CORE COMPETENCE and SPECIALIZATION

Post 595 by Gautam Shah

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Design organizations are initiated, by an individual who has some expertise or keen interest in a specific field, or by group of people who share similar or parallel interests. This founding expertise or keen interest must form the formal goal of the design organization. The formality must occur as a declared policy. Design Organizations must work intensively in areas that are analogous to their goals.

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Wikipedia image by Injeongwon

Design organizations have a noble desire to cultivate an acute or very exclusive knowledge system over years of professional practice. This is often not attended to adequately in design organizations, but when the need arises, they hire specific expertise through new employees or by retaining consultants. Organization, however, cannot have core competence just by intent, facilities or expertise. Core competence results from expertise with hands-on experience on real projects.

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Acute Specialization > Wikipedia image by tainted blue

Organizations need opportunities to build up the core competence. Such opportunities arrive by selection. An organization with well-defined goals would procure projects by approaching appropriate clients, being in contact with relevant consultants, by offering additional services for making the fees attractive, by participating in such competitions. An executed project generates better competence in a field, then handling of several diverse projects.

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Wikipedia image by Grant Crabtree

Core competence leads the design organization into specific jobs, by way of excelling in results, efficiency of work procedure or job handling, efficiencies of input-benefit ratio, and client satisfaction. The repetition of opportunities leads to learning, experimentation and satisfaction. Core competence is perceived as an innovative pursuit that can cause enough synergies, to make the organization behave like self correcting, or continuously adjusting biological entities.

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Wikipedia image > Attrbn: Bundesarchiv , Bild 183-23805-1665/ CC-BY-SA 3.0

Core competence is also seen as a debate for Generalization versus Specialization. Some organizers believe that generalization, as a capacity to handle all types of projects and under whatever circumstances, is very essential for continuance (survival or professional relevance). And, (they believe) “if the need arises, experts can be hired to meet the exigency”. The generalization allows to handle projects of routine nature, in an efficient, economic and time bound manner. Such ‘generalist’ organizations handle projects that are very large in scale, requiring little innovation, and of repetitive nature. Their service or fee’s are highly competitive.

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Wikipedia image by Marcrocs

Specialization cannot be achieved by intent alone. One must grab projects that reinforce the skills, even by discounting the fees or profits. And, if opportunities in the desired field are few, one must strive for excellence in the relevant sections of the routine work. Specialization is often equated with a single person in charge of the organization, rather than group based practices. An Autocratic leader stimulates an organization towards an acute specialization, whereas a Bohemian leader dissipates the energy and de-focuses and strives for generalization. A Democratic leader will continuously review and revise, the aims of the organization, and plan the resources, to make the organization creative.

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Temple Singapore > Flickr image by Steve Jurvetson

Creativity is not in specialization (capacity to excel in limited fields) nor in generalization (capacity to handle many different situations) in any field. Design creativity is seen in radical solutions, proficiency in sustaining the technical superiority and learning. Design efficiency is perceived for being productive, cost efficacy and organizational ranking or superordination.

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WORK STYLE of DESIGN ORGANIZATIONS

Post 563 by Gautam Shah

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Design Organizations operate in two sets of conditions. One set is an environment that varies at a faster pace with the times, and the Second set is the work style or culture that evolves as a matured manner of operations. A design organization comes into being over a period of time. Even when its conveners have years of experience before the venture, it needs a maturation period. A design team is a fluid entity continually affected by internal and external circumstances and in perpetual evolution.

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The work environment in a design organization is formed by immediate issues, like combination of resources, humans and situational conditions and public concerns. The work environment is also seen as empathy, created with the staff members, clients, collaborators and stack-holders. It is related to the leadership, and their priorities on the basis of current values, available skills, complexity of the assignments and permissible actions. The work environment can flourish well where there are historical precedents in the form of work-culture or style. An individual, a fresh or short term leader can easily vitiate the work environment but cannot alter the deep-rooted work-style of the organization.

