by James (Jim) McGibney, Development Services Consulting and Support
Four months ago as I started the Gordian Views Posts, I outlined a program of work that might include as many as 18 to 20 Posts, and all of them focused on the extraordinary changes underway in the Development Business. Whether you are a Developer or Owner, an Architect or Engineer, a General Contractor or Subcontractor, or a Financier, these changes are affecting your business and will have a continuing impact for many years to come. These changes have a common driver, which is the technological change that is impacting all parts of our lives and our work.
The concern noted four months ago is becoming more real — jobs are being lost to automation, robotics, innovations, etc. and those jobs are not being replaced. That is impacting the professions that support us as well. Attorneys are finding their business being changed by smart computer programs; arbitrators are replacing case law with privately agreed decisions; prefabricators are replacing a wide range of on-site trades; tenants are undergoing a significant change in the type of work space they need for their workforce; in short, there is no area of the Development Profession that is not undergoing profound change and it’s highly likely that the pace of change will accelerate into the foreseeable future.
So what does that mean for you as a professional and what should you be doing now?
Perhaps a good starting point is to excerpt a quote from a January 2015, Fortune article written by Erika Fry, “How to Approach Your Own Career Like an Entrepreneur”. The article can be found at http://fortune.com/2014/12/29/startup-you/. In that article she writes:
“You don’t have to be a TaskRabbit (or a VC) to know that the world of work has changed. Technology, globalization, and one long recession—in which nearly one in six Americans reported losing a job, according to Princeton economist Henry Farber—have all disrupted old-fashioned employment. Corporations have downsized, outsourced, and rightsized. They slashed training budgets during the recession, and though that spending is coming back—up 15% in 2013, according to a Deloitte survey—corporate talent development is thought to be a dying art. “As companies see it, the incentives are just so perverse,” says Peter Cappelli, a professor of management at Wharton Business School. “Typically you train someone, and once they become useful, they’re hired away from you.” Meanwhile, the slow march of automation continues: Robots now fly planes, perform surgeries, and in some cases write news. That leaves you, dear worker, in a tight spot—whether or not you’ve got your dream job now, you’ve got to stay relevant and evolve.”
I highly recommend reading the entire Fortune article. It is eye opening, timely and shows that the enormous change is in almost every industry and profession. My sense is that the Development profession, which includes Architects, Engineers, Contractors, Sub-contractors, Financial Groups and Owners/Developers is lagging in their response to the changing market place and may now need to play “catch-up”.
The Direction I am Taking
Over the past several months, as I have completed research for each of the Posts on the Gordian Views site, I have also developed a number of strategies that I am now following, personally. After all— no one is exempt from the impact of the change underway. Here are several for you to consider:
1- Embrace the technological change that is underway and look for the benefits. Look for ways to apply these changes in your work and for your clients every day and on every project. That is not easy and means continuous research, reading, meeting with people in the industry, and attending a varied group of Professional Associations. It is building a network with a purpose.
2- Revisit McKinsey & Company’s ground breaking work in 2013— “Disruptive technologies: Advances that will transform life, business, and the global economy”. It is extremely well researched work and is available courtesy of McKinsey. They have identified 12 technologies that will— and are— changing our world. Many of their predictions in 2013 are emerging into today’s everyday workflow, and that is in less than 2 short years. I believe all 12 of the identified technologies are impacting the Development Profession today, and we are only at the beginning.
3- Education is key, but that depends on many variables. 1- Is the education program current, or is the curriculum based on courses that “have worked in the past”? 2-How is the coursework delivered? In a class or some combination of on-line and in class? 3- Is the course taught by knowledgeable, working professionals with proven resumes, or is it a retirement option for an Engineer, Architect or Development Professional who is on their personal exit strategy?
I suggest looking at the online course offerings of Coursera, or major universities who specialize in your profession. That will give you a good sense of the breadth and depth of materials you have available. Also, at every major University there are on-going seminar series in your profession. They may be the best learning opportunities available. The material is typically cutting edge, sometimes provocative and critical of current practice, and challenging. As importantly, meet the seminar leaders and make them part of your network with a purpose. Perhaps partner with the University and present a seminar, yourself.
4- Revisit your network constantly. Are you having breakfast, lunch or coffee with the same professionals and groups? Are the conversations challenging and/or providing growth? If not, make changes. The daily, weekly and monthly business publications typically list many groups and their meeting times. Also check out the groups listed on “Meet-Up”. The number of unique and interesting groups forming around new technologies is exceptional.
5- Check out State sponsored resources. In Colorado the Office of Economic Development and International Trade (OEDIT) has a solid group of professionals, and they tend to be very accessible by email. There is a sub group called the Colorado Office of Innovation (COIN) which continually addresses emerging technologies and shifts in existing technologies. They hold an annual summit and past programs can be accessed online. There are many others as well, and in a future Post I will include many of those that I find critical to attend.
6- Talk to your customers and clients. Ask them to discuss their businesses or organizations and ask them to describe the impact of technology and change on their businesses. My experience has been that I learn more about the changes I need to make in my business from my discussions with current and past customers than any other source. Whether they are in a growing or declining industry, their perspective always includes the changing technologies that are impacting their business and how they are planning to incorporate those technologies into their business models.
7- Set an expectation of continual change into all of your plans- personal and professional. That will be the norm in all of our futures. As a friend once told me;
“Change is inevitable, personal growth is optional”.
All of the above is a lot of work. But that is what it will take to be competitive and successful in the Professional work place. It is also the most interesting and exciting time I have seen in the past 45 years. One person can bring so much leverage and so many resources to a project, and those resources come— quite literally — from across the world. If we count the Space Station— from above as well.
We are only at the beginning of a period of continuous change driven by evolving technologies in almost every profession or field. Staying relevant in your profession will be the growing challenge, and your competition is, and will continue to be, global. There is nothing comforting about this conclusion, but it is also an enormously interesting time to be in that competition. Gordian Views is going to continue to provide insights and commentary about the coming changes and emerging technologies and applications. There will be a concerted effort to include collaborative writers to each Post so the material can be more in-depth, though not longer.
The coming Posts will include;
1- the re-emergence of Lean thinking and applications in development, design and construction.
2- Emerging technologies and applications in Asia.
3- Financial strategies— bringing the best of manufacturing and process financial tools to Development.
4- Education—education— education. We will spend much more time learning together about the education programs that bring the most impact to our world.
Thank you again for spending your time reading the Gordian Views. I hope you continue to find it a worthwhile investment.
James (Jim) McGibney Linked In