We facilitated a discussion with a group of building owners on better preparing for future real estate and construction projects and how to have more successful relationships with their design team.

At their recent national meeting, we facilitated a discussion with a group of building owners on better preparing for future real estate and construction projects and how to have more successful relationships with their design team. One aspect that everyone found intriguing was a roundtable report on recent experiences. As the reports went around the large table of 25 owners you could see heads nodding in agreement.

While not technically a scientific study, I got the overt impression that, while owners do not agree on all points, they nearly unanimously agree that architects and designers are not effective strategic thinking partners with the clients. Strategic thinking, they say, is not a general core competency of many firms.

This can be changed. Success in professional practice is not random. Firms choose success based on patterns, trends, and innovation in their management practices. Strategic thinking, when applied with diligence, can help you win more, lose less and have better long term relationships with clients.

My colleagues at Greenway Consulting who have been working with several of the world’s most successful firms developed this checklist on how to think strategically:

  • Answer the question, where do you want to go? Look at possible scenarios and select your direction based on both linear and non-linear study.

  • Develop a vivid vision of your goal clearly imagined. Draw a picture in your mind.

  • Answer the question, what’s in it for my clients? What are the overt benefits? These should be stated dramatically—not timidly.

  • Answer the question, How should we get there? What is the best approach? Walk around the issues and utilize free-association to develop your plan.

  • Develop a positive energy and a strong confidence that you can attain your goal. Nothing great is ever achieved without enthusiasm and commitment.

  • Execute your strategy through a communication and action plan that is fully energized with follow-through.

  • Answer the question, How should we monitor and measure performance? When should we begin the new strategic thinking cycle?

You will find that you and your firm can build a brand reputation for strategic thinking by simply learning and practicing the techniques of thinking like a master strategist. Architects and designers inherently make very good strategic thinkers—but the perception of it as being a core competency has slipped away. When practiced as a core skill however, it enhances your credibility (and your fee revenues) on pre-design. It also builds a better brand reputation for you and your firm.

Your potential to be a true strategic thinker is limited only by the level of your fears and the degree to which you are willing to practice your new skill. Your must stay current in your understanding of the challenges facing today’s clients by following trends closely. Doing so will position you as an expert in their business. You will be sought out for your solutions, not just your designs. Do you want to become known as a strategic thinker? You are the only one capable of changing your priorities and behavior to do so. Why not make this a priority today?