This Too Shall Pass

Written by Charles Nelson - April 16, 2020

There is life on the other side of this chasm. You’ll be there, and we’ll be there. We will do whatever we can to help you through – to be stronger, more capable and in better shape to tackle tomorrow’s design & construction projects.

Nobody knows when Covid-19 will go from present to history, but professional life will be different when it does. Already, in just a few short weeks, we can start to see changes that are likely to be permanent. Firms that survive will:

  1. Have mastered the art of working remotely. We’ll be used to it, we’ll have the necessary tech aids, and we’ll have figured out how to effectively communicate internally in a ‘distributed’ practice.
  2. Encourage a lot more flexibility in working arrangements, resulting in reduced transportation time and flexible hours for those who need them.
  3. Have developed, trialled and implemented new KPIs, that require more self-monitoring, greater accountability and greater trust.
  4. Have developed and implemented better project planning and reporting strategies, suited to the needs of remote team members.

The model for these changes is the current successful multi-office practice, but pushed down to the level of the individual.

These changes won’t come easily for many practices, especially those whose culture is a clone of the founders’ attitudes and beliefs. People who are self-starters, with real initiative, will be sought after. This doesn’t mean that those who prefer to do what they are told, and not think too much about the success of the firm, won’t have a job – but they are the ones who will be best suited to “come to the office” to be most useful.

We can’t predict how these changes will affect design practice, but certainly there will be fascinating new opportunities for firms with these skills. For example, setting up project-specific team offices, co-located with the client, the contractor, or close to a project, will be an opportunity now rarely utilised. That will require the leadership of the ‘self-starters’.

One outcome of these changes is that project managers and team leaders will require enhanced communication and negotiation skills, as they will be at the coal-face of making decisions that are directly connected to practice profitability and success.

Do you agree? Disagree? Have another view of the changes ahead? Please let me know. We all need to get this right, and that will require that we all talk more to each other. I predict that those who continue to practice from a ‘fortress mentality’ will find the future a hard place to succeed.

Charles Nelson  04.04.2020