Performance Perfection and the Magic of Baseball

Many professionals are perfectionists, always striving for an elusive measure of quality and beauty in their work.  For them, there’s a right way and wrong way for achieving all results.  A little more time, a little more effort, and the final product will be better – closer to perfect. At times, this desire for perfection makes sense. In designing and building structures for instance, there is often a right and wrong way to proceed.  There are visible examples of projects gone wrong. Engineers know well that done poorly, foundations will crack, roads buckle, and bridges fall down. Scientists who subvert […]

What’s Our Deal? – In the Fast Future Ahead

Years ago a friend named Pete offered me some unsolicited advice about dating.  He said “John, sooner or later every woman is going to ask you the question: ‘What’s our deal?’  At that moment, unless you’re ready to tie the knot, that relationship will be over.” Now Pete was a smooth operator (perhaps not as smooth as he thought), and a real gift to the ladies (he certainly thought so) – but really, he was right. All of us – both women and men – want to know the deal – what the game is, where we’re headed, how we’ll […]

Changeophile or Changeophobe – What’s Your Sign?

How do you see change?  Is change basically good, not so good, or depend on context?  Are you a changeophile or changeophobe?  Be honest.  What’s your sign? In the big picture and over time, it’s seems clear that much of change has been good – resulting in significant improvements for societies, cultures, and peoples around the world.  Innovation, change, and development is itself I think subject to ‘survival of the fittest’ pressure, so that useful change is embraced, while new ideas and actions that provide little utility are not sustained. Of course the value of some change is debatable.  For […]

Your Competition – Is Who?

Can you (and others in your firm) accurately identify and describe your competition? In my experience (with hundreds of organizations and thousands of professionals) the common answer is no. Truth is, most professionals don’t spend enough time focusing on the competitive context of their business. Competitors they do know (the handful of firms seen at pre-bid meetings, conference sessions, or discussed in client conversations) represent only a small part of the story. Still, properly assessing the full range of competitive threats is a must to fully appreciate the market, and to plan for a purposeful and distinctive response.  Here are […]

Thoughts on Organization Structure in the AEC Firm

This spring, a couple of my clients have been working to implement new strategic plans, both involving big changes (improvements) to their organization structure. Working with these leaders has reminded me (yet again) of both the challenge and simplicity of organization design. Some highlights: 1)      Strategy before Structure – Though it always makes conceptual sense that strategy should come first, in practice it’s tempting to reach for reorganization as the prescription for change per se. Resist this urge always! Instead, use strategy – the “Big S,” overarching, enterprise-scale strategy which defines the firm’s primary focus – to decide how best […]

New Year, Take Stock. First Step: The Business Management Audit

At this time each year, organizations launch many new initiatives, to improve their businesses in marketing, leadership, operations, and profitability.  The first step for each of these projects should be a thorough and comprehensive organization assessment – the business management audit – to provide a solid understanding of “current reality” in the firm.  I’ve received a number of questions recently concerning these assessments – how to approach them, who should lead them, what should be included, and such – and so today I’ll share my thoughts on how to best design, execute, and utilize the business management audit. Again, the […]

Performance, Alignment, and AEC Enterprise Success

Last summer, while working on a strategic planning engagement, one of the client’s key employees up and quit – and headed for greener pastures.  His departure was a surprise and shock, and particularly painful given his technical and leadership abilities.  Frankly, the client firm had high expectations – and an important future – planned for this individual. Unfortunately, this sort of thing happens all too commonly in professional AEC firms. Good people, with lots of potential, get away and pursue their dreams elsewhere. Meanwhile, staff with (let’s say) ‘less potential’ hang on, comfortable with the status quo, and uncertain of […]

Holiday Wishes and Extraordinary Outcomes

Happy Holidays! I really enjoy the holiday season. Friends, food, gifts – and the annual regathering-mash-up of the Doehring family diaspora. It’s nutty, hectic, stimulating, tiring – and much fun. What’s not to love?  [Also, I’m truly thankful for the underlying meaning – and true reason – for the season itself]. Meanwhile at work, this time of year is always crazy – a strange mix of busy (how will we get all this done)? – and not busy enough (just one more engagement and we’d hit bonus)! It’s this time of year that I’m reminded that all project schedules slip […]

Excelerate: Business Development Success for AEC Professionals

It’s late summer – 2011.  How does your company (and your desk) look right now? Across the years, I found this time – late summer – to be an important point of recharge and renewal. I’m invigorated by the ‘back-to-school’ energy, and promise of the coming Fall. It’s a good time for review and adjusting the business plan – highlighting important goals still left to be done this year. Likewise, it’s a good time to update the business development plan – focusing on clients and prospects I’d like to connect with in the next sixty days. Some AEC firms are […]

The Extraordinary Potential of AEC Firm Business Improvement

In a recent post I asked this question:  is investing in AEC firm business improvement really worth it?  There I offered four of the most common objections to working on improving the organization.  Today I’ll look at the first of these – the belief of some that the opportunity in their own firm is relatively small – and test whether that perspective really holds up.  And even for those who don’t see the opportunity as small – it’s useful to look straight away at the numbers, and the magnitude of the opportunity at hand. Step 1:  An Opportunity for One […]