O P I N I O N
Making incremental changes to pay attention to what’s important to your people and rallying your team behind a common goal could lead to astonishing results. From founder-led to purpose-led
I n 2012, Neumann Monson Architects began prioritizing employee engagement. Like many architecture firms, we had long operated on a founder-led model. Our team was divided into six separate studios, each led by a principal architect. Although we received steady work, our traditional model no longer seemed sustainable with the way our firm was growing. Our six studios rarely interacted, and the staff was detached from client interactions and day-to-day decision-making, which was overseen by the principals. Meanwhile, our firm was attracting younger talent. More than half of our employees were millennials, and their generation desired opportunities to learn and solve challenging problems. We needed a new organizational model that would engage our staff, but the path to change was not clear.
STARTING ON THE PATH TO CHANGE. That summer, we hosted a firm-wide retreat that sparked a grassroots effort to envision a successful future. With the help of a facilitator, staff volunteers sent an anonymous employee survey. The results reflected a desire to shift our focus to design excellence. Client relationships and fiscal solvency were largely vacant from the input we received. For the principals, this response pointed to the opacity of our organization. Although design excellence was important, the staff did not
understand the full scope of the business. A history of not engaging the staff left our team with a limited perspective. In the wake of the retreat, the staff was energized and engaged, but unfortunately, change did not occur immediately. Projects and clients became the principals’ priority and the results of the retreat were placed on the backburner. Employee engagement was low once again, and as one team
See TIM SCHROEDER, page 4
THE ZWEIG LETTER AUGUST 2, 2021, ISSUE 1402
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