A sense of urgency

Oct 29, 2018

For a firm to find the transformative, positive change it’s looking for, leadership needs to be intentional and steadfast in its commitments.

Management – planning, budgeting, staffing, organizing, controlling, and problem solving – helps you deliver consistent, predictable results. Leadership is all about establishing direction, aligning inspired people to create change. You need harmony between the two to grow your organization. How’s the balance of management and leadership in your firm?

Project-based, professional service firms naturally gravitate toward management. Architecture and engineering firms need to plan, budget, staff, organize, control, and problem solve day in and day out. Leadership, on the other hand, is more risky, laden with lots of ambiguity.

Jen Bennett, vice president and office director for Shive-Hattery’s Quad Cities (Illinois) office, says leadership must be intentional.

“Creating change takes sustained focus,” she says. “A vision or strategy is implemented with leaders driving the process with discipline over time.”

Bennett’s roadmap for change is from John P. Kotter’s book, Leading Change, which outlines an eight-step process for achieving important effects:

  1. Establish a sense of urgency. Study the market and competitive realities, identifying and discussing crises, potential crises, or major opportunities.
  2. Create the guiding coalition. Form a team with enough power to lead the change.
  3. Develop a vision and strategy. Your vision and strategies help direct the change effort. Keep your vision clear and easy to communicate.
  4. Communicate the change. Constantly communicate your new vision and strategies with your guiding coalition acting as role models.
  5. Empower broad-based action. Remove obstacles, change systems or structures that undermine the vision. Encourage risk-taking and nontraditional ideas, activities, and actions.
  6. Generating short-term wins. Plan for and create visible improvements in performance. Recognize and reward people who made the wins possible.
  7. Consolidate gains and produce more change. Use increased credibility to change all systems, structures, and policies that don’t fit together and don’t fit the transformation vision. Hire, promote, and develop people who can implement the change vision. Reinvigorate the process with new projects, themes, and change agents.
  8. Anchoring new approaches in the culture. Create better performance through client- and productivity-oriented behavior, more and better leadership, and more effective management. Articulate the connections between new behaviors and organizational success. Develop means to ensure leadership development and succession.

“Vision and strategies are sometimes the easy part,” Bennett says. “Establishing urgency, aligning people, and communicating the change must be done to jump-start the process.”

Bennett’s 60-person office has made significant investments in 3D scanning technology and talent over the last 10 years. Market and competitive pressure spurred six-figure investments in scanning, software, hardware, and training. Land surveyors and tech-savvy staff banded together as a coalition to develop the vision and strategy.

“Being a visual, interactive medium, communication was fun and interactive,” Bennett says.

Hand measuring was replaced with 3D scanning over time as designers understood the value. Accuracy and efficiency increased as point clouds captured existing conditions with incredible fidelity.

“It’s now standard for us to use 3D scanning during a project,” Bennett says. “The change has been acculturated.”

New approaches continue to evolve with drone scanning. Terrestrial and aerial scans are being melded together to give clients a complete view of existing conditions.

“This change process took years,” Bennett says. “You can see elements of Kotter’s eight-step approach to making this successful.”

As you implement initiatives in your firm, consider Kotter’s eight steps. What does your firm do well and what could you improve? One thing is for certain: Your resiliency as an organization will depend upon your ability to create positive, adaptive change.

Greg Kanz, APR, CPSM, is marketing director for Shive-Hattery. He can be reached at gregkanz@shive-hattery.com. Jen Bennett is vice president and office director for Shive-Hattery’s Quad Cities (Illinois) office. Shive-Hattery is a 400-person architecture/engineering firm with seven offices in Illinois, Indiana, and Iowa.

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