Design Creativity in Lean and Six Sigma Methodologies

Posted by Guest Contributor on Oct 17, 2014

On the surface, the notion of design creativity seems diametrically opposed to the systematic rigor in Lean and Six Sigma. However, a deeper look at design creativity or the creation of design, specifically as it applies to healthcare architecture, reveals tremendous value to the bottom line – creating a healing environment. There has been a lot written about the benefits of utilizing the core philosophies of Lean and Six Sigma in healthcare planning and operational efficiencies – many of which can be found right here at Array Architects. But where does Design fit in a rigorous process? What is Design?

“Design is the creation of a plan or convention for the construction of an object or a system…

More formally design has been defined as follows.

(noun) a specification of an object, manifested by an agent, intended to accomplish goals, in a particular environment, using a set of primitive components, satisfying a set of requirements, subject to constraints;

(verb, transitive) to create a design, in an environment (where the designer operates)”

Wikipedia definition…

Further in the Wikipedia definition it describes Design as a process and, in particular, an “Action-Centric Model”:

“The Action-Centric Perspective is a label given to a collection of interrelated concepts… It posits that:

  1. Designers use creativity and emotion to generate design candidates,
  2. The design process is improvised,
  3. No universal sequence of stages is apparent – analysis, design and implementation are contemporary and inextricably linked”

As a designer, this process definition resonates most closely with how architectural designers work. So, where do emotion, improvisation, and no universal sequence fit in today’s streamlined, value mapped delivery process? The elitist answer is it’s the “ghost in the machine”. It’s what we designers do and only designers can provide those qualities. The reality is that it’s embodied in all participants on the project delivery team. The importance is that it is imperative in healthcare architecture – and must have a champion. As healthcare architects we are tasked above all to create a healing environment. We create a physical place of comfort, reassurance, competence and recovery. Without these elements we risk merely assembling a kit of treatment incubators void of human inspiration. To be clear, there must be a business and operational value to the creation of healing environments. But there must also remain a balance of creativity, emotion and improvisation. We design physical structures for the care and well being of people.

At Array, we have taken this as a mission that influences our everyday delivery process. We enable a process internally to identify the goals of the design process and establish accountability within every project and team. Our process is defined by Discovery, Analysis, Creation, and Solution

Beginning in Discovery, our design process is learning the organization’s culture, developing the guiding vision, understanding the physical environment.  

Hospital Site Plan

Through Analysis, our design process is conceptualizing the goals and objectives; refining the visioning picture of the design based on its context.

Colored Plans

Into Creation, where our design process is evolving the experiences that embody the culture, vision, business, operational context to craft a healing environment.    

Hospital Site Plan Identifying Solutions to Problems

Culminating in Solution where our design process continues to apply creativity, emotion, collaboration to deliver a complete solution. 

Capital Health Building Construction before and after

This process facilitates the ability to infuse design thinking into every project role and along every project path – thoroughly interweaving design into the lean process led project delivery. The value we bring to our clients in this approach is a built environment that facilitates operational efficiencies, maximizes business metrics, and nourishes the human emotion – the creation of Architecture.

Click to view Array's video on our Design Approach.

Design Approach Video

This blog was written by a former architectural designer with Array, Shane Williams.


Topics: Continuous Improvement, Healing Environment, Lean Design, Design Approach, Lean Six Sigma

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