Project Management Case History – A Career Reflection (Part 3)

Continued from Project Management Case History – A Career Reflection (Part 1) and Project Management Case History – A Career Reflection (Part 2)

Clear VisionThe firm has matured and evolved, being recognized in Building Design + Construction magazine as one of the Giants 300 K-12 School Design Firms; one of the nation’s Green Building Leaders; and as one of the overall Giants 300 Architectural Firms. We now have a CEO and a President, and each of the other 6 partners having distinct and definable roles in the operation of the firm.

Within our management model we encourage visioning. We ask everyone to look ahead and share upcoming trends or industry changes with their collegues. This meant we were well versed in the Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act (AHERA) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) when they were passed by Congress. Our designs immediately reflected the implications of these laws because we reacted quickly. Since the 1980’s we have been committed to Green and Sustainable Design. This being the case, we immediately became involved with the United States Green Building Council and LEED when it came on line.

DLA CEO Dwain Lutzow leads a Staff Strategy Meeting

Something I’ve learned over the years is that within a company there needs to be a champion with a vision toward the future, who has the support of the firm’s leadership for implementation of new policies and procedures. Management (in our case, the partners) must believe in the importance of that vision and support it. The role of the champion is to educate the members of the firm, so that all are working together. It’s also important that any new initiatives align with the firm’s vision, mission statement, and brand. The firm organization and personality needs to reflect these building blocks.

Additionally, we have continually strived to refine our project management model. We’ve always been very client-focused, but our goal is always to improve. While our firm remains successful, and has remained so through the recent dip in the economy, we are still evolving.

As I’ve mentioned, we recently made the decision to consolidate our operations into a unified corporate office. Being supporters of LEED/Green and Sustainable Design concepts, we chose to use this opportunity to make a design statement by having our new office LEED certified. This effort was shared with our staff as the project proceeded, educating them in the LEED process. The move helped by centralizing management, improving quality control and maintaining the “family feeling” of the office.

DLA Leadership hosts periodic staff meetings to involve staff in developing strategic improvements.

The move was generally well received by our staff, although travel distance and travel time has been a concern. We made sure that we shared our rationale with the staff to let them know, well in advance, that their needs were a part of our decision. The new office location was selected because it is mid-way between the two former offices and at the intersection of two major expressways. In an effort to build esprit de corps, we are consciously mixing the staff from each office together on new projects.

This has been a period of adjustment, which is currently being resolved. Each office had its own personality, with its own way of doing things. Each approach to projects has worked well over the years, but was slightly different, reflecting the personality of the partners and the staff in each office. The ultimate management style will be a blending of both offices. The lesson learned has been that each partner needs to have a clearly definable role, consistent with their interest and ability. This gets tricky, since we were all trained as architects, but not in the important aspects of managing an architectural firm.

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