I have a positive feeling about outsourcing and off-shoring because of our experiences. I know these feelings aren't universal. But I suspect you have some experience, too, although you don't think of it that way.
For instance, do you hire engineers for structural work? Or how about a 3D rendering outfit. Sub-contracting is just another word for outsourcing. Outsourcing has the connotation of being off-shore, but that may not be the case. Anyway, off-shoring is really hard to get negative about if you dig deep enough. The knee-jerk reaction is that we are sending jobs overseas. Even as big as the US is, if we didn't sell overseas, many businesses would be unnecessarily limited. And it works both ways. How much do you think a TV would cost if we excluded foreign companies? Automobiles? My first auto cost $3,500 in 1968. The same auto now would cost, according to the CPI, $23,000 - rusting body, crank windows, no A/C, crappy suspension, no power anything. We have Japanese automakers to thank for Detroit getting their act together (kinda). World trade and open markets are a good thing for the consumer. Businesses don't like the competition, but they do like to bully public opinion and elected officials. Corporate welfare?
So my point is that outsourcing and off-shoring is how the world works nowadays. And contrary to all the whining and pandering to parochial instincts, we are better off because of it.
Wow. That's not where I thought this was going.
My real point was to say it can work for you and help you keep more of your fee. But it isn't without its downside.
When a new person comes on board, you need to show them the ropes (or be shown the ropes). We used this downloadable matrix for years to guide that orientation. The point was not to drag it out, but to be thorough, which we thought was to everyone's benefit. The terms shown here may not be meaningful to you, but whatever you think it means will do nicely. However, I will define the column and row headings since they are the crux of the tool.
Each color represents a different orientation session led by the most appropriate person. The goal is to cover everything during the first two weeks. We found that if it takes much longer, it rarely is completed.
BLUE takes place the first day. Followed on subsequent days by YELLOW, DARK ORANGE, PINK (includes Design Budgets - LIGHT BROWN), LIGHT ORANGE, GREEN, LAVENDER.
It is fairly common to edit the matrix to suit the person being oriented - some things do not apply to everyone.
If you are a new-hire, you might find that your new firm doesn't do anything like this. In which case, take it upon yourself to ask, “I was wondering about...” until you run out of questions.
originally posted - OCT 2012
Investing in yourself is the best investing you can do. The return is always the highest and keeps paying dividends your whole life. How do you do this? There are several ways, for example learning a skill, gaining new (non-gossip) knowledge, improving your physical condition, building a relationship, obtaining new tools.
Choose something that appeals to you, or that you can make use of. The point is that by making you the best version of yourself you will also make yourself more valuable and more happy. Isn't that our job-definition as humans? Be the best human being that you can be and improve humanity by doing that. If you wait for someone to give these opportunities to you, you run the risk that there won't be a good fit. Self-directed investing in you is best.
Examples of each might include:
We are all different, so there isn't a recipe for investing in yourself. Some people like the hands-on stuff, others like the ’head’ stuff, and yet others like the social approach. Many of my examples can be gotten from books or the Internet. A 3D printer might be something you band together with others to obtain or use.
Use a simple thought exercise to get you started. If your long-forgotten aunt, or Bill Gates, or the lottery sent millions of dollars your way, you could do whatever you want. So, what would you do? What do you like to do so much that you would do it just because you like doing it? If this doesn't give you a black and white answer there should at least be a gray area for you to begin to explore. List as many steps as you can think of that would take you in the direction you have chosen. Set a goal or two. Now arrange the steps in a logical sequence that will take you toward your goals. Break down the first step into things that take just a few minutes to do. Do one or two of these every day.
That's all there is to it. You are on your way. Use your favorite reminder technique to remember to take even a tiny step toward your goal every day. You will be amazed at the way you find help everywhere. Help was always there, you just notice it now because you are more focused.
Start investing in yourself today!
BTW this idea isn't mine, but I don't remember where I lifted it. I do know it works, and that it is worthwhile.
orig post date Feb 15, 2013
If you are keeping your billable time in a spreadsheet, or, god forbid, a paper form; I found a really nice alternative, OfficeTime
Although there is a one-time cost of $47 for a Mac or Windows desktop version, you will certainly make that up by capturing all your time more easily. This is especially true if you also use the $8 iOS app so you can log your billable time anywhere.
The iOS apps synch with the desktop app by bluetooth. Once you turn it on, it just happens when the apps and desktop versions are open and nearby. I use an iPhone, iPad and the desktop and there has never been a hiccup.
The app is clean and simple with enough tools to do what you need by using the Timesheet, Project, Categories and Reports screens.
