BRING ON THE CHANGE
Written by Chad Watkins, PLA, ASLA
Back in 2002, I was only going to move to the beach for about 2 years.
Things changed along the way. Getting married. Starting the business. Having the family. Roots getting put down.
Now, here we are. Things have changed again. As we have dealt with the changes brought on by the collective current ‘weirdness,’ we have learned a lot.
As a design consulting firm, providing professional landscape architectural services, we typically like to go to the places we are helping design. We like to meet with the clients with whom we have the privilege to work. Our team works together, in person, to collaborate on design solutions and put together the documented decisions that make our plans valuable.
Well, it’s funny that we are all in this together, but we can’t be together.
So, our efforts toward success have been in capitalizing on systems we already had in place, but never had to use proficiently, until now. I have dabbled in the desire to be able to seriously work remotely for the past 3 to 4 years. Over the course of time, I have often found myself between meetings, site visits, or errands with 30 minutes or so to accomplish something, but without the effective means to do so. I started dabbling with how I could take my personal productivity processes to the cloud, and then ultimately extend them to our entire team. That little experiment, that is still ongoing, has proven valuable and has made me lucky and look pretty smart. Better to be lucky than smart. This good luck has simplified a pretty complex, robust decision-making process into a system that helps us to do what we do.
Every consultant helps clients make decisions. It takes data to support those decisions, and repeatable systems to facilitate the decision-making process. We work under a really simple paradigm where we try to keep three things in front of us every day, “1) What we’re gonna do (planning), 2) what we are doing (execution), and 3) what we did (reflection/journaling)”.
For the “what we’re gonna do” effort, we utilize a robust software application for cloud-based project management, which helps us plan our work, maintain clarity on what tasks need to be done, and keep the team aligned on what happens next. We are able to upload, assign reviews, comment on, and markup draft plans and documents; comment back and forth to each other in a social media style thread; and delegate/share responsibility as needed across the entire team. You can imagine how valuable this is over three separate offices, and, at this time, with 16 of our 18 team members working from home the majority of their time.
For the “what we are doing” effort, we have been able to have remote connections configured to file servers and Google Drive, which our awesome IT vendor started to set up for us as the slowdown was taking place. Zoom, Google Meet, and GoTo Meetings are the current norm for meetings internally and externally, and getting good drone photography of our project sites when possible provides some ‘been there’ to the team when we are trying to put together the needs of our project sites with the needs and wants of our clients.
For the “what we did” effort, our time management and billing software is cloud-based as well, so we can hop on a meeting and talk about how we are handling the cost/value side of what we deliver. This is especially important as our clients are dealing with global disruption, and we are trying to be especially cognizant of effective work efforts for them.
Is it working? I think so. It seems that the ability to work remotely has a Catch 22 quality – you can focus more working from home if you can maintain your focus. At first read, that sounds stupid, but then it probably resonates, because recent discussions I have had with colleagues seem to echo this same paradoxical sentiment. Production speed is more challenging because resources are spread out and time to connect to said resources is encumbered. As good as digital things have become, there is no substitute for a face-to-face meeting over a plan set when you need to discuss a broad topic.
Are we going to be better for this? Absolutely. What’s the choice? We have learned how to adapt, on the fly, again. And this won’t be the last time. Change is the only constant in this world, and we are trying to choose to embrace it as much, and as often, as we possibly can.
I am reminded of a John Maxwell quote where he says that people change when they: hurt enough that they have to, learn enough that they want to, or receive enough that they are able to. All three reasons for change are happening during this weird time, so bring on the change.
And, why not? Remember, I was only going to move to the beach for 2 years back in 2002.