TRIAD Proven Process
March 9, 2020
Author: Brent Foley, TRIAD Princpal
What is the TRIAD Proven Process?
Essentially, it’s a codification of the way we’ve been able to develop loyal clients who continue to partner with us for over 20 years. To figure this out, we simply sat down and wrote down the traits of clients and projects that we saw as successful and the traits of clients and projects where the partnership was unsuccessful, or even worse, where the relationships failed! Through this analysis, we identified trends in both directions.
This is a tricky first step. Every relationship, be it a romantic, a friendship, or professional requires a leap of faith. And often, the best partnerships develop out of unlikely pairings. So, how do you ferret out if a potential client or project aligns with your core values, mission, vision, etc.? In many companies, this results in formalized “go/no go” processes, detailed research, and often, a watering down of getting to know an organization and its people. So, we think you need to do some dating first. We expect that our associates, and certainly our leadership, are engaged in their communities. This includes volunteering, engaging in civic organizations, serving on boards, joining professional organizations, and other community activities. We understand that every individual has different time constraints, monetary capacity, and wherewithal. So, we are not strict in defining how much activity our employees should partake in. But we expect them to be passionate and to be connected. This process authentically bonds our employees to folks through shared experiences. Those folks, in turn, introduce us to others who they think we should know. The result is a network of individuals with shared interests, experiences, and aspirations… a strong base to start a relationship with. This process is not fast, but it’s essential to building lasting and loyal partnerships. As these folks come to us with potential projects, we utilize a shorthand tool to quickly and loosely analyze how the project aligns with our core values, core focus, and marketing plan. However, at the end of the day, we allow the final decision to be made by the individual who is making the sale. If we’ve done our job to align our employees with who we are, there can be no stronger tool than that employee’s instinct.
Identify Challenges and Stakeholders
Now that we’ve built a strong base of shared values and there is a project, we need to understand the vision, the potential pitfalls, and who they may affect. This is vital. The main unifying characteristic to every client that we have retained over the years is that there has been a challenge on their project of some kind and we have faced that challenge head-on WITH them. This builds trust. This builds confidence. This builds loyalty. AND, when we say WITH them we mean with ALL those who the challenge or difficulty might effect. Every voice, no matter their experience or expertise is important and valued. In fact, sometimes those with the least experience on a particular topic have the best insight as they are not encumbered with a certain way of looking at things that can come with expertise. We respect all opinions and maintain a posture of learning throughout our process.
Build Engagement Process
Once the vision, challenges, and stakeholders are identified, a process needs to be developed to ensure all of the right voices are heard. Each challenge and each audience requires a different, custom-built method. For instance, the challenges of an urban adaptive re-use project likely are different than the challenges of a new building on an empty rural site. Similarly, the process must be tailored and adapted to the identified audience of stakeholders. Sometimes the project requires a single stakeholder to make decisions. Sometimes a project requires a committee. Sometimes a project requires the voices of an entire community. It is crucial that the process is developed to allow for all voices to be heard, to foster deliberation within the constraints of the project realities, to manage and make clear expectations, and to establish a definitive decision-making process. Without this, the process will fall apart and the team will forever spin its wheels.
Hear, Listen, and Document
The first step of solving a challenge is to truly listen to those that the challenge effects. This means active listening, asking probing questions, clarifying answers, and recording it all. Client and project challenges can be complex and hard to articulate. It is our job to ask the right questions and facilitate a way for stakeholders to communicate what it is they need to say. It is also critical that we document this a way that it can forever be referenced until the challenge is resolved and in case the challenge ever returns.
Analyze and Develop Solutions
You may be asking yourself, “Isn’t your company called TRIAD Architects? When do you start designing things?” The answer is at this step! At TRIAD, we do not believe in putting pen to paper until we have spent time understanding what our clients are trying to achieve. It is not until the vision, all challenges, and all project constraints have been identified, and all voices have been heard that we can even begin to design a single thing. To start earlier than this would be inauthentic. This seems simple but it really makes us different. Important to note, it doesn’t mean that we’re just going to “give the client what they want.” We still believe in challenging ourselves and our clients to think about things in different ways and to consider unique and thought-provoking ideas. We just don’t do this in a vacuum or in an echo chamber of our own ego. It doesn’t seem like a novel idea, but it is. We listen, then we apply our design expertise to provide potential solutions.
Now the time comes for us to shine. We have spent the time doing our due diligence to understand our clients, the challenges they face, the constraints and realities of the project (IE budget, schedule, code, etc.), and time to communicate what we’ve designed. This can be both exciting and foreboding. We are very often able to find solutions that are elegant and solve multiple client/project challenges. In fact, we have those cases on every project. However, we also often have harsh realities to communicate. Sometimes our clients can’t afford what they want. Sometimes code restricts us from designing something in a certain way. But this is where the process starts all over again. We have faced challenges with our clients and have developed solutions for those challenges. But, as is often the case, this can result in the identification of new hidden or latent challenges. So, the process continues.
Without fail, when we follow this process, we develop authentic, long-lasting relationships filled with loyalty, trust, and respect. Also, without fail, when, in the past, we have shortchanged the process or skipped steps, we get tripped up and succeed on luck alone or, worse yet, fail. So, as we move our firm into its third decade of success, we build on these lessons and have identified a recipe for continued success. From here, we will only continue to build and get better!