rob jillson


chicago, il

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Wednesday, October 15, 2008

okay - am I going to go off an a tangent here? I guess so if by tangent you mean talking about the state of the architectural profession versus talking about my state of architectural photography. A wise man, like my father would recommend that I keep my mouth shut - but there is a reason that I left behind being an architect and a big part of that was the state of the architectural education in america and the lack of proper project management training in architectural firms. so.....

On Linkedin, someone posted the question "
In your experience, what do you see as the main contributing factor which makes it difficult for a designer or architect to make a smooth transition into the role of project manager?"

People posted silly answers like "knowledge, experience communication, vision".... and more. Oops - I guess they wont be hiring me (not anywhere near chicago anyway). But, I think the real issue is an underlying lack of respect of project management in architectural schools and in the profession. So, here was my reply.... and that is the post for today. cheers, rob

I think it is something much more fundamental than all of these things. Yes, the items everyone has listed gives a PM the depth, etc.... that comes with age and experience. Those are the skills. However, I think there are 3 fundamental barriers for designers and architects becoming good PM's.

1. many people go to architecture school because they love design and architecture - not because they love project management. And yet, the architectural and design structure is such that there is the need for many to execute and only a few to design. Project management is the fundamental basis for executing any design and like a pyramid - many are needed at the base to execute the design concept at the top.

2. the typical architectural education re-enforces this concept that everyone should be a designer (at the top of the pyramid) and that project management is for those who can't be king of the hill like a Philip Johnson, Helmut Jahn, Frank Gehry, etc.... Not true so please don't get upset, but that is a very general assumption that is still out there. The schools emphasize a right answer and a wrong answer and worry more about design concept than possible execution of the design. This breeds a distain for team approaches and project management.

3. and this is the kicker. architecture firms do nothing to train people for project management. Oh, I am sure that many are out there ready to type me a zippy reply about how they help train those underneath them - but it is true. When did you send your associates to a project management training seminar? When did you do anything but tell them the procedures? When did you help them hone their presentation skills or talk about setting client expectations? etc.... etc.... My wife went through business school and works in advertising. It is a degree focused on project management and a position defined by project management. When she started at her first big agency, they handed her a nice fat binder that contained, NOT procedures, but training and lessons on the project management skills she would need to advance and do a great job and she has grown from there. I photo copied that binder and kept it at my desk in the architecture firm I worked at. I ran a department at that firm that did interiors. More than once I was told that training manual was a waste of time and yet corporate interiors is an accelerated microcosm of the architecture industry, and more jobs are lost because of not managing the pieces and the clients expectations. And yet, even in the advertising industry shake up that is going on - they still justify and make much more money than architects and yet the fields are remarkable similar - a creative concept with the need to execute it.

In summary, I don't think that the field of architecture values project management skills and develops and rewards them until we as architects have been through the ringer of self-experience to learn the value. At that point, we are the few that have survived and we wonder why those coming up through the ranks don't have the skills and don't value how incredibly necessary project management is to getting the job done and keeping the client happy. You don't transition into project management - instead, it should be a fundamental underlying skill set that is developed throughout your career.

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