The main data entry is by adding or editing a session or expense. A Session is a work session in which you select the project and record the date, start time, time duration of the work session, and the category you want to assign the time to. If needed the session can be resumed later in the day rather than have two similar entries. The app’s settings let you use the last session’s info to avoid repetitive data entry. You can also add a note to each entry to describe the work you did.
OfficeTime works perfectly for me. I have been using a time-keeping system that is part of the accounting system that I subscribe to. I was in the market for a cheaper solution. I found a free accounting system, Wave; but there is no time-keeping and the invoicing is clumsy. That's where OfficeTime comes in. For a one-time charge that is a 75% reduction in my annual cost, I will have my needs covered. And no monthly fee. I think that for small design teams OfficeTime is a home run. Try it out, there is a 21 day trial of the complete desktop version and free, but limited, iOS apps. Constant logging of time is the only way to go. OfficeTime makes it easy.
I'm pretty ambivalent about employee reviews. From having done them, I know they are time-consuming if you are conscientious. I don't have any experience whatsoever in receiving a review. I know I am not like anyone else (we are all unique after all). Nevertheless I don't get it. If you don't give feedback daily/weekly, how does an annual/semi-annual review make up for it? If you do give feedback daily/weekly, what is a annual/semi-annual review for?
My suggestion is to give constant feedback to the employee. Then once or twice a year have a de-briefing that centers on an employee self-appraisal. I think it would be good for both parties to have this discussion. There are no wrong answers. Who should meet with the employee? Anyone who he/she “works for”, but just the one or two immediate to him/her. There is nothing magic going on, just a conversation that should help each party see things more clearly.
Add to or subtract from these questions to suit your needs or comfort level. Send the questions out; schedule meetings; discuss.
1. What do I want to do more of in the next year?
2. What do I want to do less of in the next year?
3. What do I want to do that I am not doing now?
4. What needs to be happening at the firm that isn’t happening now?
5. What item(s) should be purchased to improve the firm?
6. What type of person(s) should be added to our team?
7. What can I do to make myself a better team member?
8. What can the firm do to help me be a better team member?
9. What should I do more of to help the firm?
10. What should I do less of to help the firm?
11. What do I expect to accomplish during the coming year?
12. What parts of my current job interest me the most?
13. What parts of my current job interest me the least?
14. In what parts of my current work assignments do I need more experience and training?
15. Do my work assignments generally make good use of my knowledge and experience? If not, what changes would I like to see to make this happen?
16. Does my work require me to grow and keep up to date? If not, What changes would I like to see to make this happen?
17. Are there any additional items related to work and the work environment that I would like to discuss at this time?
Most projects are not the work of a single individual. There are many roles that need to be filled, and it is the unusual project where all the roles are filled by one person. Civil, geotechnical, structural, M/E engineering are just a few of the obvious ones. When the project has a Design Team, complexity builds and it is important to think about how you will simplify things for everyone. Below is a checklist of all the issues we have identified. You might have others to add or some to scratch off. In any event, when you kick-off a project, it helps to have a detailed discussion of specific roles and responsibilities. The success of the team depends on it.
ROLES AND RESPONSIBILITIES
Similarly, the Design Team should consider a number of issues relating to the Client/Owner. Communicating and working with the owner needs to be managed congruently by the entire team by addressing the following issues:
My experience is that you will never get all of these issues aired; but it is better to try and learn what you can before it bites you.
Would it work for an architectural team to work from their respective homes or co-work offices? ('Co-work' is the concept where you rent a shared office with other companies -- often for as little as $200/mo.) Or what about working from Starbucks, the local tea shop, the library, a restaurant, your consultant's office, your accountant's office, a co-work sublet, or an office building's shared conference room / equipment. What do you really need?
I brainstormed this list of activities that normally take place in the office. I only found four that couldn't be completely addressed by the tools available to you today. For instance wi-fi and LTE devices, Bacecamp, Google Hangouts, Skype, SMS, chat, cloud storage, mobile phones and laptops. Throw Kinko/FedEx or your local repro house into the mix and everything is pretty well covered.
Savings? Looks like at least $1,500 per month -- $18,000 / year
Can't cut loose from having an office? Have a mini-office of one room with two desks and supplies. Or a conference room with scalable tables (ref tables when not a conference table). Go in one day each in rotation. If five people, go in once a week. If seven or eight, go in every week and a half. Etc.
- OR -
Get an RV and drive it to sites and client meetings. ’Own’ your no-office, nomadic existence. Hold charrettes and bring the ’office’ to them. An intense hands-on experience like a charrette is just made for PR and marketing.
Think about it. This economy is going to give you plenty of time to right size yourself for survival. Be creative.
