By all accounts, things are moving along quite well for the A/E industry. Clients are calling, backlogs are building, and business is strong across most of the nation. Architecture and engineering firms continue to see growth in revenues, and median profits remain at or near recent highs.
All good, right?
Well, slow down, 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 A/E industry companies, and we’re blessed to have many of these as long time PSMJ clients. But it’s also not uncommon to see inside firms today what I’d characterize this way: the work gets done but it’s not much fun.
How does that look, in this casually successful company, but one still at significant risk? Here are some indicators:
Indeed the team is busy, but it’s higher level staff doing much of the work, because the firm can’t find and hire next level project managers who could take on developing project responsibilities.
The building clears out most days at 5:01 PM, and it just doesn’t seem that the more junior staff is engaged the way the older generation is or was back when.
Fewer folks seem willing to stick their neck out with a crazy new idea—most stay close to their cubicles, with their headphones on, quietly knocking out their work (or emails, or Facebook).
Technical acumen is high (folks know how to do the work), but business acumen is much lower (not many know how to go get new work, or manage the people and financial part of things).
Owners aren’t sure how they’re going to transition the business to the next group, partly because of the finances, but mostly because of the leadership requirements.
Managers don’t know what to do to change this dynamic, and when they do intervene their instincts often make the problem worse (beatings will continue until morale improves!)
In a firm full of professionals, very few are motivated by revenue, profits, growth—or typical other measures of business success. Most want to work on cool projects, work alongside other smart and talented people, and be challenged to think and grow. Most want to work for an organization that’s really different, has true meaning, and is out to do something special in the world.
Maybe it’s time (now that you have the clients, backlog, revenue, stability) for you to find out what it is that really turns your people on—what your firm’s real purpose, destination, business strategy—and plan—should be. There lies the path to true organization success.
Looking for more tips, check out Successful Strategic Planning For A/E Firm Leaders.
In this free e-book, you’ll find specific suggestions to help your architecture or engineering think of “planning” as something you do all the time, tending to it at regular intervals—as a process that never ends and an ongoing part of running a successful business.
Other strategic planning related blog posts: