Design team meetings are necessary to every healthcare design project. The most successful design meetings are those that accomplish a goal and leave the participants with a structured plan to address the next steps. This might seem obvious at first, but we have all participated in meetings that were unorganized, missing key-players, or were lacking in direction. When a meeting fails, time and money are wasted and participants leave feeling frustrated.
The planning and scheduling of regular design team meetings often falls to a project manager. This project manager typically works for the architect, interior designer or directly for the owner. If you find yourself tasked with the job of meeting planner take a few minutes to consider these tips for organizing a successful healthcare design meeting.
Determining who should be present at design team meetings is best handled at the onset of the project. Participants selected to attend the kickoff meeting often set the example for how the subsequent meetings will run for the remainder of the project. Select the people most critical to decision making and facilitating the design process.
It is not unusual for each consultant to bring two or three representatives from their firms to the table. It is common for leadership in all firms or organizations (design, construction and the client team) to assign a member of their senior staff or a project manager as the primary contact on a project. Knowing who these people are is critical. They should be included early on.
For a small doctor’s office the primary decision-maker may be obvious but as the scale of a project increases there may be dozens of users all vying for their voice to be heard. If one person from the client team is not appointed as having the absolute final word, then the decisions may fall to several people with competing requests and interests. Even if it seems obvious, it doesn’t hurt to ask the meeting participants who will have the final say in the event of indecision or disagreement. Pinpointing the decision-maker helps to lessen the number of unnecessary revisions, saving time and money.
In larger healthcare projects the users may consist of physicians, nurses, managers, unit receptionists, housekeeping staff, etc. These people provide critical information to the design team, instructing them on procedures and protocols that will affect how the space operates, potentially for years to come. It is important that the project’s key decision-makers utilize their expertise and involve these users in the project. User teams should meet regularly outside of the design team meetings so that design decisions can be made quickly and decisively.
As project manager, you should understand that there are important meetings going on that you may not be involved in. For larger hospital design projects, the client group may be meeting with the city, code officials, community organizations, the Board of Trustees, and donors. These meetings may influence decisions made in your design team meetings. It is helpful to get briefed on these decisions regularly.
It is always helpful to engage consultants/subcontractors early on in your design meetings to set expectations and identify potential problems. This is particularly important if you are working with a new team or doing anything beyond the most basic budget T.I. Your contractors will appreciate the project preview so they can provide an accurate budget and discuss complex or unique design details. Involving your subs early means less value engineering and keeping more of the design features and finishes originally planned for in the Schematic Design phase.
Because a good healthcare design team consists of a few key participants and decision makers it is important that good records be kept of each design meeting and distributed in a timely manner. These meeting minutes will be released to individuals within participating firms including users, designers, subcontractors and consultants. They accurately reflect decisions made at the meeting and identify new and outstanding tasks. Appoint one person as the record-keeper.
DO identify the key players and make sure the decision-makers can attend the meeting.
DON’T include too many unnecessary people at regular design meetings and presentations.
DO utilize current technology when possible like Microsoft Outlook Calendar or Apple iCal, to keep the team organized and up to date.
DO distribute an agenda for every meeting and attempt to follow it.
DO schedule regular design team meetings if the project calls for it but DON’T burden the design team with meetings that are unnecessary.
DO review schedule and budget at your meetings.
DO keep accurate meeting minutes that include a running log of task items and completion dates.