PART TWO - HIRING A CONSULTANT
When you are sizing up a consulting firm here are few suggested TO-DOs
___ Visit their office. Do you like what you see?
___ What is their head count? Does it seem like a good fit with your firm?
___ Ask how they are organized. Do you like what you hear?
___ What role does the 'mother ship' play if the firm is a branch office?
___ Ask, "What do you do about quality control?" If they have a QC team, that is a good sign.
___ Ask how much contingency you should include for change orders. More than 2% could be a problem. The M/E consultant's attitude to change orders is a good gage of how well their Quality Control works.
___ Do they carry professional liability insurance?
___ How will they schedule their work for you? Does it seem well-thought-out?
___ What is their procedure for estimating? Do they recommend a contingency to cover their accuracy?
___ Ask who you will work with. Assigning your project a project manager is a telling issue. If you will work with each discipline directly, my experience is that they don't communicate internally and you are expected to coordinate their work for them. Depending on your level of experience and available time, this can work; but good firms use a project manager.
When you find a firm that you are happy with and want to work with, the next step is to work out a fee and scope of work for the project under consideration. If the fee is higher than you would like, consider negotiating the scope of work they will provide to get the fee in line with your plans.
I keep my eye out for interesting people and ideas on Twitter. Three of my favorite people and their blogs are:
Matt Handal - Help Everybody Everyday
A/E/C Marketing Advice, Training, and Support Group
Mel Lester - E-Quip Blog
Practice Management Insights for A/E firm managers
Bob Borson - The Life of an Architect
what's it like to be and work with an architect
Here is a sample from each of them. Check them out.
Matt Handal - Helping Everyone Everyday
The Networking Mistake That Causes Distrust. Are You Making It?
I see it all the time. People go to networking events and immediately give people a reason to distrust them. And worst of all, they have no idea they are doing it. So, I’m going to explain what this mistake is and give you an easy way to avoid it.
But first, let me tell you a personal story.
I used to say, “I’m not a shmoozer.” I hated going to networking events because I had to turn into someone else, someone that wasn’t me.
Oh man, it was painful. Here I was walking into an event with people twice my age. I was wearing a suit and tie, which would only come out for funerals and networking events.
I knew what I had to do…get these people to give my firm work. I had to get these people, who I had nothing in common with, to like me so I could steal away their project before someone else did. It was a lot of pressure, which made me nervous.
Just going up to people, knowing that I wanted something from them, was awkward. But I put on a big smile and did my best to play mister friendly sales guy Read More...
Mel Lester - E-Quip Blog
Can You Escape The Commoditization Trap?
Over the years, I've heard a lot of angst expressed about the growing commoditization trend in the A/E industry. Yet I've not seen many firms do much about it. Firm leaders are often quick to blame our profession for much of the problem ("we're too eager to discount our fees," etc.), but too many of them seem to think there's little they can do to escape the commodity trap.
The fact is that in every industry overtaken by commoditization, there are always companies that have found a way out. Take personal computers, for example. While most computer manufacturers have been grappling for their piece of a shrinking market by continually offering more for less, Apple has resolutely balked at joining the fray. They've charged significantly more than their competitors and yet have seen their U.S. market share grow from 4% in 2006 to almost 14% in 2012. And this while the performance differences between Macs and PCs have narrowed. Read More...
Bob Borson - The Life of an Architect
The Ethereal Decision-Making Process For The Creative Mind
The decision-making process can be as complicated or as simple as you want to make it. Me? I prefer simple because it’s simple. That seems pretty obvious to me but I am constantly amazed just how often I see people who make the decision-making process sooooooo complicated.
But don’t mistake simple for easy. That’s why there are millions of ways that people process decisions – or at least I think there are millions of ways. Have you ever sat down and thought about your own decision-making process? I haven’t – which is part of the reason I decided to write this post. Read More...
The Kolbe System is something you should be aware of - and use - unless you are a genius at hiring just the right person.
What It Is
The Kolbe System is similar to personality or intelligence tests that we have all taken. However, Kolbe measures something completely different, Conative Ability - your instinctive method of operation (MO). Different roles in a design firm require you to solve problems in different ways. A large part of why two smart people with pleasant personalities and similar experience cannot do the same job equally well is the difference in their instinctive method of operation. None of us do everything really well and this explains why - and also what you would be very good at.
The Kolbe System seems like a well-kept secret. I never hear about it, but I have been using it for over 15 years - and so have a lot of big companies. Kolbe is not just for designers, it is for everyone. And it is not crazy expensive. The ’A’ Index, which is the main tool you would be interested in, is just $50 per person. Check it out at www.kolbe.com
The main thing that Kolbe helps with is hiring, but by measuring everyone's instinctive method of operation you have a basis for building teams that really work.