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Lab at National Design Centre Singapore Wikipedia image source  https://www.flickr.com/photos/maltman23/15966053506/ by Mitch Altman

The work style of the organization represents the effectiveness of leadership beyond the duties as owners or conveners. Organizations trying to develop, core competence or acute specialization, needs to be aware of the work-culture. A leader can hope to mould the work-style of the organization by improvisation of the day to day work environment. Work-style is a historical formation, and must develop from formal and informal systems of past. It cannot be a policy diktat and cannot be enforced from outside.

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Manufacture of pleasure carriages Designing room 1879 wikipedia image from Scientific American Feb 8 1879

Each design organization over a time develops its own distinctive response mechanism. Where, the work-style is a synergetic mix of authority and responsibility. The work-style embodies the projectssuccesses and failures, team memberscontributions and prejudices, clientssatisfaction and anger, adhered programmes and failed schedules, Innovations perceived, supported and carried through, and learning from new ventures and shortcomings.

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For each organization, the style of task handling is always exclusive, because it is formed by the team members, projects and the times. Some team members persist for a longer period, but many others stay for an assignment or shorter duration. The projects are routine or radical, but carried through the organization for the long-term policy goals. The organization deals with many such circumstantial combinations, but the situations never recur in time or space, and for anyone else.

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Wikipedia image by Mike Peel (www.mikepeel.net) (Perm CC-BY-SA-4.0)

The physical spread of the organization in the society makes it a trustworthy professional entity. The societal pride permeates in to the organization, and impacts the behaviour of its members and the nature projects being offered.

Carpet Selling Lord

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INFORMATION RESOURCES of DESIGN ORGANIZATIONS

Post 557  by Gautam Shah

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Design organizations thrive and proliferate on the quality and quantity of data within their reach. Organizations with their capacity to recognize, collate and format the data, develop synergies that in turn sharpen their data use capacity. The data arrives from outside or it is generated within the house. The data have two sets of relevance, for future and immediate purposes. The data for future use equips an organization to deal with larger and complex jobs. Strategic data is more general to the design practice and used for planning and forecasting. In comparison, the information for immediate use is tactical, more specific to a project or an aspect of it. It is used for decision making and problem solving.

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Public Data servers Wikipedia image by National archives

Strategic and tactical data are valued and classified for the following qualities:

Brevity (specific to the context),

Accuracy (of the right context or sensible),

Timeliness or up to date,

Purposiveness (capable of causing desired actions),

Rarity (original, novel)

Cost and liabilities (Free of coast, with royalty dues and with intellectual-right protection, with guarantees, warrantees and assurances).

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Library of Alexandria

For design organizations, there are TWO types of information resources.

Internal Information Resources (IIR) are: experience and knowledge that comes with owners, employees, consultants, etc. Data generated from the routine activities like project handling. External information once procured by the organization, if properly stored can be a great internal asset.

External Information Resources (EIR) are: media based such as books, periodicals, internet, CDs, tapes, etc., Various input and feedback from consultants, suppliers, contractors and clients.

External data is inter organizational, fraternity level, society, community, national, or of a universal domain. External information is acquired for a payment of compensation in proportion to its quality, quantity and acuteness of need. Organizations, as a result, end up paying a stiff price for sourcing external information.

Internal data is personal, departmental or organizational. Internal resources are nearly free, require only processing at a negligible cost, but are ignored.

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2005 Digital drawing Wikipedia image by Hasanisawi

 Operational uses of data are very occasion or situation specific. The data perception helps in creating a structure, media, estate etc. for its storage and forms of presentation. The data arrives in organizations, at on a continuous basis or at periodic intervals, but it arrives in parts, that will:

  • probably form a whole,
  • automatically create a structure with definite boundaries (close ended)
  • form an ever growing matrix (open ended).

Cost of information: Data as a commodity can have an ordinary cost, if it is universally available and not urgently needed. Data of rare or proprietary nature and that requiring immediate access, however, can have a high price. Information is also available in many free domains without any obligations. Cost of information is also formed by absolute factors like the cost of acquisition, processing, storing, retrieval and transmission.

