Staff

Catalog of Available Courses and Workshops

Below are the titles of seven online courses and/or workshops that are available from Lowther7, LLC Catalog descriptions, learning objectives, and details for each are provided separately following this listing.

Creating Successful Talent Within Your Firm

Available online or by appointment.

Embracing Sustainability in the Workplace

Online only - Instructor-led.

Simple LMS for Firms and Associations

Available online or by appointment.

Cyber Security for Small Businesses

Available online or by appointment.

Overview of Managing Projects

Available online or by appointment.

Developing Online Courses

By appointment only - Instructor-led.

Contact us about your workshop questions today; we're happy to help!

Creating Successful Talent Within Your Firm

Description:

This workshop provides practical approaches and tools addressing your firm’s professional talent development challenges. Using a 7 step methodology we will address the why, how, and what to do for staffing development. The workshop will cover areas such as graduate development curriculum, technical skills, client presentations, project management, leadership development, and on-boarding, as well as requirements for licensure and certifications. This workshop addressed the "how-to's" about developing and implementing an effective internal firm-wide, professional training and development program.

Knowledge Level:

This program is structure for Practitioners and Advanced levels. This program is for everyone within the firm responsible for effectively matching people to resources needed to achieve the team member’s professional goals while achieving the firm’s strategic and business goals.

Course Design:

This 8 hour workshop is designed to be delivered on-site. This program has been successfully delivered in a firm with multiple offices using a blended delivery approach. The program allows for Q&A and includes a personalized plan of action.

Learning Objectives:

At the end of this program you will be able to:
1. Identify 2 performance elements of your in-house education program in terms of the firm's strategic and business goals.
2. Determine appropriate development method(s) of your firm’s unique technical or design educational content to advance your firms agenda.
3. Differentiate the most effective delivery method(s) for your firm’s top development priority.
4. Define 4 criteria for use of a master evaluation tool that will guide you in continuously improving your program.

This Course is recommended for:

* Individuals and project teams to supplement a design firm's internal curriculum.

Faculty:

Thom Lowther, Ed.S. Has been involved with the professional development of A/E and design professionals for more than 20 years. Thom is currently the owner and CEO of Lowther7, LLC, a small Veteran owned training and consulting firm. Thom has served as the Senior Director of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) Continuing Education System (CES). He managed the AIA/CES Firm Leadership Symposium series and the AIA/CES Award of Excellence program. He served as staff liaison on the Advisory Panel for Professional Development of the Union of International Architects. With the AIA, Thom worked with 43 state licensing boards to establish mandatory continuing education requirements for architects and engineers. As Vice President of Education at the U.S. Green Building Council, he was responsible for the oversight of LEED related education for design professionals. Following the USGBC Thom was the Americas Region, Learning and Development Associate with the global engineering and design firm, Arup. Thom is a contributing author to the PSMJ Resources monthly newsletter and a Jury member for the 2015 & 2016 LearningElite Awards sponsored by CLO Media.

On-site minimum of 10 participants required to book this workshop.
Contact us about your workshop questions today; we're happy to help!

Improve Individual and Team Performance

PerforMore leverages your existing successes, unique strengths and diverse experiences in order to design a personalized roadmap. Our coaching programs are designed and delivered with expert guidance for individuals that have a desire to reach new personal levels of success. This is achieved through the M.A.D.E.S Coaching Model and energy leadership coaching. Energy leadership coaching is a process that develops a personally effective style of leadership that positively influences and changes not only yourself but also those with whom you work and interact.

Building a Design Firm'€™s Professional Development Program - Need Assessment and Analysis

Photo of computer showing data analysis display

Successful professional development programs require a system for identifying and analyzing educational needs that relate a firm's overall strategic plan. It is important to assess the learners' educational and professional development needs both short-term and long term.

In part three 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 2: Need Assessment and Analysis
Here we examine the firm’s structure for gathering appropriate data and analyzing the firm’s educational needs and the staff member’s professional development. This section provides recommendations for how the firm configurations short and long - term education needs and professional development planning using multiple need assessment approaches.

