Is Investing in AEC Firm Business Improvement Really Worth It?

My question today:  is working on the firm – those internally-focused initiatives of planning, training, and individual and organization development – really worth the time, energy, and financial investment involved? At some level the answer is (for most all of us) yes – since few would argue that they or their firms are perfect.  That said, it’s common that leaders believe business performance improvement is both possible and worth it – while at the same being unwilling to invest in the actions required for change and improvement. There are of course many reasons – or justifications – for this lack […]

AEC Recovery – Bears and Bulls in the Early Going

As usual, economic pundits disagree on the direction and pace of the economic recovery. Still –perhaps you’ve noticed as well – fewer seem to be arguing for a decline (the so-called double dip) than before. In fact, most forecasters describe the road ahead (for the general economy) as encouraging, albeit perhaps too slow for most. In the AEC industry, future outlooks and levels of optimism remained varied. As has been the case throughout this recession, the forecast for an individual firm is highly dependent on that organization’s service capabilities, market focus, and geographic reach. A sense of cautious optimism defines […]

AEC Leadership Development – On a $1 a Day?

OK, maybe not a dollar a day – but I’ll bet it’s less than you think. Few will argue against the importance and value of true leadership.  In most all cases, effective leadership is the core of organization success.  Still, many firms – particularly smaller ones – struggle with the cost of leadership – in time, effort, and dollars. But what if you could have it – strong, effective, and sustainable leadership – with a lot less investment?  Interested? For the first sixteen years of my career I worked at Exxon Corporation (today Exxon Mobil).  Exxon is of course a […]

AEC Leaders, Recharge for the Recovery!

“Hello?  Are you there?” You’re right in the middle of a really important call – with your best client or a gigantic prospect – and … nothing.  Your cell phone dies – battery dead.  There you sit – in the car, on a plane, at the park – and out of luck.  No connection …no juice … no deal.  Sound familiar? Is this the road you’re planning for your business as well? Certainly not intentionally, but perhaps inadvertently so.  Like many today you’re probably running nonstop and working as hard as ever – just to keep the firm (and yourself) […]

“All right, what do we got here?” AEC Organizational Assessment

Here’s a thought:  AEC principals can learn a lot about business improvement and effective firm management from television crime shows.  Sound crazy? My wife Megan loves these shows – the police ‘procedurals.’ Most use a familiar structure – a victim in the opening frames, arrival of the lead investigator, and the obligatory question: “all right, what do we got here?”  Queue the music, run the title shot, and cut.  A perfect set up of context, background, and preliminary hypothesis.  It’s fast paced, exciting, and entertaining – and nicely packaged up before the first commercials. Don’t you wish your business was […]

Business Improvement for AEC Firms – The Organization Assessment

Here’s a thought:  AEC principals can learn a lot about business improvement and effective firm management from television crime shows.  Sound crazy? My wife Megan loves these shows – the police ‘procedurals.’ Most use a familiar structure – a victim in the opening frames, arrival of the lead investigator, and the obligatory question: “all right, what do we got here?”  Queue the music, run the title shot, and cut.  A perfect set up of context, background, and preliminary hypothesis.  It’s fast paced, exciting, and entertaining – and nicely packaged up before the first commercials. Don’t you wish your business was […]

Let’s Talk! Communications and Business Improvement in the AE Firm

Question:  how’s the communication going in your firm today? I’d say not well enough – and without knowing anything about you.  A safe  bet, for three reasons: 1) almost all AE firms and their leaders get by with way too little (and too ineffective) communication, 2) the recession has shifted the “story” in many companies from ‘good’ to ‘bad’ (or at least ‘not as good’), and 3) there’s frankly no such thing as too much communication. But if you’re at all like me, the last thing you want is to have someone “harping” on the importance of good communication. Instead […]

Is Strategic Business Planning Dead – in Today’s Topsy-Turvy World?

Yes, according to some pundits, who argue that long term and strategy focused enterprise planning has lost its meaning and relevance in a new world order defined by constant turmoil, change, and chaos.  Some suggest instead that organizations should focus on preserving operational flexibility and maneuverability, and on being opportunistic – keeping their options open.  Others argue that the economy and markets are today too volatile and unpredictable for developing an effective strategic plan.  One ‘consultant’ I know has even characterized strategic planning as little more than a fad whose time has now come and gone – just like so […]

Who’ll run your firm tomorrow?

What’s the biggest challenge facing your firm? Some recent answers I’ve heard: “staying afloat,” “getting through the summer,” and “making payroll.” A lot of AEE firms are doing just “OK” this year, while many others continue to struggle – week to week, month to month – with thin backlogs, weak utilization, and a still uncertain forecast.  Most continue cutting costs, closely managing cash, and looking hard (though not always effectively) for new work. But far too many firm leaders are over-focusing today on the short term.  Yes, stabilizing and restructuring the firm has been critical (and much needed) for short […]

What’s the risk in your business?

Are you following events in the Gulf of Mexico?  It’s hard to get the straight story, but no matter how you slice it, the BP blow out will have a near catastrophic impact on both the environment and economy of the gulf coast region.  And I’m an oil guy – with sixteen years notched as an oil and gas geologist, environmental manager, and business leader at Exxon Corporation. Exxon was a top notch company – with towering financial strength, global reach and breadth, world class technical prowess, and a culture of ethics, safety, quality, and teamwork.  But like many large […]