From the Desk of the President:
In matters of firm management, D2 stands more or less on the constitution of Jim Cramer’s How Firms Succeed – an industry staple since 2004. Jim is a friend and has successfully drilled into my mind, by oration as well as written word, that the best architectural firms in the country run on four pistons:
- Professional Services (ie, Architecture)
At the beginning of 2014, we realized that we were staring at a business landscape hitherto untraveled. We were enjoying the unprecedented luxury of having enough solid work, enough backlog, to see us through the year and even deep into the next. Marketing would be – it appeared – essentially superfluous for a while. We even (gulp) started turning projects down; good projects for good clients! With cautious optimism we pruned the marketing budget for 2014 and reallocated the displaced time and financial resources into… Operations, Architecture, and Finances. 2014 would be D2’s year “Under the Hood.” A year to get better, great in fact, in everything we do.
During a day-long, full staff retreat early in the year, we ran competency assessments of each staff member (one self-assessment combined with the opinions of two informed peers) to see where they ranked on the basis of CONTENT and MEDIA. Triangulating these assessments case-by-case, everyone landed somewhere on an X-Y axis, Content was X, Media was Y. The goal is to move every “dot” on the firm-wide chart upward and to the right over the course of the next twelve months.
CONTENT was defined as how well you know your stuff – building codes, flashing details, design specifics for the elderly, coordination with outside consultants, the contractor’s General Conditions, cost control (construction and our own), and so on.
MEDIA was how competent you are with your tools – primarily our CAD software (Revit), Sketchup, Photoshop, Excel, Word, even hand drawing, and if you could write a good email.
Predictably some were better (okay, much better) than others at Content, while others were much better in Media. Thus the “faculty” of D2U was formed – the High Content staff would teach the Low Content staff in a systematized manner, and the High Media staff would teach the Low Media staff. It was a kind of symmetrical belaying setup. By sheer relatively, everyone had something to offer their brother or sister down the chart in one category or the other.
In February, D2U held its first of fifty-two classes! And the classes have progressed without exception every Tuesday from 12:00 to 2:00. It may be the free pizza, but attendance has been virtually 100% – all staff in all sessions. It has been a raging success! The plan is to continue the curriculum for a full year, getting more advanced in both Content and Media as the year progresses. The syllabus is occasionally punctuated with outside “lecturers” and panelists to bring in specific expertise. This includes contractors, engineers, code consultants, owner/clients, and others who have much to offer to a growing student body of inquiring minds.
Our classes began with a memorable quote by Dorothy Parker: “The cure for boredom is curiosity. There is no cure for curiosity.” That more or less says it all.
Rah, rah, D2U!