The selection of information and data collection is critical to building a strong program foundation. How well does your firm match up?
1. There is an established process I place to determine what program evaluation information should be collected.
2. At least 3 different tools are used to collect supporting data to determine learning needs.
3. A review process is in place to determine appropriateness of educational information and activity content.
4. Staff members of the targeted profession (architect, engineer, interior designer, landscape architect, graphic designer, IT support, etc.) are included in the assessment process to determine learning needs of the audience.
5. There is an established process to determine what data will be shared and how it will be reported.

Regarding Data Analysis:
6. There is an established process to determine what program evaluation information should be reviewed and maintained.
7. There is an established process to determine who should review the data.
8. There is an established process for determining how comparative data will be used to measure performance.
9. Annually, the firm shares action(s) taken by the Learning and Development team that impacted the firm, based on business performance results.

Sources:
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 Architecture, Engineering, and Construction (A/E/C) 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.

Overlooked Internal Training Sources for A/E Firms

Use Professional Presentations for Internal Development

This summer I was reading a firm’s internal newsletter and noticed that there were at least sixteen instances of the firm's staff providing presentations and white papers at a variety of fall, national and international conferences and workshops. Some of the professional associations that were hosting these events would be recording the presentations. In a few instances these recorded presentations would later be converted to recordings or webinars and sold for a profit by the association or organization.

Having worked with associations for many years I realize that some associations rely upon the professional members to give back to the profession by sharing their knowledge. I believe that this is a great service and I encourage professionals to share their knowledge and research with the industry that they represent. This knowledge sharing process has been going on for decades with the A/E industry. It has been a win-win for the professional and the association. The professional is provided a platform upon which she/he can share their knowledge, research and opinions. The association wins by being viewed as a reliable source of knowledge within the industry, and in some cases receiving a revenue source for providing seminars, workshops, recording and webinars to the profession.

The source of the knowledge most certainly comes from the professionals and the firm that support the research and experience. The winners here are usually those professionals who sit in attendance during the conference or workshop or who later purchase the video or webinar. What is so often missed – the professional’s presentation that is recorded at a conference for future redistribution and sales is not captured by the very firm that supports the professional’s research and experience in the first place. To add to the problem, the firm usually has to pay additional fees for their other employee members who want to hear or view the recorded presentation given by their fellow employee. In other words, firm end up paying the association for a copy of the recording or webinar that was provided by their own employee.

Professional development within an A/E firms has evolved during the past decade. It is time to re-think how A/E firms share and distribute their intellectual property with professional associations. I offer two suggestions to this dilemma.

One, the firm’s legal department should create a contract that predetermines use, sale and resale of related material of any presentation that is recorded by an association or hosting organization. If the original presentation is going to be recorded and used in any way as a revenue source for the association or hosting organization, then at a minimum a copy of the presentation should be provided to the firm for its own internal use and training.

A second option, the firm could record the presentation themselves and copyright the material. They could then distribute the material internally for reuse, internal training and sharing of select material with their clients. By copyrighting the presentations the firm could shape how the material might be used or redistributed by another organization at a later date. .

Virtual Curriculum: A program design solution for A/E/C firms.

Photo by by azwaldo

The responses were interesting and varied when last month I submit this series of questions to more than a dozen online professional discussion groups.

“Does anyone have an example of a virtual curriculum based upon an individual’s subject matter interest rather than group subjects or topics? Is success measured based upon the participant’s mastery of the subject or some type of norm scores? Are the results tied to work performance, pay, or certification?

Quickly, a definition of “virtual” needed to be established. It was generally agreed in most of the discussion groups that “virtual” meant “online.” Bill Brunk, Ph.D asked the question on the CLO Magazine discussion group, “ I wonder if you might not be confusing two concept here: self-directed learning and virtual (online) learning.” Dr. Brunk brought up a good point and I thought we were beginning to address the question but the largest number of immediate responses came from consultants and schools who obviously were trying to market their online courses. If they bothered to look, I too offer online classes on my website– but that did not really address the questions.

