A Review and a Preview

Oct 02, 1995

Quickie Conference Review— This year’s PSMA National Convention held at the Red Lion LaPosada Resort in Scottsdale, Arizona, was the association’s best ever. It also marked the 20th anniversary of PSMA, which stands for Professional Services Management Association (Charlotte, NC). The theme was “Setting the Pace”— a good moniker for a meeting that absolutely wore out me and the four other folks from ZW&A who attended. Some of the high points included Bob Hillier’s talk entitled, “A View from the Front of the Pack: Leadership in the Design Industry;” David Thomas on “Building Value in your Firm Through Mergers and Acquisitions;” and the kick-off talk from Dr. Jerry Harvey, “Leadership and Those Anaclitic Depression Blues.” Another excellent aspect of the conference was the quality of the attendees— CEOs, presidents, principals, CFOs, and HR Directors from many of the leading firms around the country. New to the conference this year was a segment of the program devoted entirely to the top 10 fastest growing firms in country. Representatives from each company sat on a panel and were quizzed by the audience on a wide range of subjects. (See inside for more details on the conference.) On top of it, this year there were more submissions for PSMA’s Management Achievement Awards program than in any year in recent history. As a result, there were some really outstanding success stories to be heard from the winners. Next year’s conference will be held in St. Petersburg, Florida, September 26-28. If you haven’t been to one of these events in the last five years or so, I suggest you check it out. PSMA has some really committed members. It is also the only non-profit professional association of its type that deals with all levels of management in every type of A/E/P and environmental firm imaginable, so it truly bridges the gap between the various factions of our business. The Future of Management— We have all heard it before— “TQM,” “empowerment,” “corporate re-engineering,” “flattening out the hierarchy,” “getting close to the customer,” “partnering,” “visioning,” “the learning organization,” “participative management,” “management by walking around,” or whatever— all of which are depicted as utopian cure-alls for anything and everything that ails our firms. And each year, there seems to be a new bandwagon to jump onto. It makes me wonder what the management panaceas of the future could be. Here are my predictions for future management practices that we, in the A/E/P and environmental industry, may be hearing about by the year 2004: “Aura Enhancement”: The whole basis of Aura Enhancement lies in increasing employees’ positive energy fields through complimenting their physical appearance. Developed in the late 1990’s by a group of management consultants from Washington, D.C., a link was established between aura enhancement and productivity for younger to middle-aged professional services workers, particularly those suffering from visible dental problems. “Deconstructivism”: The main tenant of Deconstructivism is that you have to tear down before you can rebuild. Followers of this broad-based management philosophy have found that it has widespread application, whether this “tearing down” refers to cleaning out the deadwood before rebuilding with better quality staff; deconstructing the current organization structure before installing a new one; or deconstructing already assembled O’Sullivan office furniture before relocating it to another office facility. “Accelerated Achievement”: Coined by a joint-venture group of Harvard Business School and Sloan School of Management Ph.D.s, Accelerated Achievement is considered by some engineers to be a new name for the old concept of “baptism by fire.” The belief of the Accelerated Achievement School of Management is that new employees should get no training or orientation whatsoever; that those activities tend to make new employees lazy and destroy their personal initiative. “Patakis Maneuver”: Developed by Philip Patakis, renowned management consultant, behavioral scientist, and marketing guru, the Patakis Maneuver is employed in client service situations where the consultant has absolutely no idea of what he or she is talking about. It involves baffling the client with lots and lots of numbers produced on a any number of integrated spreadsheet, interactive CD rom, and PowerPoint software packages, in an effort to get the client to extend the project schedule and increase its budget. “ABT Management”: ABT stands for “already been there” management. The core philosophy of the followers of ABT is that any management job is better filled by an older person than a younger one. Although the theory was initially tested by elected officials in a variety of state and federal government capacities, its popular use spread to the private sector after it was proved conclusively that older folks react to job-related stress better than younger ones. In ABT Management, job candidates with a minimum of 50 years managerial experience are sought. The widespread acceptance of ABT has also been seen as critical to ensuring the continued viability of the Social Security system. “Re-energized Internal Focus Teams (RIFT)”: The whole point of RIFT is to get away from a client focus, and to direct all of the organization’s energy inward. RIFT followers believe that it is only through this introspection that top management can come to a clear understanding of why the firm is in business, enabling them to pass this message down the line to the rank-and-file employees in a series of daily stand-up meetings. RIFT has been particularly useful in sizeable, mature organizations, where there is already a predisposition to large group meetings, and where meeting topics are in short supply. “Feleegal Instrumentality”: An all-new organization development tactic first discovered by anthropologists studying the leadership techniques of the lost Aleutian tribes, Feleegal Instrumentality involves setting ever higher goals in an effort to expand worker’s horizons. Feleegal Instrumentalitists were the inventors of the 28-hour day, which is now part and parcel of life in cities such as Las Vegas and Reno, Nevada. Although some of the 12 core tenants of Feleegal Instrumentality are somewhat soft and ill-defined, it is being rapidly embraced by the design professions as a wondrous way to increase the profitability and growth of their firms. Let’s face it— these things sound pretty wacky. But how do you think the management buzzwords of the 90’s would have sounded to the owners of A/E firms in the 70s? Originally published 10/02/1995.

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