Article by Amro El Chabti
In the world of design and architecture, the business side of day-to-day operations is often inspired by the sheer amount of creativity that’s at play, where new and innovative ideas are developed, and the status quo is challenged regularly. Creativity, in many ways, is seen as the splash of colour in the systemic organization that business provides.
But what happens when we flip that lens around and examine how business can benefit design, to look closer at how strategy benefits creativity? This is the beauty I find in taking a transdisciplinary approach to design and business, when our search for solutions and innovations to the problems and crises facing our world today can use both creativity and strategy to influence and shape the future.
Strategy is a powerful form of creativity
When it comes to effective representations of business strategy, take a look at project management offices (PMOs) as a prime example: It’s not simply some restrictive system for oversight and accountability; developed over a century of scientific methodology and trial and error, PMO is the business of design, a creative solution in its own right that’s most notably found today in information technology (IT), engineering and architecture.
Having spent years working in both design and project management, I’ve come to understand how important and beneficial PMO is. Having worked on iconic developments in both roles, it’s clear that PMO is as intricate a process as conducting an orchestra or directing actors and crews on a film set, but above all, we can think of it as a form of architecture. Just as models of structures and spaces need to be designed, PMO is a form of business design that actively prototypes, develops, validates, and ‘builds’ new business models through experimentation and practice.
Project management is a force that channels creativity, a tool to be harnessed by promising acts of design, whether it is a new addition to a city’s skyline or retrofitting an office for the future of work. It’s a strategic method to make a tangible impact on the conventional architectural practice, where the creativity of design and the strategy of business converge as one critically driven transdisciplinary process that provides powerful results.
Implementing a PMO can be transformative
Sometimes I wonder if anyone has ever wished their firm wasn’t effectively organized.
Whether it’s a long-standing firm with decades of experience or a new and lean operation, strategic planning—from having guiding principles in place to knowing projects’ pain thresholds to curb investments accordingly—is integral to operations, no matter the level of energy and enthusiasm in the most top-level meetings.
If the best steps to take in a project are the right steps, PMO can be thought of as what keeps all parties in step—it’s a form of synchronization that’s especially important when hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of investments and livelihoods are on the line: Time and again I’ve found that productivity goes up and costs drop, and that creates massive value for companies; there’s a continuous improvement mindset, a proactive search for ways to enhance overall organizational performance; and above all, agile and results-oriented links are formed between design and project teams.
Marching to the same beat
While the word ‘structure’ can conjure thoughts of rigidity and inflexibility, I believe PMO challenges that notion, showing that design and business can benefit from a continual partnership both internally and externally. It’s a form of added value for clients, an agile and flexible framework that doesn’t put best business practices at odds with design excellence, but instead helps them to work together—that gives a competitive advantage in my books.
An effective PMO is one where business strategies can make a tangible impact on the architectural world, where design and business converge in a critically driven design process to provide powerful and clear formal strategies. By actively seeking ways to enhance overall organizational performance and linking it to value creation and distribution, an agile PMO approach is one that continuously adapts to the changes in the playing field.
Internally, business strategy can ensure that great design ideas are great business ideas, capable of producing both a return from an investment of time and money as well as a contribution to overall growth. On the external side, the value of a strong and professional process can’t be understated for sustainable evolution; it creates a collaborative environment that extends outward, supporting in equal parts client connections, relations, and retentions.
If creative thinking breathes life into business, the application of strategy can guide the life of a design. When used together with PMO? That’s a whole new level of adaptive potential for today’s rapidly changing world, with tangible results just waiting to exceed expectations on the horizon.
As a senior partner and the director of Lemay’s Project Management Office, Amro El Chabti is a highly versatile professional with over 20 years’ experience in project management, design and strategic planning. With a unique sensitivity for aesthetics and design, he also has a flair for identifying and building strategic business opportunities and partnerships. His management record in the hospitality, resort, residential, airport and educational sectors is extensive and includes a lead architect and project manager role for the mega-expansion of Dubai International Airport. Amro has overseen and delivered high-profile mixed-use developments, luxury residential and high-end hospitality projects in New York City, Montreal, Dubai and Asia.