Building a Design Firm'€™s Professional Development Program - Strategy

Photo of Strategy Outline

I have been designing and managing organization-wide professional development programs for years. Early on I figured that to reach high standards I should try to model my programs after some of the best in the business, so I would regularly pull ideas from different industry award program guidelines and applications. The various awards programs used buzz words and phrases like: Excellence; quality and total quality management (TQM); the customer is always right; best practices; and elite programs.

In part two of this eight part series I have assembled requirements from several prestigious organizational award programs that appear with consistency. The self-assessment guidelines presented in this piece are intended to assist those individuals who are responsible for establishing and operating an Architectural/Engineering Design and Consulting Firms’ professional education department. The recommendations provided are organized in a manner that should be used as general guidelines to establish, organize, and manage the organizational structure of the firm. This assessment tool is not intended for the design or development of any individual course, certification, skill or professional program.

KEY 1: Strategy:

Overall, work to gain a commitment at all levels of the firm. Building a successful program needs senior level support. It needs senior management’s involvement in creating and sustaining the firm’s educational direction, performance, and focus. And it should include the development of a strategic process that ties education into the overall business plan of the firm.

Key 1 examines senior management’s involvement in creating and sustaining the firm’s educational strategy, commitment, and support. This section provides recommendations for long-term education and professional development planning and program development.

Leadership Involvement
1. CEO/executive team leaders set direction and seek future educational opportunities.
2. Leadership set performance expectations and metrics.
3. Leadership reviews the education program's overall performance.
4. Leadership takes into account the educational needs and expectations of all key personnel.

The Firm'€™s Strategic Education Plan:
5. Describes how the firm’s professional development strategy aligns with the firm’s business strategy and objectives.
6. Uses key performance indicators to measure the effectiveness of the learning strategy. (Ex: forecasts, models, projections, etc.)
7. Outlines educational expectations, including options to seek new educational opportunities and/or prepare for new requirements.
8. Explains the process for analyzing the cost benefit of education investment for the firm.
9. Clarifies the firm’s approach to coordinating knowledge sharing efforts with the delivery of education.

Using the Baldrige National Quality Award and IACET as models, a special task force created the AIA/CES Award for Excellence for The American Institute of Architects, Continuing Education System. This program was used as a cornerstone for building a national continuing education program that shaped education offered in the design industry. Today, other learning and development award programs such as the ASTD-Awards/Best-Awards and the Chief Learning Officer, CLOmedia Awards are also being used to elevate the practice of learning and development.