January 4, 2010

Studio work flow

How does your sponsor firm organize people to do work? Is the firm structured in two departments, studios, (stable work groups that function like offices within an office), or teams (flexible work groups that tend to change with each project)? Discuss the firms’ structure. Is the firm compartmentalized, what are the functions of the different departments? If the firm is organized into studios, are the studios specialized by building type? If the firm works in teams, what is the makeup of each team? How effectively does the organization appear to be functioning?

The discussion was held in group format and the contributors were Randy Brown, Chris Turner, Meg O’Mara, and I.

Randy Brown Architects (RBA) is as efficient as it is because of its organization. “Our own space has to be organized to show organized thought” said Randy.   This is vitally important in an office. The first day at Randy Brown Architects, we were preparing for this question. We organized the entire office for the upcoming year.

The firm is structured (organized) as one big studio sharing a warehouse space. Everyone is in the same room together. There aren’t any specific departments or work groups. We work and interact with Randy and then Randy individually works with us. This type of structure works well at RBA because everyone knows what they need to be doing.    Most importantly, Randy has an idea of where everyone is on the specific task all the time. Randy mentioned that in a large firm, a lot of times, the boss of the firm doesn’t have a clue what their employees are doing and will just show up to the client meetings with the drawings their employees produced. This type of disconnect is what RBA has avoided and will continue to avoid. In large firms, you more than likely won’t work with the boss hand in hand like we do at RBA.

While working in one big room, you might think there is some type of hierarchy amongst the employees, but that could not be more false. There isn’t any hierarchy of staff at his office.

At the beginning of each day, Randy communicates to us, through a group meeting, the expectations he has for each of us for the day. Working individually on projects has many advantages. Sometimes more than one person works on the same project, but usually we are all working on different things. Today I might be working on a certain project and the next day I could be working on something totally different. This is effective for me because I am learning more about the practice from working on numerous different projects. Everyone does everything. Another advantage to working on projects individually is that you feel more connected to each of the projects since you get to work on all of them. You don’t get yourself tied up in one project, like in studio; because you jump around from one project to another before they get finished. I thought this was something that was going to be hard for me to do, but so far, I think it has enabled me to work more efficiently. I don’t waste time trying to figure everything out. Each project is similar to an assembly line and everyone gets an opportunity to work on it.  But the RBA assembly line is more like an upside down roller coaster-  hang on each project is a great ride.

Something interesting I noted from the discussion was about responsibilities. It was interesting to hear what our responsibilities are with the way the firm is handled. Because all the staff works on the projects, our responsibilities may be smaller, but because we all do work on each of the projects, we have several smaller responsibilities. These responsibilities to other members of the team are what make RBA so remarkable.

From this discussion, I learned that organization within a studio is necessary for it to be successful and that having more, smaller responsibilities is an effective way to learning new things.

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