the architecture of constructing a practice

  • anchor

    team of individuals...

    Gregory Walker
    Jan 20, '13 2:03 AM EST

    well, it's getting to be crunch time for the nfl. my current hometown falcons are playing a meaningful game in late january, we still have the option of a 'bi-coastal tech bowl (sf and new england/boston)', a all-bird bowl (falcons/ravens); the 'har-bowl' (as nominated below)* and whatever you want to call atlanta/ne. 


    accordingly, teams are on my mind. since my last post, in mid december,  we've added 3 new people to our firm. that's roughly a 33% gain. there's more work, new challenges and a crazy desire to keep the momentum up. more importantly, i really, really like our little team.

    most of us will work in situations where teams come together for a short time, create something, then move on. those teams will be put together internally (which pm, pa, staff, etc.), as well as between different companies. it's incredibly difficult to get the same team working on more than one project - inevitably, someone's moved on, been swapped out - whatever circumstantial events that arise.

    assessing how to put together the right individuals, for the right tasks and with the right chemistry is hard. really, really hard. it's largely why so little truly 'great' work is done (out of all the construction activity each year). even if you can get the formula 'just right' once, can you replicate it again? and again? and again? 

    it's enough to make a boy think more about the long haul vs. the immediate run. 

    meaning, we have a lot of opportunities right now. that's great. but our long term success depends on having key individuals who can help guide, refine, create and manage the work, again and again. and they not only have to work well, they have to commit to staying long enough to really dig deep and help contribute towards pushing the whole enterprise forward. again, nurturing this is not easy. tons of ink have been spilled trying to capture how "you too can do it". i'm not going to pretend that i can tell you. i've read a few people lately who've at least got the same frame of mind. 


    committing yourself to the long haul, with a company, demands not only trust but opportunity. inevitably, people want to be where great opportunity abounds. (not everyone is capable of leading such a venture, a fact that keeps me awake some nights. another topic for another day.)

    however, i've noticed a couple of examples over time that resonate internally. they both involve firms that have been around a long time, but find themselves in very different positions right now. i'll share the more positive one: renzo piano has a group of principals who have been with him, largely, for the last 20+ years. i've seen one of them working somewhat up close. this particular partner is smart. crazy smart. technical skills, interpersonal, management - he certainly has enough to strike out on his own and probably do very well. all of them, i suspect, could do well on their own. so...why have they stayed with renzo? why have they stayed there so long? in some ways, it makes sense -they all get to work on great projects, they're working with other people who are the tops in their field and the whole enterprise has reached a position where continuity and selectivity are pretty good. but, even with all those advantages, each of those partners has to have some degree of ego sublimation (in that sense, they probably are content to share in the limelight but aren't seeking it for themselves alone). otherwise, what's to prevent the whole thing from imploding? that combination of individual strength and ability to work together... yeah, that's what i'm looking for. kind of like the 2004 red sox. (who, once they lost johnny damon the next season...that 2008 win...just didn't feel the same.)

    so, this year's about digging down and getting my team some opportunities to show just how good we are. and to how we can grow our team positively. here's to hoping you can say the same...


    • sfwimby

      Gregory, BTW, if its SF/Baltimore after today's playoffs, its already been nicknamed the HarBowl - since it'll be two Harbaugh brother coaches facing off... 

      Jan 20, 13 12:24 pm  · 

      harbowl. nice. so that just leaves an atl/ne bowl without a nickname. seeing as that's what we're going to get, maybe our collective hive mind can come up with one...

      Jan 20, 13 1:05 pm  · 

      Well, not so sure 'that's what we're going to get' - personally i'm rooting for the HarBowl or Tech Bowl. If SF does lose though, I'd prefer the Bird Bowl - mainly to spread the wealth around, since the Patriots have more than their share of super bowls (as do SF from back in the day - but I'm Bay Area biased)...

      Jan 20, 13 2:36 pm  · 

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About this Blog

Central to the blog is a long running interest in how we construct practices that enable and promote the kind of work we are all most interested in. From how firms are run, structured, and constructed, the main focus will be on exploring, expanding and demystifying how firms operate. I’ll be interviewing different practices – from startups to nationally recognized firms, bringing to print at least one a month. Our focus will be connecting Archinect readers with the business of practice.

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