Boush Street Offices

Monday, April 1, 2013

AIA Grassroots

I had the great fortune to be afforded the opportunity to attend this year's AIA Grassroots Leadership meeting in Washington DC. Time has passed a few weeks since we were there but it has just been such a busy beehive lately around the office I wasn't able to take the time to wrap up my notes from the meetings. What an incredible event! I met a lot of great people from not only around our state of Virginia but from all over the United States.

I feel fortunate to have attended this year as it seemed that this was the year for change.....really change....not just say it type of change. AIA is in need of redefining itself or becoming irrelevant. As a membership type of organization we often find ourselves asking:

What has AIA done for me? I know myself that so often i hear that question for all types of organizations including church.....yes even church....what has church done for me lately. Really? That is sort of like asking what has God done for you lately. I do believe one of the few famous quotes I remember of President Kennedy was "It not what your country can do for you but what can you do for your country." ......I quote president's since i was in DC. Well you need to be involved to truly see what can happen. Once you finally become involved and I mean really involved not just on the fringes, you will be able to see behind the scenes of any organization and the value it offers....especially AIA.

Due to the high number of concerns and the realization of "change or be left behind." The majority of the leadership meetings conducted were all speaking on what they referred to as the Repositioning Initiative. A more creative way of saying reorganization or restructuring.....after all we are architects so we are good at putting a nice since to potential negativity. However, I like it. It shows self a wanes and the need of insuring relevance in our ever changing society.

Our premise : The nature and practice of architecture is evolving and the AIA must evolve with it in order to secure its leadership position.

Another aspect for the AIA and architectural practices was about how we express our role in society and to be heard. We have a responsibility for our community. If we continue as is, will we be part of the world? Will we be part of the solution and our voices heard? That remains to be seen.

So what is the way forward? That is what we need to know and understand. It's time to shift the conversation away from what the AIA does, and towards why we do it and why it matters.

These are the building blocks to telling the story: think beyond bricks and mortar.
Building design solutions that address societal problems. Creating something that matters. If not, then why are we doing architecture? For a pay check? If that is the case, then we will soon all be out of a job. Someone will find a better way, correction, someone will find a more efficient way of, not creating but producing what we do.

We need to see the bigger picture. We need to keep our Heads up more and not just to the grindstone. We need to begin to ask ourselves the question, "How do you sell it?" The art and architecture no longer sells itself. we need to put ourselves in our client's shoes and be in the hearts minds as well as the pain of clients.

You need to know that at you are good for business. Business? I thought we practiced an art form.....really? So, What is the case? You didn't get taught how to use it. Make the business case. AIA makes better architects, architects make better projects, better projects make better value.

Fuse practice with passion.
Unification: We all first got into profession to make a difference. We all felt that If we became an architect than we would make a difference. Yet we think about process rather than passion. We want to contribute still. We just never have used that model to participate with our profession.

Demonstrate relevance.
What we do is relevant to clients, community and funders, and society. Don't talk about architecture for architecture sake. I remember way back in way back in the college days hearing that some of the universities, probably the ivy schools, were just talking architecture. My theory at the time was this must be a waste of time. talking instead of actually doing. Learning how to do instead of just speaking about it. I feel I did my colleagues an injustice all those years ago. They very well might have been talking about keeping the practice of architecture relevant......instead of immediately sticking our face down to the grindstone. They must might of had their head up and was getting the bigger picture. My apologizes.

We shouldn't say "I can do this." but rather "Through architecture I can help accomplish this."

Focus on connectivity.
Our client's don't really understand what we do. That is hard to believe but it is true. How many times have we been asked to make some changes or create a design concept? Only followed by, "Don't you just go back to your office and push a few buttons and then the design is Architected?" Swish boom! Yes, our software costs a fortune but it yet has the ability to accomplish that on its own. However we do need collaboration of others. Not just the engineers, but all the many others that we may never have considered. Others make our work better or smarter even more effective. Shift from "I" to "we." Architecture is evolving and requires a team. those members will come from fields that we may never have imagined. Keep in mind that all the other members get equal value, they aren't our pawns....but our equals.

Make everyone a messenger.
Years ago one of the job description's of an employee of Apple was = Product Evangelist. That just sounds awesome. Why are we so dull? I think we have tightened our ties too secure around our a noose cutting off the circulation. Or maybe we have been in the darkroom too much due to our infinite closet wardrobe of black ensembles. Open your eyes and see the new world.

So back to the relevant issues of leadership within the AIA organization. They plan to turn the org chart on it head. Give components a different view point of the structure needed. From top to bottom:
Local components
State components
AIA national

Reverse pyramid with arrows up. Inverted organizational structure.

Let them know that this is THEIR AIA and that national exists to serve and support members. They want the members to be the lead and turn the organization around.

Proactively address issues critical to the profession. Where is the AIA and why are we not out front?

Clarity of Purpose:
Components need a degree of auto only to thrive, they also look to AIA national to lead with a stronger clarity of purpose.

In today's economy, the need to demonstrate the value of membership and justify the costs associated with it has never been greater. It not about price. Cable tv is valuable to people. We need to see value for the fee.

We need a reason to believe. To believe in the AIA. As interviews attest for the hired consultants looking at our "Image", there is massive dissatisfaction and it is ubiquitous across membership community.
16 member practice is the average that supported by the AIA?

Members perceive a sense of detachment of leadership in relation to the real needs and experiences of members. Disconnect from what the members do.

There is a profound sense "missed opportunity" to establish a definitive voice of architecture in an increasingly design savvy culture. Where we as a profession are rooted in profound design thinking cultures and environments. But we don't project that or is their an effort in unveiling ourselves. There is a wave that we are not catching.

Due to skepticism from previous failed attempts of organizational change, this effort must be accompanied by real change. This is not the same message.

Positioning statement:
Language is a place to start.
Developed in collaboration with AIA.
AIA is about as an architect, we can design a better world.
AIA members create enduring value. We benefit. Clients and communities benefit through innovation design changes.
AIA members drive positive change. We work collaboratively and creativily to transform client goals into reality.
AIA members lead with vision.
AA members shape the future. We value talent and diversity in new generations.

The AIA is a visionary member organization providing advocacy, leadership, ....

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