A Prescription – for Trouble?

Everywhere you listen in today, there are conversations about work from home.  New virus cases are waning, vaccine progress is accelerating, and pandemic restrictions are rapidly loosening.  Business leaders are wrestling with the path forward – what work should look like in three months, or six – or next year.  From what I see, most of these efforts are off track. Here’s what I think:  If your work from home discussions today include the word policy  – you’re probably doing it wrong. Let’s unpack this a bit. Before the pandemic, I’d noticed for a while a shift in how some viewed the firm and work.  In assessment-related discussions […]

“I’ll Call You in Ten … “

Many years ago, I worked with the leaders of a mountain west engineering firm on strategic planning – crafting a new vision, brand image, and business plan for the organization.  On that day, the subject matter at hand was responsiveness, and specifically the client service level performance level the gang would pursue. Their debate centered around the promise of “returning all calls within one business day.”  Some thought this performance was doable; others were convinced it wasn’t. My thought was that actually achieving that standard would be excellent – but that the message itself wasn’t much different from other competitors. Lots of professionals have trouble envisioning real-time […]

“We’ll See You on the Other Side.”

The Apollo 8 Saturn Five rocket launched from Cape Canaveral on December 21, 1968.  Baby boomers like me remember in particular the anticipation and excitement of this mission: it would be the first manned flight to travel to the moon and back. And indeed, after nearly three days in space, the Apollo crew of three approached the Moon, and prepared for lunar orbit.  Anticipating the upcoming point that they’d be briefly out of sight (and fully alone) on the far side, Mission Control relayed that the Lunar Orbit Insertion (LOI-1) move was ‘a go,’ and that the astronauts were “riding the best […]

Reimagining Strategic Planning Today

When the late, great recession first arrived, most companies set aside their long range strategic planning efforts altogether.  In the beginning this was simple survival; urgent matters came first.  Later a persistent unease (or fear) of uncertainty paralyzed many a leader and organization.  I spent the next five years railing about how wrong this thinking was – provoking firm leaders to tap again into the powerful, overarching questions of mission, vision, and enterprise strategy –  those highest level objectives that really matter most.  “In times like these, more planning is needed, not less,” I implored.  And indeed, eventually, most leaders did again reengage with strategic planning.  We’ve been […]

Your 90-Day Power Play! Personal Action Planning for Success Right Now

Are you struggling a little today, busy with client projects but still anxious about the future, and wondering when you’ll get on to other initiatives?  Or maybe you have some extra time on your hands, but somehow can’t quite focus on turning that time into results?  Wanna change this dynamic in your world, get focused on what really matters, and get some important stuff done this summer and early fall? Look, the unexpected arrival of our uninvited guest this year – and the resulting disruption to our work and our lives – has led many of us to a strange mix of […]

What to Do About Connecting with Clients Today (Part Deux)

I began my last post remembering audience attendees from a conference back in 2009, and the pervasive anxiety that so many had back then (at the beginning of the great recession) with “what to say to clients, when you don’t know what to say.”  With so much change and uncertainty in that moment, few professionals had any idea of where we were or where we were headed – and thus not many answers.  Today, well, here we are again – uncertainty, volatility, change, disruption. My thesis (then and now) is simple:  it’s less about saying the right thing, and more about saying something. Showing up.  Being there.  Caring. […]

What to Do About Connecting with Clients Today

I remember this like it was yesterday. In early 2009, I was speaking at a conference of design and technical professionals – my focus on charting a path to business success in the deepening recession.  Faces in that audience remain etched in my mind – their look of anxiety, lost confidence, shock, paralysis.  No one knew what would come next, how to respond, or what to do.  It was (particularly for firms on the front-end of design) a moment of epic uncertainty. Then, near the end of my remarks, an attendee rose with a comment:  “I get what you’re saying here about the need […]

Navigating our Moment, and the Path Ahead

As the global Covid-19 pandemic deepened this spring, and as each of us scrambled to adjust to a new (ab)normal – I (like many others) struggled with what to say and do to add value for clients, colleagues, and friends.  Candidly I wasn’t in the mood for selling – anymore than I was interested in buying.  Sure, my mailbox was stuffed each morning with the wailing voices of opportunists offering ‘the three things you must do now,’ or ‘the five keys to pandemic success’ or ‘how to pivot now’ (to God knows what).  Undoubtedly, some of these folks had good stuff – but frankly, their timing […]

A Real Choice Ahead: Head or Hands?

Most AEC firms are a complex mix of services, markets, and geographic reach.  Amalgamated through time, with creativity, optimism, and a can-do spirit – and driven by an opportunistic (rather than strategic) business model – these organizations have today a very diverse set of clients, projects, and expertise.  And most leaders in these firms value highly the diversity they’ve achieved in their business. Still, there is a cost to this diversity (in the operational challenge and complexity of the organization) that is often overlooked.  For example, note that a multi-discipline or multiple studio firm built around five market groups, five service disciplines, and […]

What’s Your Dream … for the Roaring Twenties?

I’m stuck on a tweet that surprised me last week: “And just like that, 1970 was fifty years ago.” In 1970, I was just another kid in the pack, rummaging the bayous of south Texas, glued to my bike from first light to dark, and listening (always) to the Beatles.  Abby Road had just dropped, and Come Together was my anthem: “got to be a joker, he just do what he please.” I remember that when we dreamed forward (far into the future for ten year-olds) we’d struggle with the 21st century math (wait, how old will we be in 2020?) … For each of us, our […]