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February 14, 2017
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let’s get strategic!

Contributed by Mindy Cooper, Principal

As we’ve watched our firm grow and evolve over the past 7 years, we’ve often found that our dreams have come true simply by naming them and believing in them.  Sounds too easy, right?  

To be honest, it really CAN be that easy – but in order to get there,  a big effort goes into creating the time and space necessary to give individual dreams a voice.  Equally important is that everyone have an opportunity to be heard.  This part can get tricky when you have a group of 20 super smart colleagues participating and every single one  is full of brilliant ideas.

dwg.’s annual strategic development sessions are there to do just that: collectively discover our dreams, raise the most inspiring ones to the surface, and brainstorm creative ways that we can work towards achieving them.

Traditionally, we circle up the wagons after the New Year.  We’ve gained fresh perspective during the holiday break and are excited for what lies in the year ahead  – anything feels possible!  We gather outside of the office space so that there are no distractions competing for our attention.  In the weeks leading up to our strategy day, much planning has gone into developing a set of tools geared to extract those amazing ideas from individuals and turn them into a collective vision.


A sampling of symbolic drawings that tell the story about the *perfect* design process.

This year we met at one of our favorite projects, the Pershing in East Austin.  We spent our morning in the cozy confines of the ground floor, finalizing the firm’s organizational philosophy statements.  By organizational philosophy, I’m referring to the backbone of strategic development: mission, vision and purpose statements, as well as guiding principles and core values.   During the afternoon we moved to the light and airy upstairs to draw and discuss our ideas on a variety of topics.  We visualized what the path might look like to bring a project to life, discussed what great mentorship means (hint: maybe it’s an apprenticeship) and most fun of all, had some lively conversations about how big are we going to be and how will our space will support that growth.  


Sometimes “drawing together” requires drawing alone in a mirrored bathroom…

Along the way we used a bunch of fun tools from the Liberating Structures menu.  This year was our first time Drawing Together – which started by drawing individually, and then working in small groups to interpret the symbols in our drawings.  Most of the LS menu relies on the idea that each of us have great stuff to share, and it’s easier to share in small groups.  The small groups then raise the best ideas up to the larger group during a quick debrief.  It’s a fast way to get through meaty topics and allow everyone to be heard.  Sometimes the biggest and best ideas come from the quietest voices!  And sometimes the loudest voices are hungry for great ideas to bellow about.

At the end, I think all of us walked away with a more unified vision on all that was discussed throughout the day.  On a personal note, it was fun for me to hear everyone openly discuss things that felt taboo to talk about before.  Now it is on all of us as individuals to keep the dream alive in our words + actions as we move through 2017!