the real world. This experience is extremely valuable in molding students into successful designer and engineers in the next phase of their careers and Fredricks is more than happy to do our part.
Please contact us for additional information and case studies. We would love a chance to collaborate with your team!