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 […]

Push-Pull, and the Physics of Organization Alignment

In his 1989 work Mintzberg on Management, Henry Minztberg describes professional organizations as “seemingly upside-down organizations, where the workers sometimes appear to manage the bosses.”  Mintzberg notes that he himself works in a professional organization (at McGill University in Toronto) at least partially “because it is the one place in the world where you can act as if you [are] self-employed [and] yet regularly receive a paycheck.” My work with organizations yields a similar understanding.  One of the striking attributes of professional services firms is the incredible autonomy enjoyed by practicing professionals, often alongside an apparent ’line item veto’ on […]

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 […]

Wake-Up Calls! Change, Improvement, and the Fast Future Ahead

Two weeks ago I delivered an all new presentation – Fast Future! Fifteen Uber-Trends that Will Rock Our World, and What Leaders Must Do to Survive and Thrive on the Road Ahead – at ACEC’s Fall Conference in Las Vegas. In it I review today’s economy and business context, outline the fifteen most important large-scale trends affecting our business and world, and map out a plan of response – for both individuals and organizations.  My goal is to shake things up – to provide a wake-up call, and a real sense of urgency for professional services firm leaders – to […]

AEC Business Development – A Role, Not a Title

Have you ever thought about business development in the firm, using a simple equation like this: But if it’s this simple, then why – when you ask, plead, or demand the effort of others – does it rarely work? The answer lies in two parts.  First, it’s wrong to believe that “sales calls” will lead to prospects. It’s occasionally true – but most often not.  Initial calls with existing or new clients track first to leads – our one-way ideas and desires.  These leads must be further nurtured and developed before they become true prospects – opportunities where the interest […]

AEC Leaders: Are You Moving Forward – Strategically?

Now is the time for leaders to move – with bold vision, aggressive plans, and inspired action – towards a successful, sustainable, and exciting future. That’s what I think. How about you? When the economy turned down in 2008 many leaders froze. Indeed, the magnitude and suddenness of the collapse was halting – and caught most of us by surprise. Stopping or slowing longer-term investments and initiatives made sense, was understandable and predictable, and was – for a time – even defensible. Staying afloat – to live and fight another day – became for many the modus operandi – and […]

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 […]