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The Power of Inclusion in Project Planning


All projects are initially conceived as an improvement upon the current state, or as a new service altogether. If not solving a problem, improving quality, creating efficiencies, or growing revenue, why invest the time or money? With that in mind, who are the true customers - the people the project team needs to satisfy?

Varied Definitions of Success


Consider the environmental monitoring requirements in a GMP pharmaceutical manufacturing facility. Everyone understands the requirements for temperature, humidity, pressure differentials, and air particle monitoring, however, has the design team asked the plant operators what might make their jobs easier? These team members have tremendous responsibility. If they are unable to properly maintain systems and infrastructure, the revenue-producing operations are at risk, as are fulfilling contracts and orders. Hearing the concerns and recommendations of these critical employees will reduce the opportunity for mistakes, ensure consistency, improve quality & reliability, make for easier training and comprehension, and ultimately reduce operating costs. No one understands the systems they’re responsible for better than they do.


In a hospital, the “customer” should be viewed as the patients above all, followed by patient families and friends, providers, and other clinical staff. But what about everyone else? In a healthcare setting, members of the Supply Chain team deliver materials to inpatient units. Food Services staff deliver food to patients. Environmental/Cleaning Services staff clean patient rooms, public spaces, and nearly every other space in the facility. Facilities Management staff ensure reliable operations of equipment & utilities, which requires access to patient areas to perform important maintenance activities.


Complex internet systems infrastructure is critical to the successful operation of all new facilities; therefore Information Services/IT team members should also be invited to participate in the early stages of project planning.

Every single team involved in the operations of a new space or new facility should be given a voice during the Owner Project Requirements process alongside the leadership team. Most leaders usually spend very little time in operational areas, while all of the above-mentioned workers will spend time completing their duties in the new spaces every single day.

The Power of Including the Consumer

GMP Facilities

Similarly, the cleaning requirements in a GMP facility are generally considered equal to or greater than the requirements in a surgical suite. While any experienced GMP or cGMP operator might be aware that edges and corners are capture points for particles and the goal is to minimize those areas, has the design team observed the cleaning team complete their jobs? Is there a way to eliminate angles and corners in a cleanroom? While the answer may seem obvious to people working in GMP facilities every day, it is rare that a designer has spent any amount of time in the types of spaces they’re designing, let alone asking the cleaning staff what their biggest challenges are. In this case, the answer is simple. Designing corners with cleanroom coving and eliminating seams between surfaces can reduce the risk of contaminant accumulation considerably and is a simple design feature to include.

Similarly, in a GMP manufacturing facility, the end-users of a new space as well as the people working in the space should participate in the OPR process. This group should include maintenance staff, plant operators, technicians working directly in the manufacturing processes, and cleaning staff, among others.


On healthcare projects, when was the last time a committee consisting of patients and families were involved in the design process? Has that involvement carried through the entirety of the project, or were those representatives invited to participate in only 1-2 meetings?

NO ONE understands healthcare design problems and deficiencies better than a patient or family member who has endured a lengthy stay in a hospital room. Yet until recently, the idea of including these individuals in the project planning process was largely unheard of or constrained to a couple of early meetings.


As a project leader on a higher education project, when was the last time student representatives were included in the planning and design phase? Have students been asked to share what they don't like about existing facilities, classrooms, dormitories, labs, lecture halls, etc.? What would they like to see more of? Has your institution traditionally included faculty and staff in the design process? If not, now is the time to begin doing so. Eliminate complaints and rework before they occur.

Environmental & Food Service Workers

Have Environmental Services workers and Food Services workers been asked what their greatest challenges are? What makes doing their jobs difficult? What works well? What doesn’t work well? What would they most like to see in in a new manufacturing space, research laboratory, inpatient unit, lecture hall, kitchen, or student dorm? Only after these questions are answered can a design team fully achieve the goals and vision of their client.


The ultimate goal for any project should be to ensure customer expectations are met at the very least, and exceeded whenever possible. Including a representative group of those end-users in the planning and design process, beginning with the OPR, can ensure success. Taking this philosophy a step further and including them in critical planning meetings with key members of the project team speaks volumes about an organization’s commitment to the very people they serve. They in turn will feel a sense of ownership and pride, and often become one of the best forms of marketing any organization can hope for.

More from the OPR Series:

About the Author: Wes Pooler

Wes Pooler is Pintail Solutions’ Vice President of Facilities Services and offers more than 20 years of experience serving in leadership roles for both for-profit and not-for-profit organizations alike. With nearly 15 years as a healthcare executive, Wes has overseen projects in excess of $150 million, and served as the Operations Section Chief of a hospital incident command system through the first two years of the COVID-19 pandemic.


Wes Pooler | VP of Facilities Services | | tel: 207.660.5352

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Pintail Solutions is a niche management advisory firm focused on enabling overall project and portfolio delivery, developing and deploying new business strategies, and delivering construction projects across life science organizations.

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