There are several core techniques and processes that are important for managing an architectural practice, regardless of the size. Practice management is the responsibility of the principle or, in small firms, the sole architect. In large firms the principal may not necessarily be an architect but someone with construction project management experience, or there may be several principles working in partnership.
As with individual projects, the overriding goals of architectural practices will be to deliver projects on time, to budget, and that meet or surpass client expectations. The defining goals of the practice should be determined by the principle architect and could be to focus on sustainable projects, develop innovative designs, to grow and take on increasingly large projects, and so on. The goals will determine the forward strategy for the practice.
Smaller architectural practices may need to employ consultants for services necessary for each project, such as mechanical engineers, civil engineers, structural engineers, and so on, rather than relying on in-house staff.
Time management relating to work schedules is an important responsibility for a principle architect of a practice. Smaller practices, that tend to work on smaller projects, tend to be more proficient at time management. However, project monitoring is often more effective in larger practices, where the principle is able to allocate specific periods of time to monitor a particular project as opposed to being involved in it on a daily basis as the principal of a smaller practice may be.
The principle architect is also responsible for people management. This involves attracting and retaining employees, which is often dependent on creating a positive and engaging professional culture. All employees should feel like they have a stake in the success of the practice and should feel like their point-of-view is considered. Junior members should be effectively mentored with opportunities for them to grow within the practice and take on further responsibilities, as this will help improve staff retention levels.
Project work should be shared as fairly as possible around the team, and the principle architect must carefully consider the most efficient and effective means of allocating tasks and responsibilities to challenge certain team members, play to the strengths of other team members, and ensure a higher chance of project success.
The principle architect should hold regular staff meetings as a means of improving and encouraging communication and sharing knowledge amongst employees. Conflicts that may arise between team members must also be carefully managed by the principle.
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