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Point of View

Our SF design office is moving! What a long, strange trip it’s been

April 26, 2018

Being a professional who has managed complex projects while simultaneously raising a family and attending graduate school, I felt I was more than prepared for my latest project – finding a new home for our San Francisco team.

After all, what could be so challenging about relocating 10 people less than two miles in a city with over 78 million square feet of commercial real estate?

Little did I know that this little exercise would evolve into a full-blown project that would not only fully engage me but also had the potential to suck my entire team into a demanding and all-consuming design problem.

Regardless of the project objective, be it finding a new office or designing a new medical device, any product manager will tell you that understanding your client’s needs and objectives and managing the project team are key to a successful project. As a project manager, the first question you often ask your client is why.

Why did we want to relocate our office?

The easy answer is, “We needed more space.” We currently have approximately 1,800 square feet and our new office has 4,000 square feet. More space would allow us to grow the team and provide an ecosystem for better internal and external collaboration. Dreams of project bays, storage lockers and ADA-compliant bathrooms danced in our heads. We are growing, and our plans include adding to our technical and strategy teams.

The more difficult answer is, “We need an inspiring, inclusive, functional and cost-effective space that reflects the Design Concepts brand promise.” Our current home on Shipley Street just could not deliver on this goal.

So, with this problem statement in hand and an awesome team of 10, Operation Buttermilk was launched.

Who? A project team of 10!

Managing a large project team is problematic, but now imagine that all of them are also stakeholders, clients, influencers, and end users. This is what project management nightmares are made of …

If we were an office of 50, 100 or 1,000 employees this would not even be an issue. Key roles would be identified, internal team members would be assigned to the project, and you would use outside resources for the heavy lifting. But we were running Project Buttermilk LEAN, which meant no external resources, limited budget, and a project team comprised almost exclusively of SF staff members. Well, to be honest, the entire SF Staff was 99 percent of the project team. So, another challenge emerged: How can you engage your entire team of stakeholders, clients, influencers, and end-users — empowering them in the process, enabling them to influence, contribute, and envision — while also minimizing distractions so the real work, client work, can continue?

How?

Operation Buttermilk was run using the same frameworks and project management systems we use with our clients. We started with research, designing a survey to elicit feedback on commuting requirements, features and functions, opportunities, hopes, dreams, and fears. We participated in a strategy workshop and held scoping and co-analysis sessions. This research resulted in a list of requirements and nice-to-haves.

Luckily, fate intervened with a property that was a perfect fit for our requirements: 216 11th Street, aka “Bricks and Beams.”

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