For so long we’ve talked about the creation of vision, strategy and tactics as management imperatives for the successful future of our firms. Conduct a SWOT analysis, create a vision with five year specific goal statements, set strategies to accomplish the goals and tactics to accomplish the strategies … it’s all laid out in a management book sitting on a shelf in our offices. How hard can it be?
Plenty hard, today. The economy that collapsed in 2008 has been at best on a rocky road of so-so recovery since. Our government threw a lot of stimulus money at the problem, but in the design and construction business if you weren’t already in the federal projects program years before the recession, you would find it challenging to get into it in time to see much in stimulus dollars awarded to your firm.
As national unemployment rates hit a whopping 10 percent, architectural unemployment soared to nearly 25 percent. Ugh. Now four years later, as the AIA Architectural Billings Index (ABI) is finally showing signs of design industry regrowth, we face a new uncertainty of the “fiscal cliff,” and the continuum of ongoing uncertainties of cooling growth in China, the debt crisis in Europe, turmoil in the Middle East.
So how do we analyze and strategize and tactical-ize ourselves through all this uncertainty? Maybe, at least for now, we can’t. Maybe we just need to embrace uncertainty for a while longer and trust our values and beliefs rather than our plans.
We need to trust our belief that relationships are the most important assets our businesses own, both internal and external. We need to trust our belief that doing a good job still matters, and that it still matters more than price and speed. We need to trust our belief that our clients don’t just want service; they want creativity and counsel. We need to trust our belief that we are different from our competition in some way and possess a unique value proposition, something special about us and of real worth to our clients that, given we understand what it is, we can build on. We need to be nimble and trust that we don’t have to be able to control our destiny to navigate it.
Vision is still needed. Although detailed timelines and specific strategies might elude us today, the view of the future we seek still drives us forward. Good people aspire to be more, to create something that doesn’t exist today. As leaders, we just need to be sure the vision created is also theirs, not just ours. If they own it, the vision is the destination and the beliefs and values are the vehicles to get there. They’ll find a path that works, even through the rocky terrain of uncertain times.
Bob Morris, FAIA, is president and CEO of Dallas-based Corgan. Contact him at email@example.com.