Lucy Timmer

The decision making process

by 31st Jan, 2014

Lucy Timmer B.A. (hons) Dip Arch RIBALucy Timmer B.A. (hons) Dip Arch RIBA

RIBA Plan of Work 2013One of the hot topics at the Guerilla Tactics conference I attended last November was RIBA’s new Plan of Work, which was introduced earlier this year. You can read more about the Plan in this blog.

As well as looking at the Plan as a whole, several of the sessions looked at individual stages within the Plan. One of the most interesting and insightful sessions looked at decision making in Stage Zero, Strategic Definition.

Stage Zero is when the biggest decisions need to be taken. All of the decisions taken at this stage, no matter how small they seem, impact on things further into the project, so it’s important they are carefully thought out.

We looked at Rosenzweig’s theory about the different ways people make decisions. He said there were two ways of making decisions:

  • System one is fast, intuitive, effortless and cognitive. It tends to be cautious because of the fear of failure and only considers the specific problem in hand rather than looking at the bigger picture.
  • System two is slower and more controlled. It looks at the bigger picture and understands the question is part of a multidimensional whole.

Both ways have their merits and their place in the decision making process. However, at Stage Zero, decisions reached using the second system often have less negative impact further into the project than those made via the first method because they consider the whole picture.

The new Plan of Work encourages us as architects to bring our previous experience to bear on every new project we work on and the decision making process at Stage Zero is a perfect example of how we can do this. The client will often use system one to make a decision, not least because they will often have very little, if any, experience of other projects. On the other hand, as architects we have a knowledge of the bigger picture so we can use system two much more easily. We learned that is our responsibility to support our clients and encourage them to use system two when making decisions.

I found this a fascinating insight into the decision making process and the psychology of clients. It showed me that by enabling our clients to be part of a well-thought-out decision making process we can form a strong partnership that will sustain throughout the time we work together.