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 […]

So, Who’s Leading the People Process Today in Your Firm?

Strategic planning session conversations often focus on people, and the people management process of the business – and well they should, especially in professionals services firms where people are the prime asset (per se) of the business. Still, it’s interesting to see and hear so much commonality in the debate. Firms of all sizes (but especially 30-300) and disciplines (architecture, civil or structural engineering, environmental science, multi-disciplinary A/E, etc.) express similar thoughts. So, what’s going on? True, most leaders don’t begin their strategic planning efforts thinking specifically about adding corporate staff. In fact, it’s much more common in the AEC space for leaders […]

Wow, That’s a Lot of Firms!

Did you know that, according the latest US Census business data (2012 Business Census), there are more than 112, 000 professional services firms operating in the AE and related industry segments in the United States? (See the chart – this group includes organizations in architecture, landscape architecture, engineering, drafting, building inspection, surveying, testing, interior design, industrial design, and environmental consulting).  Moreover, a deeper analysis of this information provides some really striking findings. Fully 61% of these firms (55K) have less than five employees, and nearly 80% (81K) have less than 10 total. Nine out of ten companies have a total staff complement of […]

Is Something Wrong in Your Firm Today?

By all accounts, things are moving along quite well in the business of architecture, engineering, and construction. Clients are calling, backlogs are strong, and business is humming across most of the nation. AEC firms continue to see growth in revenues, and median profits remain at or near recent highs. All good, right? Well, slow down, because it’s not all so rosy – at least from what I hear and see working with organizations on strategic planning, leadership development, and operational transformation. To be fair, there are lots of wonderfully run AEC industry companies, and I’ve been blessed to have many of these […]