The index (exam) is just 36 questions where you mark two choices each, your most likely and your least likely response to a situation. From your answers results are available right away. Your personal index in four areas is measured. Those areas are:
Fact Finder, is how you gather and share information
Follow Thru, is how you arrange and design
Quick Start, is how you deal with risks and uncertainty
Implementor, is how you handle space and tangibles
Everyone lies on a scale of 1-10 for each of these four instincts. Usually you have one that is dominant, your index is the highest in it. The higher your ranking in one of the four measurements, the more likely you are to operate in that way. The lower your ranking, the more likely you are to resist operating in that way.
How We Found Kolbe Works For Us
As Kolbe applies to a typical architect’s office we found that:
High Fact Finder combined with high Follow Thru makes for a good administrative assistant
High Quick Start will do well with sales and design
High Follow Thru with medium Fact Finder and Quick Start makes a good project manager
High Implementor for field work
All mid range indexes is a chameleon - can adapt to whatever needs to be done. This combination and also a combination of high Follow Thru with mid-to-high Fact Finder and Quick Start and low Implementor also makes a good all-around person.
Potential problem profiles:
High Implementor with high Fact Finder is someone who likes to research in person. Design takes forever. Specs take forever. There is always another idea to be explored
Low Quick Start likes the status quo: very conservative designer, good at following procedure, not comfortable in off-the-cuff situations
The higher the Implementor the more the person needs to touch it or see it, could work out for renovations but wants to build models of everything.
Low Fact Finder means the last thing that occurs to them is to do research. Codes tend to bite them in the ass every time.
You can see how teams can make sense.
Visit the Kolbe website. You can see the 'A' Index questions there.
Download this 2007-era A Index Report to see the kind of things you will learn about yourself and your team mates.
THE SIX THINKING HATS
You probably take thinking for granted. Edward de Bono thinks you shouldn't. He is the Venezuelan author of The Six Thinking Hats (in English).
Did you know that ALL decisions are based on emotion?
Did you know that once you start listing the negative points about a topic, which we are hard-wired to do, you can't switch it off? Save that method of thinking for later.
De Bono has discovered that there are six ways of thinking. He has associated these six ways with six colored hats to aid in remembering them and as a shorthand way of calling for that type of thinking from your colleagues.
This book is short and very accessible. The book includes a short summary that refreshes your understanding in about two minutes.
Very worthwhile for anyone. As architects we make thousands of decisions most days and millions on every project. This will help make them better decisions.
Book Description from the amazon site:
YOUR SUCCESS IN BUSINESS DEPENDS ON HOW WELL YOU THINK
Six Thinking Hats can help you think better-with its practical and uniquely positive approach to making decisions and exploring new ideas. It is an approach that thousands of business managers, educators, and government leaders around the world have already adopted with great success. "The main difficulty of thinking is confusion," writes Edward de Bono, long recognized as the foremost international authority on conceptual thinking and on the teaching of thinking as a skill. "We try to do too much at once. Emotions, information, logic, hope, and creativity all crowd in on us. It is like juggling with too many balls."
The solution? De Bono unscrambles the thinking process with his "six thinking hats":
* WHITE HAT: neutral and objective, concerned with facts and figures
* RED HAT: the emotional view
* BLACK HAT: careful and cautious, the "devil's advocate" hat
* YELLOW HAT: sunny and positive
* GREEN HAT: associated with fertile growth, creativity, and new ideas
* BLUE HAT: cool, the color of the sky, above everything else-the organizing hat
Through case studies and real-life examples, Dr. de Bono reveals the often surprising ways in which deliberate role playing can make you a better thinker. He offers a powerfully simple tool that you-and your business, whether it's a start-up or a major corporation-can use to create a climate of clearer thinking, improved communication, and greater creativity. His book is an instructive and inspiring text for anyone who makes decisions, in business or in life.
SINCE THIS ARTICLE WAS FIRST PUBLISHED a lot has changed. So it's time for an update.
Finding information on Architekwiki can be done in two ways.
The first way is by using the Google site search widget to filter the articles based on your key word(s).
The second way is by using the categories of the blog in question to filter the articles. We will address them one at a time. [Footnote: from time to time duplicates show up in the lists of categories for unknown reasons. I attempt to eliminate them.]
For the WIKI page there are 20 categories, listed below. Every article is tagged with one of the first four categories and also with one or more of the other 16 categories. (You will note the actual category list are in alphabetical order.)
WIKI categories and a brief description of their intended content.
For the DETAILS page there are 14 categories, each represents a category in the UNIFORMAT II system. This article will give you more information about UNIFORMAT. The one exception is Proj Dwgs, which is used to tag articles about an entire project.
For the BLOG page there are 6 categories as follows. Others may be added from time to time.
Updated: September 28, 2013