To clarify I stated that I wanted to explore the curriculum definition that relates to a set of courses constituting an area of specialization, where curriculum is built around the individual’s interest rather than the institutions offerings. I was looking for more than simply saying we (the association/consultant/university) give online degrees or provide certification in...(fill in the blank).

From the TED discussion group Donald R. (Chip) Levy, a former Senior Director of Professional Development at the AIA responded with, “In common practice, many think of a curriculum as a generally linear, organized learning path to some goal (degree, certification, specialist credential, etc.). For me, the interesting twist has less to do with getting one's ticket punched at the end of a process, and more to do with building a thoughtful, if idiosyncratic, learning program that continually moves each learner toward evolving performance excellence and (career) success. The resources can be from a variety of sources, focused on a variety of KSAs, employing a variety of delivery channels and media, and uniquely aggregated for each person. It is an ongoing, evolutionary prospect -- a "lifelong curriculum" that guides "lifelong learning" as we progress through our careers.”

In conclusion, I believe that technology allows us to expand our learning options in a format where we can pick the one that works best for us. If I take courses at my own discretion I would be reluctant to call that a curriculum. In order for the learning to become a curriculum I would suggest that the process follows a guided path, such as one outlined by a negotiated contract. I would advocate however that the curriculum options are greatly expanded when the learning process is not limited or restricted to just the courses offered by the school, the association or a business. The instructor or consultant thus becomes a learning adviser - guiding the learner toward agreed upon learning goals.

The Fifth Key for Firms to Successful Education Courses: Marketing and Promotion.

The Fifth Key for Firms to Successful Education Courses: Marketing and Promotion.
The emphasis for most firms is internal professional development of their own staff. Those firms that think strategically will include key clients when it is appropriate to share knowledge and information on common critical elements of a project during their training sessions. Even though most training is internal for firms I still want to highlight the fact that there are two actions that need attention as the firm builds their education programs, marketing and promotion.

Be sure that your firm’s education strategic plan is integrated into the business marketing plan. As part of the strategic development process, include a targeted needs assessment of not only your staff but one that includes the education needs of your clients as well. For your firm to be most effective your staff will need to be aware of the knowledge level of your clients related to the projects you are working on together. Do your clients need to have your staff teach them through each step of the project or merely inform them of your progress as you work through the scope of work? If you find that your staff consistently needs to train your clients then you need to be sure that your staff is knowledgeable about the subject and know how to train your client. How does this become a part of the firm’s marketing plan? Your trained staff becomes a selling point.

During the past several years, in large part due to the economy most firms have had to alter their approach to offering internal education to their staff. Most firms cut back on staff support, others released their education staff, and still other firms cut out the budget for education entirely. According to Jill Faulkenberry, PHR, Director of Human Resources at the architecture firm FreemanWhite, Inc., firms have had to reduce their education efforts and become smarter about how they offer professional development. I asked Jill, with four offices, Charlotte, NC, San Diego, CA, Nashville, TN, and Leeds, UK how do you communicate what, when, where, how and why staff should take internal classes. Jill stated that even with an award winning sophisticated intranet system FreemanWhite relies on the basics. Jill says the firm uses staff meetings to promote important upcoming training; those the firm leadership believes support the mission and/or culture. The most widely used promotion method is email and the notice taped next to the coffee machine. For the FreemanWhite Academy – a structured program that is integrated into the employee’s performance appraisal and promotions, the classes are promoted on the FreemanWhite internal website and internal newsletter. Jill stresses, “keep the promotion timely, accurate and simple.”

As the Director of the FreemanWhite Academy Jill realized that sometimes it is better to let others provide support and assistance. Thinking strategically FreemanWhite wanted to share some of their in-house developed courses with the rest of the design and construction industry. To achieve this goal FreemanWhite Academy partnered with AEC Daily to market and promote some of their online classes.