Information systems and emerging form of design organizations: Information systems affect the structure of design organizations and the workplaces. Digitization in design offices has occurred at several levels, such as communication (correspondence), accounting systems, quantity estimating, cost valuation, quote evaluation, hyperlinked specifications formation, drawings, BIM, PERT, CPM, etc.

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Digital information resources Bibliotheca Alexandria, Egypt  Wikipedia image by Pfctdayelise

Information networked design organization is more dynamic because its workers communicate among themselves and with other firms. This provides for greater coordination and collaboration for project handling. It allows use of ‘simultaneous or concurrent engineering’ system of participation across day-time zones, thus saving in time. Information networking has also led many organizations to concentrate on their core competence, and to out-source other tasks to specialized agencies. ‘The capacity to communicate information efficiently within a firm has also led to the deployment of flatter organizational structures with fewer hierarchical layers’.

Information systems built around portable computers, mobile telecommunications, and groupwares have enabled employees to work virtually anywhere. Work is the thing you do, not the place you go to. Employees who work in virtual workplaces outside their company’s premises are known as Tele-commuters.”

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Bell x-1 sound design studio Paris 2002 Wikipedia image by Gilbert Courtois

With information technology two forms of virtual organizations have emerged: network organizations and cluster organizations. A network of individuals or geographically widely dispersed small companies working with internet and wide area networks, can join seamlessly through specific protocols to present a multi disciplinary appearance of a large organization. In a cluster organization, the principal work units are permanent, complimented by multiplicity of service providers or temporary teams of individuals. A job or project begins to percolate within the cluster and different sub units begin to react to it, providing their inputs. A solution begins to emerge from apparently fuzzy and often unrelated ideas or concepts. Team members, are connected by intranets and groupware.

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Packet switching NSFNET T1 backbone and regional network traffic 1991

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PERFORMANCE of a DESIGN EMPLOYEE

Post 555  by Gautam Shah

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Design organizations need people of many different talents, but usually just for the duration of a project. Design organizations employ people with only requisite talent. Larger design organizations have some capacity to reassign and keep engaged the talent, but smaller organizations, go for ‘hire and fire’ policy. Design organizations, like other business entities, relate the performance of an employee to the profitability. For Design organizations human resources are very important assets, unlike in manufacturing units where productivity of machines and the raw material costs have greater significance.

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The employee perceives own performance in terms of compensation, personal fulfillment, future promotion and skill gain. When an employee has a chance to any of these, the person is well motivated. But an Employer sees performance as a tool for immediate profit to be gained at a specific cost. The organization, even after a person is employed continuously reassess the performance and relevance. The assessment relies on capacity of the individual to handle new roles with increased responsibilities. Performance can be conditioned as the enhanced capacity to deal with more complex or new problems, share of responsibility, greater authority, etc.

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image attribution >Sladen at en. wikipedia

During employment performance of a person is considered on many factors such as individual ability, personality traits, input effort, sincerity, perception of the role, motivating factors for seeking the current position, etc. An employee can be motivated for gain, comfort, increased learning, or even enhanced motivation.

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Θ Designers under the age of 30, have few positive operants in their favour, like: highest mobility -capacity to settle at any geographical location, work under the most difficult of conditions, and highest learning abilities. These qualities are very appreciated by employers, and so desire to hire people either as a complete fresher or less than 30 years of age (i.e. with 5/6 years of experience).

Θ A person before the age of 35 must gain the varied experiences and find the best employment in a larger organization, look for a participatory role in mid or smaller size organization. Alternatively this is the right time to plan own professional practice (self employment).

Θ Design professionals, by the age of 35 years begin to mature with sufficient work experience, personal contacts, and specialized knowledge. But they also begin to have Negative operants like: reduced learning capability, lesser reorientation faculties, less motivation, less migration and reestablishment willingness.

Θ Design professionals have last opportunity, before the age of 45 years, for seeking fresh employment. It is now the last opportunity to convert all accumulated abstract gains of the past (experience, expertise, know-how) into promotion or other materialistic forms.

