Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The Habit of Excellence

Editor's Note: A habit to ponder for the New Year. The Seven Habits series and Industry Speaks posting will resume in January 2014.

Recently I read a proposal that, like most, had a section written about the firm’s QA/QC procedures. It was eloquent. It highlighted the QA/QC director, and a QA/QC process. There was just one problem ... it wasn’t true!

While the narrative was well written, it was fiction, describing a theoretical quality control process the firm would go through if they had time. The truth is the QA/QC director (by his own admission) often doesn’t have time to do quality control. Tight fees, even tighter deadlines, insufficient staff and multiple responsibilities make it all but impossible. The drawings are instead checked hastily by the project manager as the clock ticks toward the deadline or as someone frantically calls to ask for an extension.

I’m sad to say I haven’t seen an excellent QA/QC process recently. That doesn’t mean they don’t exist. Those I recall from ages ago were in smaller firms where excellence was a core value in the firm’s operations. They were successful. But, in smaller (niche) firms, there are no QA/QC directors. Everyone does everything.

The process described in that proposal wasn’t bad. It just failed to recognize the realities of a working architectural practice. As an industry, we must develop a way to bring quality assurance and control to the core of the design process on a consistent basis — not when we have time, or when the client is willing to pay for it — but all of the time. Clients expect and demand no less, and so should we as representatives of this profession.

Karen Compton, CPSM. Karen Compton is principal of A3K Consulting (Glendale, CA), a business development and strategic planning firm specializing in the architecture, engineering and construction industries. Ms. Compton is also the founder of Industry Speaks™, a web-based business-to-business portal that connects AEC firms with experienced consultants, provides peer reviews of consultants, reports on key industry trends, and publishes expert reviews of professional courses and books. Contact her at

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