and when i grow up…….

I want to be a Design Manager…..

When Design Management was starting to become prevalent in the 90’s then you could find all sorts of people doing the role. You still do now of course, but back then there weren’t the courses that are available now.

Maybe one of the junior site managers was asked to “look after the drawings” or  “you meet the architect, I need to go and sort the sub-contractor on the widget replacement package”. It was perhaps seen as something that needed to be done, anybody could do it, and just dumped on the nearest available pair of hands.

It’s then a short jump to becoming the fount of all knowledge on the design of the project..”do you know which drawing has the details of the widget cupboard and the ironmongery schedule to go with it?” . The number of times I’ve found the drawing myself,simply  because by the time i’ve explained where it is, and how they could find it for themselves, and got them to do it,  i’d have had time to review 10 sub-contractor’s drawings.

So this idea of there being someone to draw the design threads together isn’t new, it is perhaps that in a way we’ve fallen into it. I imagine in the early days there was the assumption (hope?) that designers would just produce what contractors wanted, as if by magic. This didn’t happen, rarely anyway. So the contracting side had to man up on design, perhaps reluctantly but necessary to protect profit margins and to get the required information on time.

Roll the clock forward and DM is much more accepted now across the board and expected to play a part in project success. I suspect that even designers reluctantly accept that having someone there who is helping to get their information flows right can’t be a bad thing, even it means some devolution of responsibility.

Just guessing but the majority of current DMers have come though the contracting ranks somehow, either off the tools, site management roles or something related. Engineers make up a large cohort, and I think this reflects that engineers  generally have always stayed a little closer to the construction process than architects.

But now as DM courses have developed over the last few years, we have graduate Design Managers coming to the coal face.

Which made me think is Design Management really a career choice? Should it be? Is it possible to manage a process without fully understanding all of the technicalities and mechanics? It takes several years for any building professional to become proficient after graduation, and a graduate DMer will be no different. A great DMer is expert in some things but a jack of all trades in everything, understanding how it all comes together.  However current graduates are going to have another hill to climb as the tectonic plates of our industry shift due to the forces of economics, and the cultural and technology drivers of BIM.

Today’s DMers, tomorrow’s BIM Managers? Perhaps , but it’s going to be a steep learning curve for us all, and DM could be just right in the middle of it.

A role to aspire to after all!



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