You can do low cost iteration anywhere.


Go to the gemba. Go and see. Stand in a circle and observe what's happening with your own eyes. The planners of The Porch in Philadelphia did this in spades for an analysis of how customers were using the new public open space area in front of Philly's 30th Street Station. The data they gathered from simple observation has enabled them to modify and iterate the layout of the space to better serve the community.

University City Design, the organization responsible for creating the open space, wanted to go light, flexible (and cheap) shortly after starting the project, and then study what happened next.

"In the office, we started looking at pictures of Bryant Park, of Rittenhouse Square, and fantasizing about what [this] could be," says Prema Gupta, the director of planning and economic development for UCD, recalling the earlier stages of the whole project. "It's almost like there was a fork in the road. We could have built out that vision at that point, and we would still be fundraising for it, and it would still be a blank stretch of sidewalk."

So they learned that a farmer's market doesn't quite work in The Porch, but a food truck rally does. Bistro chairs are nice, but Luxembourg chairs are better. After all, If you can only afford some lighter interventions, you can at least ensure they serve exactly how people move through and use public space.

UCD's approach is just another example of PDSA skillfully deployed to improve quality and reduce costs. Call it "trystorming," call it 3P, call it MVP, call it "design thinking," call it whatever you want. The important point is that improvements don't -- and shouldn't -- require massive investments in time, money, and resources until you know for sure that the improvement is going to work.

Check out this story, the cool graphs, and analysis at the Atlantic Cities website.

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