“Where’s the data?” – The second key for firms to unlock for quality education

The Chief Learning Officer (CLO) or Director of Education better be prepared when the CEO or COO asks the question, “Where is the data?” The senior leadership of the firm is business oriented and generally feels uncomfortable with gut feeling reactions. The firm’s education leaders need to develop a systematic approach for gathering both external trend data and internal staff development data. Professional development within a firm should not be limited to just making employees feel good. It is critical to the success of the firm that staff professional development be focused on the firm’s strategic goals. This means that the collection of industry market trends, client needs, and staff development information all be tied together.

Christopher Clinton a landscape architecture student at the Boston Architectural College provided a thoughtful summary in a recent LinkedIn landscape architecture professional discussion group. Christopher stated, “The first of three main techniques to help facilitate an awareness of the market in relation to the firm’s strategic plan is to explore new technologies and fresh perspectives related to the firm's strategic plan such as through attending seminars, classes, discussions with other professionals from around the world online, at trade-shows or reading articles/studies. The second is feedback and conceptual discussion of internal firm design work as well as other firms design work and concepts between professionals of related fields. Third, is to take these new concepts and have group design exercises consisting of drawings/models/etc...To incorporate what is learned in the first two parts and bring a new level of raw skills to incorporate into future work.”

For firms the intended of professional education is generally for internal use of the firm’s staff. In such situations it is important to match the assessment approach to the firms’ culture, operational structure, and short and long-term strategic goals. The content outcome could relate to technical, conceptual, and/or personnel related needs. It is important to focus on the details of professional staffs’ participation in the needs assessment process. Determine how the needs for the educational program and products/services are identified, how the programs are developed and designed to address those needs.

Firms -First key to unlocking the secrets of a quality education program

Photo by azwaldo via Flickr

At first glance it should be rather easy to determine if professional development and education is really supported by the firm’s leadership. The leaders from every firm that I have ever worked with say that staying in business requires that the staff is continually learning. These leaders state that they must learn just to stay current. I would agree with all of them, just by living and being exposed to new experiences – you will learn new things. Living as your learning model however does not mean that you have learned the right things or that what you learned will improve your business. And this approach to learning does not support the practice that the firm has a learning culture.

I generally divide firms into one of three categories. Most professional firms are small frequently 3- 5 persons. If a firm has less than 50 employees – which is the majority of professional firms - they are lucky be able to assign education duties to a staff member on a part time. When the firm reaches between 50 - 250 staff that part time person becomes full time somewhere at the point where the staff reaches about 100. A second staff member may be assigned full or part time when the staffing level reaches about 150 -200. Both of these firm categories are finding some relief in the growing use of online learning options that are now available.

Then there is the professional mega firm, those who have a staff of over 250. Those mega firms that are truly committed to a professional development culture will bring in a learning management expert to head the professional development department. These positions are often found under HR or marketing. Both of these firm categories are finding some relief in the growing use of online learning options that are now available.

However, regardless of the size of the firm, an education program will not work effectively or efficiently if it is just an afterthought or an add-on program. Only by involvement of a firm partner or firm principal participating at the highest decision making level will education play an appropriate key role in the overall business operations of the firm. To achieve a level of delivering quality education, the firm leadership must think strategically. This means that they commitment long term, through the highs and lows of the business cycles. Continuing professional education is not free so integrating staff development into the business plan is critical. It should not be about just meeting hours to fulfill a license or credential requirement. There must be clear education goals and objectives since the firm is already investing dollars to meet the basic requirements.

Professional firms were making advancements in the development of strong internal educational programs until the down economy hit hard. With continuing professional education requirements still in place these same firms still need to maintain their requirements, license and certificates. Firms of all sizes have had to cut their internal staff those they had to support their education efforts. With strong leadership the firms do not have to cut back on quality, they just need to be smarter. Now more than ever is the time for visionary leadership and commitment to learning.