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The seven habits of highly effective architects – part two

The seven habits of highly effective architects – part two


Effective habits are internalised principles and patterns of behaviour that assist us to perform at our best. The second in the series…

Habit 2 – Begin with the End in Mind   

If you don’t stand for something you’ll fall for anything. I’m sure you have heard this modern exhortative statement used in political discussion. However, have you considered its implication in the world of architecture? If you don’t build for something, be that a greater reason or core value, you will build for anything. For example, reduced fees, low quality outcomes or simply outside of your business’ target market. Basically, you’ll be working to create outcomes of little overall value.

Beginning with the end in mind is an effective habit that you can embrace to safeguard against toiling away at things that do not contribute to your greater goals and ideals.

Finding the values that you want to achieve

So how can this habit of ‘begin with the end in mind’ help architects succeed? Beginning with the end in mind is about a higher level of thinking than simply goal setting. It is more akin to finding your core internal values. Goal setting will then be guided by these values.

It is important to identify your key values and mission, both personally and as a team, through careful introspection. So how do you go about doing this? One strategy that can assist at an individual level is the eulogy test. Put simply, this means considering what you would be proud to have people say about you at your eulogy, including your accomplishments, your character traits and your daily attitude in life. For an architectural practice, a useful strategy to assist in identifying the core values and professional aspirations is to consider how an ideal opening paragraph of a future monograph may read. What would your ideal accomplishments be, the professional manner in which they were conducted and your positive involvement in the profession?

When starting out in the profession this is an important exercise to undertake. GSBN Studio was formed in 2018 by Henry Goodwin, Robert Scarfone and Alessandro Belgiorno-Nettis. They were three partners of diverse backgrounds and experiences ranging from rally and track car racing to custom motorcycles, and the manufacture of large public installation art. This diversity came together with a shared passion for art and architecture. In founding GSBN Studio, the partners were clear that they wanted to work on projects across a broad spectrum of fields, from the design of civic spaces to hospitality projects, private residences and even industrial design. When starting their studio they took the important step of identifying and setting core values for the studio with a clear shared vision of the “end in mind”.

As Goodwin and Scarfone explain, “To align our values and ideals sometimes takes time, but the end result is far more considered. Take one of us away and the trajectory changes significantly. The balance of values is crucial to the success of the business.”

Certainty in changing conditions

“The key to the ability to change is a changeless sense of who you are, what you are about and what you value.” – Stephen R Covey, author of The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People

This habit of beginning with the end in mind is not just important when starting out. It also provides a constant guide throughout your professional journey.

Having the end in mind, at a macro level, is akin to having a GPS (global positioning system) for your business. You will have the ability to pivot when times demand. You will be able to change direction such as taking on work at a different scale or typology, while maintaining the true core values that will ensure you continue to move toward the end point of your vision.

Belgiorno-Nettis from GSBN affirms this. “Our mission is to explore our passion for movement and experimentation in new ways of building for as long as the business is functioning,” he says. “We’ve set big targets, but it’s a malleable process that we are working on day by day, year by year.”

By using this habit and having the ‘end in mind’ you are able to consistently check if your current output and focus are aligned with your end values and ideals. This way, your projects can be delivered in such a way that they consistently benefit your end goals and hence carry a higher value, ideally for both your business and your clients.

Check in on your own ideals

We may be very busy, we may be very efficient, but we will also be truly effective only when we begin with the end in mind.”  – Stephen R Covey

It is no good having a GPS in your car and simply winging it to some new location on gut instinct. If you take the time to plug in the address (the end goal), your GPS sets you on a sure course. The same thing applies with having a higher-level value set or core mission. You need to check in regularly, both to ensure it is still relevant, and to keep on track and motivated.

And never forget to give yourself and your team a pat on the back if you check in and you are on track.

Image: L-R Alessandro Belgiorno-Nettis, Robert Scarfone and Henry Goodwin of GSBN Studio

This article first appeared in AR162


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