One of the major differences I found between designing projects in school and designing projects in a firm was the need to meet others' expectations. To me school design was like solving a puzzle. Having a solution was what mattered. Not how you got there.
When I was designing 'for real', I was never entirely on my own like in school. Getting all the drawing done in time for final printing was just one objective. The client needed to be kept in the loop. The consulting engineers needed drawing updates in time to complete their work. And they needed them far enough in advance for me to make sure their work was coordinated with everything else. Codes. Budgets. Specs. Having all these other expectations encouraged me to find a process.
That's where Lessons Learned comes in.
Eventually I stumbled across the use of checklists so that nothing was overlooked. Then the checklists got smarter. Tasks or part of tasks were moved around so they would be done at the 'right time'. Partly because I was sick of consultants bitching, "I wish you had told me that a lot sooner." Partly because I could see I was making extra work for myself as well.
One of my flaws or advantages is that I can see how to improve things without really trying. It just happens. It is maddening to be on deadline and find yourself planning how to save time and effort "next time". That's the stuff of all-nighters. On the other hand when 'next time' comes around, I have a better plan.
Not everything is categorized into those main folders. Like CAD. CAD Standards were contained in a subfolder right at the top of the PROJECTS folder for convenience. As I mentioned above, each client had a Lessons Learned document. Once we had two projects for the same client, all their projects were filed together as sub-folders to the client's name. The Lessons Learned doc was moved to that level for easy reference and high visibility when working on any of their projects. This post gives an example of a Lessons Learned doc.
To some degree everyone does this kind of thing. In order for it to build up to something worthwhile, it has to be easy to retrieve. Even better is having it be noticeable frequently in the normal course of events.
Do you have a solution for capturing your knowledge and experience to share?
Aside to Wolnitzek Architects alums who see this: