As we have explored this month’s topic of Culture, we have learned that a positive, healthy culture doesn’t just happen. It needs to be planned and developed with intention. Our firms will only function as we desire, when we dream of what can be and work to make those dreams become reality.
We all want our firms to be the best they can be. We want to be getting better all the time.
As we grow and our firms mature, success will come from continual improvement. Constantly seeking the better way can be an integral part of the culture of our firms as well. With intention and encouragement, continual improvement for architects can be the result of our normal process of doing the work of our firms.
Step by step. One small improvement at a time. Like each stone handled by a talented mason; shaped and trimmed until it is perfectly sized for its unique place within the wall. Each step of each process can be shaped and trimmed, reduced to it most efficient and most effective result.
Continual Improvement for Architects
Here are five steps to creating a culture of continual improvement for your architecture firm:
Encourage employees to be actively engaged in suggesting, developing and implementing solutions and improvements. Provide incentives and/or rewards for identifying weaknesses within your firm. With the establishment of a safe environment for critical feedback, the best ideas for improvements will come from those doing the work. By providing the permission to seek weakness in your firm and encouraging the development of alternative solutions for improvement, the areas that need the most assistance will be identified and continually improved.
Organize events, such as off-site retreats, focused on improving specific areas of your company. A list of the processes in most need of improvement can be highlighted and ideas for solutions will be discovered through structured discussions. Seek solutions in a similar way that we seek the best solutions in design, with collective brainstorming of ideas and organized charrette-like activities.
Develop systems and document standardized processes. We’ve said it before and I will say it again here. Standard operating procedures and systems are the key to your success. Your process cannot be improved if there is no system of which to evaluate. Break down each step of the work that you do. Document each step and develop a clear, concise system to describe the process from beginning to end. A critical element of every system must be our process for continual improvement. When a weakness is discovered, what are the steps for initiating the solution?
Review and fix what doesn’t work. With each improvement to a system, the process must continue to seek the better way. Review the solution implemented and continue to make small incremental changes.
Update the process and systems. Continual improvement requires continual updating of the systems and documented standard procedures. Develop a process for updating each system as it is improved.
A culture of continual improvement will not only make your firm stronger and more prosperous. It will establish a sense of “ownership” within each employee and result in a powerfully loyal team.
Question: Is the culture of your firm based on continual improvement?
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