As a followup to my last post on Landscape Architects taking the lead it seemed appropriate to look at the challenges that landscape architects face as they start taking more of a role in managing teams and clients.
As landscape architects take the lead more and more the start to lead teams that include architects, engineers, artists, designers and this brings with some challenges especially for small landscape firms. This includes managing teams and ensuring that the clients brief is met along with understanding the issues, constraints and opportunities these projects present.
Better Project Management skills
When landscape architects start leading teams this requires us to manage several consultants, which in turn requires more learning (training) in project management and also requires landscape architects to understand the scope of each consultant to ensure that they are providing the services required. This can lead to uncertainty in the scope and role of each consultant (if we don’t have experience in their area) which as the project progress can lead to problems as a certain area of scope may be undertaken by two consultants without knowing (scope duplication) or it may also result in no consultant undertaking the scope leading to either a hurried engagement of another consultant or scope creep for one of the consultants on the team.
Therefore, it is key as landscape architects that we gain project management skills and also understand the scope required by the client and thus the scope for each consultant. There are numerous tools to undertake this such as a RACI Matrix.
Often leading a team also requires the lead consultant to take on the risk of all consultants on the team, often this can cause some issues as landscape architects are often not covered under their insurances and there can increase the cost of insurances for the landscape architect (dependent on the country). It is key to understand the risk and liabilities the lead consultant is taking on. There are ways to structure the project contract to minimise the risk.
An increased level of project administration may be required as the lead consultant as you often have to manage the team on behalf (dependent on contract structure) of the client which leads to more administration and time spent by landscape architects on project management, something many landscape architects would like to do less of not more. This may lead to landscape architecture firms too often hiring specialised project managers or requesting the client to engage a project management consultant or company to manage the team and contract with the landscape architects as the lead designer..
We may be biased but when landscape architects take the lead it is better for the design firm and also the overall project. Landscape architects are good generalists who can see the macro scale and how to unite the different disciplines to create a holistic design. The more that landscape architects can lead projects the more that they are requested to lead better projects.
More skilled landscape architects
Through leading projects it allows landscape architects to gain more experience in design and also empathy towards clients as they start to see the issues of having to deal with leading and managing consultant teams, and also empathy for other design disciplines as we help them through solving their issues. Having greater understanding and empathy for consultants leads to more skilled landscape architects who can manage projects more smoothly as they have increased their understanding of the process and requirements involved to achieve the best project outcomes.
Article Written by Damian Holmes is the Founder and Editor of WLA.
He is also a registered Landscape Architect and has extensive experience as a landscape architect in Australia, Canada, and China.
Cover Image Credit | Flickr User Garry Knight