Our Clients, Our Family

I was recently struck by how similar the process of dealing with a client is to parenting a child.  This statement is not meant to be derogatory, but to help architects think about the fact that we are leading our clients through a process that is as much about building a relationship as it is about design.  I attended a seminar a few months ago at my daughter's school that focused on how to be a leader as your children learn.  One component drew from the work of Dr. Becky Bailey on Conscious Discipline.  What I loved about this was that Dr. Bailey incorporates science about how the brain works into strategies (evidence-based design if you will) to help parents work more effectively with their children.  
Too often on a project, architects allow ourselves to slip into the role of the child and give up our leadership of the process for fear that the client will not want to work with us if we don't let them drive.  Just as unhelpful is an attempt to make both parties equal in an attempt at promoting collaboration.  How can we "parent" our projects without coming across as overbearing or making the rest of the team feel that we aren't listening to them?  

I like the idea of re-framing the architect-client relationship by utilizing Conscious Discipline techniques, primarily the idea that the struggle is the growth.  Instead of accepting a conventional schedule and meeting cycles, we, not our clients, need to take the initiative and structure a process that engages our client and allows listening and learning to occur.

Professions like architecture, medicine and law are called practices because we can't be held to a standard of perfection.  We can only be expected to apply our knowledge in the best possible way to solve complex problems for which there may be multiple answers and no clear indicator that a solution has been reached.  Too often, we meet with clients, gather data, then go off to design.  We forget that design is a cyclical process of trial and error and instead only present a highly edited "best of" solution to our clients at the next meeting.  This just perpetuates the expectation of perfection and creates a feeling that decisions have already been made.  We shouldn't be surprised to then find the client acting out like a rebellious teenager if they don't agree.  Instead, we need to open the process up and allow it to be more interactive.  Mistakes are opportunities for learning.  Encouraging our clients to disagree leads to negotiation.  Negotiation  leads to more thoughtful solutions where everyone has ownership and the kind of project team we all want- one big happy family.  
What's your experience with the process of struggle and growth on a project?

2 comments:

  1. "Fathers (and mothers!), provoke not your children to wrath."

    ReplyDelete

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