Θ The chances of re-employment taper of drastically beyond the age of 45 years. Only way a designer can hope to shift the position is by joining another organization as partner, senior associate, consultant or a free-lancer. Such opportunities are very few, and would demand persons with outstanding competence and capacity to contribute.

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The employer terminates the services of an employee when the person becomes irrelevant for a role for behavioural or technical reasons. Employees in spite of the experience are not able to cope up with emerging technologies, or are unable to reset with changed office work culture. Employees become lethargic with advancing age, show unacceptable social behaviour and resist shifting to a new location.

Performance is not any absolute index but a contextual evaluation. The circumstantial conditions are, the employer as a human being, ever-changing needs of the organization, work culture at the place of employment and the optional talents available. The other set of contextual conditions are, the employee’s age, learning capacity, chances of promotion and compensation and optional opportunities for re-employment.

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Wikipedia image by Creaviva

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DESIGN ORGANIZATIONS and ENTITIES

Post 521  by Gautam Shah

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Flickr image by PEDS

Design organizations are conceived to serve external clients. Such organizations are distinctly detached from their clients, and so are internally fairly cohesive or homogeneous. The detachment helps in enforcing professionalism in the services being offered. It also reflects on fees being charged which are neatly defined and in direct proportion to the jobs being handled. Design entities that serve internal clients like ‘sister concerns’ or para departments, are indistinct in constitution, offering of services and enumeration of fees. The heterogeneity is often so diverse that relationship between the services provider and the internal client are too incoherent, to be distinguished into neat role models. The principal objective of such design entities is to serve the routine solutions for its member-clients. Such solutions are efficient in terms of time and resources but less daring or critical.

Design organizations those serve external clients tend to be individual-specific. The hierarchical structure is distinct when 8 or more persons are involved. The single-person leadership remains the final authority. The Design entities that serve internal clients such as like ‘sister concerns’ or para departments may be lead by non-designers. It could also be multi-lateral arrangement. The decision making process is long winded and formal as several persons are involved. For outside observers or auditors the Design organizations, due to their dense homogeneity are difficult to penetrate and study. The effort lies in studying their efficiency not of delivering the results, but ‘projects in pipe line’. Design entities need a continuous assessment, or could be dissolved. The design solutions are valued in comparison to any offering available from out-sourcing. An internal or departmental design entity is valued for the continuous improvisations it can offer due to its immediacy.

Wikipedia – Flickr image > Source Author Mitch Altman https://www.flickr.com/photos/maltman23/15372193433/

Multi lateral organizations that conduct activities like design, manufacturing, on-site installations, servicing, etc. have modules that are subservient to the central management. Design is not an organization but a departmental entity. Not just design, but all other entities are well delineated. Their activities are not just mutually dependent, but in many instances concurrent and so overlapping. Their distinction is in the assignments and not in the activities they conduct, or things they deliver.

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Design organizations led by professionals, who are under the registration formalities of their professional bodies such as Architects, various branches of Engineering. Such organizations do not opt for multi-lateral format. Many other design businesses such as product design, graphics, etc., at certain stage of expansive growth become multi lateral entities.

Wikipedia image Attribution (required by the license) © Jorge Royan / http://www.royan.com.ar/ CC-BY-SA-3.0

DESIGN ORGANIZATIONS and HUMAN RESOURCES

Post 449 -by Gautam Shah

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Personnel are the most important asset for any organization. First, persons with only required qualities are sought. Second, better compensation is offered for hiring specific qualities. Third, incentives are offered for the readiness to reformat the talents and traits. Fourth, employees unable to convert are punished or shifted out of the organization. Organizations hire and retain people with required education, skill, experience, inclination and personality trait. Organizations fully exploit the individual talents and traits. Organizations recognize, support and even reformat these qualities through formal training and opportunistic exposures. Members of the organization are motivated in different ways to modify or upgrade their expertise. Organizations consider personnel as Human resources are not only immensely manipulable, but up-gradable to seemingly infinite levels of efficiency.

