Tools and Techniques for Collaboration by Design

The NCI Charrette System™ is a process for collaborative problem-solving and decision-making centered around a multiple-day charrette as the transformative design event. The System is a flexible three-phase framework that combines more than 20 process-based tools to ensure overall project success, while avoiding the fatal flaws that can lead to post-charrette meltdown.

Graphic showing the three phases of the NCI Charrette System: 1) Preparation (1-6 months), 2) Charrette (4 days minimum) and 3) Implementation (2-4 months).Step 1: Preparation (1–6 Months)

Preparation is about being people-, data- and place-ready. Everyone with a guiding influence on the project is involved from the beginning in an atmosphere of trust and respect. Relationships are nurtured throughout the process as the often costly assembly of base data is carefully focused on supporting charrette deliverables in order to minimize unnecessary expense. Place-specific tools are chosen to ensure that the charrette studio is set up for efficiency. The tools of the preparation phase are:

Project Assessment and Organization
  • Project start-up meeting.
  • Project roadmap.
  • Scope, budget and schedule.
Stakeholder Research and Involvement
  • Stakeholder analysis.
  • Interview process and start-up events.
Base Data Research and Analysis
  • SWOT analysis.
  • High-tech modeling.
Charrette Logistics
  • Charrette studio specification.
  • Team assembly.

Step 2: Charrette (Four days minimum)

The charrette—the central design event of the NCI Charrette System™—results in a feasible plan that requires minimal rework and is carried by the support of all stakeholders through implementation. This support is generated by the ability of the charrette to transform the conflict among stakeholders into collaboration and a shared vision and implementation plan.

A multidisciplinary charrette team consisting of consultants and sponsor staff produces the plan. Stakeholders—anyone who can approve, provide valuable information, promote or block the project, as well as anyone directly affected by the outcomes—are involved in the design process through a series of short feedback loops or meetings. The charrette makes the best use of everyone’s time by engaging people when their input will have the greatest impact. Tools and techniques used during the charrette phase are:

  • Public Meeting and Community Vision.
  • Alternative Concepts Development and Feedback Loop #1.
  • Preferred Plan Synthesis and Feedback Loop #2.
  • Plan Development and Feedback Loop #3.
  • Production, Public Presentation and Review.

Step 3: Implementation (2–4 Months)

Momentum following the charrette is critical. The project management team works to ensure continued and expanded support, and to reduce the risks associated with changes in political or regulatory leadership.

When presented at the final charrette meeting, the preferred plan is a work-in-progress. Following the charrette, more in-depth testing is needed to ensure the accuracy and feasibility of some of the plan elements.

Once the necessary plan revisions are identified, a follow-up stakeholder meeting with a final feedback loop is advisable, ideally, four to six weeks after the charrette. The project team then works to finalize all plan revisions and to complete the project drawings and documents. The tools and techniques used to take the process through project adoption are:

  • Project Status Communications.
  • Product Refinement.
  • Public Presentation and Product Finalization.