COLLABORATION, from page 7
TZL: Ownership transition can be tricky, to say the least. What’s the key to ensuring a smooth passing of the baton? What’s the biggest pitfall to avoid? McKinney: The five leaders of the firm have been together for a minimum of 20 years and have a strong desire to move the firm forward with shared values and a smooth transition. This allowed us to speak frankly in early, informal conversations about providing ownership opportunity to future leaders and map out a plan for divestiture. We learned that it’s wise to start considering ownership transition long before you need it to be in place and to get agreement on fair and equitable terms for the changeover. Not only does this create a smoother transition with less financial stress, this allows the firm to position future leaders in the marketplace and develop their presence with clients in varied market sectors. TZL: Research shows that PMs are overworked, understaffed, and that many firms do not have formal training programs for PMs. What is your firm doing to support its PMs? Rossomando: Last year we developed a new strategic plan with a strong emphasis on creating organized, relaxed, and consistently profitable project delivery. All current and emerging project managers receive one-on-one mentoring and are offered the opportunity to attend a two-day project manager “bootcamp” workshop offered by AEC experts. Firm leaders created a project delivery plan that acts as a roadmap for success in project management. The plan outlines how to set up a project for success, areas to be monitored throughout the project, and steps for project completion. Communication is the key factor at all phases. Templates were created for project schedule, project budget, internal design team communication, external client communication, and project health assessment to allow project managers to be efficient and consistent in executing their work. Senior project managers lead firm wide education classes, called MYU or McKinney York University, to review project management templates and tools to train current and emerging project managers. TZL: How many years of experience – or large enough book of business – is enough to become a principal in your firm? Are you naming principals in their 20s or 30s? McKinney: We do not have a requirement for minimum years of experience or book of business and, yes, have named principals in their 30s. There are a number of “intangibles” that factor into being named a principal in our firm. These include having a firm-first attitude, being able to manage and inspire teams, and being able to recognize and mitigate risk. Not all our principals are “rainmakers” but each is responsible for client satisfaction and project success in select market sectors which leads to repeat work. TZL: In one word or phrase, what do you describe as your number one job responsibility as CEO?
managing others on project teams or in departments are encouraged to provide feedback on a regular basis. Once a project is completed, staffing is reorganized for the next project matching up skill sets and personalities for the best outcome, which allows managers to hone their style of leadership with different staff in the office and clients and consultants outside the office. Formal reviews occur twice a year and focus on skills and competencies as well as career development. Firm owners lead by example and staff managers are encouraged to be empathetic and mentor others by being approachable and exhibiting a firm-first approach to practice. Project managers are expected to nurture project teams and demonstrate to staff how projects are successfully managed and delivered. Project architects are expected to lead firm wide classes in technical areas, called MYU or McKinney York University, to train less experienced staff. Developing leaders are offered the opportunity to attend professional leadership and project management workshops paid for by the firm. Online resources such as emotional intelligence webinars and other continuing education classes are available to improve interpersonal skills and communication in teams. In 2018, we formalized a company policy to commit to provide a work environment free of harassment, hostility, and discrimination in any form. “We share a belief in the transformational power of architecture to engage people, draw communities together, and inspire.” TZL: The firm’s work has been recognized locally and nationally more than 40 times. Do you have a project that really stands out among those as a favorite? Why? Rossomando: The American National Bank Building was an iconic mid-century building in downtown Austin that was vacated and in danger of being lost. Now the McGarrah Jessee Building, the exterior was renovated and McGarrah Jessee, an award-winning branding agency, was placed as the building’s primary occupant. The main goal was to capture the free-wheeling personality of the agency while respecting the original modern architecture and Knoll interiors. The design unfolds elegantly at the atrium of the piano nobile, which is rimmed with Knoll workstations and peels back to reveal a more raw space at the perimeter beyond. New openings were also punched on the western façade to provide a welcoming exterior and allow balanced interior lighting. This project received numerous awards – but stands out in our minds because the clients really pushed us to think outside the box and explore the “unexpected” and we had so much fun. The interiors repurpose many items from the original building, including grates from the basement parking, plate glass, teak paneling, and marble slabs to finish off exposed columns. Our office actually worked together late at night to create one of the signature elements of the interiors – the “woven wall” – or custom privacy screen created from common clothes line and steel columns.
McKinney: Making the tough decisions.
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THE ZWEIG LETTER MARCH 8, 2021, ISSUE 1382
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