Time to GRIPE

May 04, 2017

You want your firm to be more valuable at the end of the project than it was at the beginning. Start to GRIPE.

Many of our clients turn to us for assistance in providing project management training. We offer numerous programs that train managers, but our favorite way to make your firm more successful is to grow and nurture leaders.

From the time your engineer in training, architect in training, or fresh minds embark on their new careers, communicating and setting expectations from day one is critical. Create the pathway to principal that allows the young talent in your organization to participate in leadership opportunities.

If your organization is one that is driven by a clearer defined strategy, then you have moved beyond the acronym of TEAM and ascribe to the concept that drives strategic teaming: GRIPE.

In the past, TEAM focused on the idea that Together Everyone Achieves More (and we then hold hands and sing “Kumbaya?”). If we’ve created goals but not delineated them, what’s the real “more” we’ve “achieved?”

The following are the key elements of GRIPE:

  • Goals. The goals of the project, team, studio, office, region, line of business, and firm are clearly communicated, understood by all and are reviewed and measured to ensure success.
  • Roles and responsibilities. The matrix of roles is clear to all. The hierarchy of responsibilities and authorities of the team, studio, office, line of business and firm are respected by all and a chain of command is maintained.
  • Interpersonal relationships. We all understand what makes each of us tick, where our strengths and weaknesses are, and what we need as far as time and space in which to work. I know if I enter a coworker’s space before 8 a.m. and they have not had their first cup of coffee, I will experience a Snickers commercial.
  • Policy and procedures. We start with the standards applied on all projects from a technical perspective. How are we integrating a quality control process into the work we do and how do we make sure quality control is scheduled with sufficient time? Are we providing the necessary information into the project management/financial management system that will allow the creation of an accurate backlog of work and pipeline of opportunities monetized for monthly review at a button push from the system? Oh, and let’s not forget that we all understand why it’s critical to enter time daily and to provide expense reports in a timely manner. And let’s remember why the project manager must give the financial team accurate information when opening a project so that all team members can adhere to the contractual terms of our agreements.
  • Expectations/communications. Probably the singular most important concept within the GRIPE system. Have client expectations been clearly discussed and communicated? Have we asked and written down the answers to the following questions?
    • What defines project success for the client?
    • What will keep the client up at night worrying about the success of the project?
    • What are the biggest risks that could derail a successful outcome?

All of these answers are written down and distributed to all team members so that everyone has them in front of them at all times. If we prove we have the client’s back, then we will achieve success, become that trusted advisor, and likely see more workflow from that client. The communication of these concepts, as well as the discussion and review, are a bidirectional process. The principal, PM, and team are all aware and communication flows both up from the team and back and forth from the PIC and the PM.

A recent ZG client recounted a story of how one of their clients hired them to provide planning, structural analysis, MEP support, and construction management oversight. A long relationship of trust had been established with the firm’s principal. One day the client called the principal and asked him about a potential real estate investment and asked him to suggest a starting point for the negotiation. Although real estate expertise was not a core strength or specialty of the firm, the client trusted this principal!

After some research, the principal called the client and suggested a starting price that was significantly below what was being asked, and gave their client valid reasons for the offer based on the preliminary build review. The client presented the lower offer and it was accepted! We all can recount stories of how the trusted advisor role spans many areas that may not be in the firm’s wheelhouse, and how that trust can turn into workflow.

Successful and ongoing communication between firm and client provides frequent opportunities to receive feedback. Feedback and the action on that feedback are key reasons why clients perceive that the firm and its team are more valuable at the end of the project than they were at the beginning. And goal-oriented teaming gives younger staff the chance to learn leadership, see the results of clear and effective communication, and carry these skills forward to grow the firm. Who can GRIPE about that?

Ted Maziejka is a Zweig Group financial and management consultant. Contact him at tmaziejka@zweiggroup.com.

This article is from issue 1194 of The Zweig Letter. Interested in more management advice every week from Mark Zweig, the Zweig Group team, and a talented list of other guest writers? Click here to subscribe or get a free trial of The Zweig Letter.

About Zweig Group

Zweig Group, three times on the Inc. 500/5000 list, is the industry leader and premiere authority in AEC firm management and marketing, the go-to source for data and research, and the leading provider of customized learning and training. Zweig Group exists to help AEC firms succeed in a complicated and challenging marketplace through services that include: Mergers & Acquisitions, Strategic Planning, Valuation, Executive Search, Board of Director Services, Ownership Transition, Marketing & Branding, and Business Development Training. The firm has offices in Dallas and Fayetteville, Arkansas.