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Organizations have varied capacity to train and reformat the personality trait, natural talent and skills. Very small organizations have no opportunistic exposures to retrain an individual staff member, and as a result, find it easier to hire and fire the required people. Large organizations handle large volume of work, and so can effectively reposition the personnel for reformatting the talent. They shuffle their staff to adjust to consistently fluctuating needs. For large organizations, it is more prudent to retrain a person, than hire a stranger, and disturb the normal work culture of the unit or fire an otherwise known person.

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Studio Aalto Upper floor

Once a person is employed, the management of the organization continuously monitor the performance. Organizations relate the performance of an employee to the profitability. This is more so in Design organizations where human resources are an important asset, unlike in manufacturing units where productivity of machines and raw material costs have greater significance. An Employer sees performance as a tool for future efficiency to be gained at a specific cost, whereas an Employee perceives performance as immediate compensation, personal fulfillment, future promotion and skill gain.

Eames Office

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Personnel of the organizations are structured in three basic layers.

  • Chores that require little innovation, and which can as well be assigned to machines, are handled by workers (messengers, model makers).
  • Assignments that require some degree of thought but are methodical in nature carried out by technicians (site supervisors, draftsmen, CAD operators, etc.)
  • Tasks that require creativity are handled by experts or professionals (designers, subject experts).

This layered-arrangement varies slightly with the nature of the work in the organizations. Designers involved in Design+Build practice have the first category as the dominant layer. Organizations involved in design creation work have the third category as the dominant layer. Whereas Service organizations such as concerned with testing, evaluation, data management, administration, presentations, etc., have the second category as the dominant layer. In Small Design organizations, the focus is on Design creation, and services are outsourced. Large organizations have enough assignments to operate own and a viable in-house services unit. Large Design + Build practice operates production units attached to the design set-up, or as a distinctly separate workshop facility. Where the organization creates prototypes, the former is the setup, and where deliverable products are created, second option is used.

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CHIEFS of DESIGN ORGANIZATIONS

CHIEFS of DESIGN ORGANIZATIONS

Post 441

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A Design organization is nominally owned and operated by a Designer or Group of Designers. This is often a requirement for professions covered by Government recognized councils (like Architecture) in some countries of the world. For most other design fields this may not be a requirement.

In design organizations convener of the entity is a ‘person of authority, such as a President or a chairperson and is the prime leader. A Design organization is launched and continued (taken over) by person/s who have one or several of these authorities: the ability to hire and so influence, motivates, and enables others to contribute toward the effectiveness and success of the organizations. Three distinct authorities are identified, and a Design organization chiefs have these in various proportions.

Formal authority to lead an organization is acquired by the capacity to reimburse or compensate people who work for the organization.

Technical authority derives from superior knowledge, expertise, skill, experience, etc.

Personal authority is a function of Personality attributes such as: age, sex, race, bearing, determination, will power, appearance, charisma, height, weight, etc.

Conveners of design organization, who lack these features, try to make it up by other means. Formal authority can be procured by having a financier partner or associate, or an official appointment. Technical authority can be secured by hiring technically qualified associates or employees. Personal authority can be modified by having an indirect or remote mode of management.

Quality of leadership must vary according to the nature of work in the organization, but it is the quality of leadership that defines the work style of the organization. To achieve the first object, organizations separate out the domain of leadership for the functioning of the organization from the one required to handle a project. The second aspect requires the leader to be as versatile as the project demands.

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Bohemian Politicians US-France-India-India

Organizations that handle highly variable situations or non-repeating projects need a very Radical leader. On the other hand organizations with routine projects will function well under a Methodical leader. An Autocratic leader overrides the situational differences and imposes a preconceived style. The autocratic leader expects complete obedience. Such a leadership works well for projects that are critical in time, resources and extent. A Democratic leader would rather mould the situation, so that it can be handled within the ambience of the personal (leadership) qualities. Employees get full support, status and due recognition, and as a result show responsible behaviour and self-discipline. Democratic leaders are ideal for projects involving large user base. A Bohemian leader develops a style to suit the situation on hand, and are often very useful in tackling continuously variable situations. A Custodial leader has extra ordinary economic resources so makes employees dependent on the organization with security and benefits. The resulting performance is barely adequate.

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