Managing wicked design commissions
Editor: Udo Lindemann, Srinivasan V, Yong Se Kim, Sang Won Lee, John Clarkson, Gaetano Cascini
Author: Linse, Charlotta
Institution: The Royal Institute of Technology (KTH) Sweden
Design is a core technical and creative activity for innovation. Design consultancy companies make a business out of taking on ill structured development work. Uncertainty is an integral part of this kind of fuzzy front end (FFE) development; the need for information and knowledge is to a large extent unknown and possible difficulties on the way is yet to be encountered. The objective of this paper is to describe how commissioned FFE work may be managed in order to mitigate uncertainty. The basis for the article is a comparative case study at two design consultancy firms. One of the companies have structured and standardized their work process in order to reduce uncertainty about what to do in a commission. Simultaneously, the process functions as a guarantee that they will reach an unknown but acceptable output. The other company initiates their projects by first of all defining product characteristics that are crucial for business success. This product definition then functions as a beacon during the consecutive development; it reduces uncertainty of what output to reach whilst letting the team decide on the unique route for each commission.