Times ain’t like they used to be!

Apr 30, 2007

I’ve often thought what it would have been like to live at the turn of the century (1900). Change must have been coming so fast— electricity, indoor plumbing, telephones, and automobiles, along with so many other life-changing inventions— I’m sure some people just couldn’t keep up. The same thing is happening today. Change is occurring faster than ever. And not everyone in the A/E/P and environmental business is keeping up. Here are some specific examples of what I’m talking about: You aren’t anyone’s “boss” anymore. It will probably never be an employer’s job market again. There is such a talent shortage that I cannot imagine how this situation will change in our lifetimes. That means you, as the employer, do not have the upper hand. Employees have many different employment opportunities, some of which may be in “better” firms. Every interaction with them needs to acknowledge this fact. If you think you are the boss, and any employee therefore has to do what you tell them to do, you’re lost. If you don’t think specialization is the way to be successful, you don’t know how to do a Google search. There are still people in this business who think they can remain successful by being good local or regional generalists. I know, for many of you, this may be hard to believe. But these “anti-specialists” still exist. At one time, this strategy may have worked. But today, with the advent of the Internet, it’s over. If a client wants to design a new car dealership, all he or she needs to do is plug in a few choice words to Google, and voila!— there’s a list of specialized auto dealer design firms to pick from. You had better be thinking about how to minimize the negatives associated with virtual teams. Virtual teams are going to be a bigger and bigger part of life in the A/E/P and environmental consulting business. As firms grow and add offices, and clients demand more specialized skill sets and tight budget compliance, there’s just no way that you will be able to have everyone you need to do all your projects in one location. You will have to work electronically. But these virtual teams may not have the “social capital” that a non-virtual team has. The people don’t have all of the non-verbal communication cues they need to promote shared knowledge. You will have to work hard to build relationships of team members in other ways to enhance this social capital and therefore improve the project team’s performance. Going “green” is no longer optional. The deteriorating environmental quality and depletion of some natural resource supplies is necessitating a new approach to what we do. It is going beyond individual client demands and becoming part of the organization’s social responsibility contract to make sure we are all good stewards of the environment. Tools must be provided to all workers. It wasn’t long ago that employees brought their own drafting supplies to work. It was even less long ago that companies in our business helped employees with low-interest or no-interest loans to help them buy their own computers. These days are over. Your workers not only expect every tool, every device, and every piece of software they need to work to be provided for them, but also want lots of training, free lunch, and movie ticket discounts as well. Times have changed! There’s no point in fighting the change. Don’t be an old fuddy-duddy or stick-in-the-mud. Either get with the program or get out! Originally published 4/30/2007

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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.