It isn’t unusual for firms to get stuck.  Architects are busy with the work that’s coming in. And somehow it keeps coming until, for whatever reason, it doesn’t.  There may be a downturn in demand for the building type, new or more aggressive competition, or a general decline in construction altogether.  Feast has turned to famine and a healthy sense of concern – if not fear – sets in.

Or the firm may experience a different kind of stuckness.  The practice is going well but firm leaders realize they need to diversify. Or they want to grow the firm, have better clients and better design opportunities.  And they’re not sure how to do it.

So they look for help – someone to get them unstuck so that the firm can go forward, new and improved – but hopefully without having to change that much.

Unfortunately it doesn’t work that way.

For a firm to change in a significant way, the thinking and behavior of its leadership and staff have to change as well.  And changing thinking and behavior isn’t easy, especially since that’s what the firm is comfortable with.  After all, the current methods worked well enough for quite a while. It’s just that they don’t anymore.

Stepping out of one’s comfort zone is by definition uncomfortable.  It’s new territory that’s been avoided for a variety of reasons.  It could be fear of the unknown, discomfort with bringing attention on oneself, not wanting to ask for help or simply not ready to make the effort. Whatever the reason, change doesn’t happen without the firm changing.

What helps is constructing a vision of what the changed firm will be like. How the firm will feel, the quality of the interactions, the kind of work it will do, the office structure, the financial compensation, and the recognition.  And the vision should be as complete as possible in describing its energy, feeling, atmosphere and activities.

Whether you want change because of the attraction to new opportunities, or out of fear, moving forward requires a sense of destination – and a positive one.

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