Before you set your sights on the corner office, you need to understand the technical work of the architecture and engineering business. And so it's a good idea that you start at the beginning. Consider this example:
Former UCLA basketball coach John Wooden was known both for his success—10 Division 1 college championships. One other thing he was known for was his focus on doing the little things right.
When a new crop of freshmen would come to UCLA, one of the first things Coach Wooden would do was teach them how to put on their socks—the UCLA way.
One reason was to minimize blisters. But the real reason was to demonstrate the importance of doing the right things the right way all the time. Wooden knew that championships aren’t built by doing the big things—it’s those willing to do the small things better than everyone else who put themselves in the best position to come out on top.
Do you really know the basics of our business? One of the many requirements for advancement is developing strong PM skills. Here are the five basics:
• Project Management Plans
• Work Breakdown Structure
• Earned Value
• Change Management
• Client Management—proactive client communication
These basics have to be second nature. They are the foundational components of a successful architectural and engineering business. It’s like putting your socks on.
If you have the tactical part down pat, do you have the managerial and entrepreneur genes? Managers impose order; they bring discipline to an organization so the products have consistent quality. To become a principal of your firm, you need to be able to manage people and products.
The role of the manager is often undeveloped. Many times the good technical performer gets rewarded with a promotion to project manager without being trained as a project manager. Many times the project manager that does well gets promoted to the role of office or program manager without the training to manage and lead his staff. Without the proper training the probability of success is less. After all, the hardest part of running technical organization is not the technology…it’s the people.
Lastly, to be successful as a principal you need the entrepreneurial gene. You need to have to have a vision, a creative personality, and the ability to create probabilities out of possibilities; otherwise you won’t be the principal for long. This is a tall order for sure. Enjoy the journey and the corner office!
Maintaining strong backlog, sustaining profitability, finding and keeping top talent...just some of the priorities that are top-of-mind with today’s A/E/C firm leaders. Of course, knowing what to do is the first step towards being an effective principal. But, actually doing it is often what separates the “real deal” firm leaders from the others. “Real deal” firm leaders aren’t just born that way. Rather, they develop through proven guidance and experience. They develop by staying close to those who have been there and learning from the seasoned experts. They develop by attending PSMJ’s A/E/C Principals Bootcamp.
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