In businesses, the creative process is often under-managed due to fear of stifling free thinking and exploration. So, hypothetically, if we were to take the view of a design business being an assembly line and try to apply typical process improvement steps to it, would it work? Would it affect creativity? To help answer this we might look at the typical steps in process improvement.
Define – lots of the variables around creativity can be hard to define. But we can define how good we are at communicating our designs. Is the communication fast and accurate? Is it coordinated? Does it satisfy requirements? These questions already begin to describe elements in our design process that we can define
Measure – Can we capture baseline performance about these? Once we have defined some points measuring simply requires a review protocol. For example, if documentation speed is a defined factor this simply has to be measured in past projects to ascertain what the average is.
Analyse – Now we know what current performance is, it can be determined what are the critical factors that can be addressed to improve it. In any sector this is quite complex but once you have accurate numerical data of it, you can analyse anything.
The remaining question is can we improve and control without disrupting the creative process? By defining our process improvement not in creative terms but in other factors, as described above, I believe we can. Every phase of a project should go through a “close-out” phase where deliverables are verified and validated. I would argue this area is where most improvement can be enforced. That is to say, if we are afraid of disrupting the delicate design process, let’s not and instead focus on reviewing the outcomes of it against measurable criteria in the “close-out” phase.
Now, I realise the difficulty is that the design process is fluid and can often bleed into other activities (“design” will still happen during documentation). The point is, at least in the documentation phase we might be able to measure how good we are at capturing and assimilating this new design into the project.
(Yes, that is a picture of a purple fungi because it is more interesting than talking about process management!)