Tag Archives: Strategic Planning January 2014

It's a new yearFirst of all: Happy new year, everyone. I love that last Calvin & Hobbes strip and find some way to share it at this time each year.  The new year really does offer a fresh start in a magical world, and I hope that with the recovering economy we all have a chance to go exploring in 2014.

Secondly, here’s an exhortation about New Year’s Resolutions:  While the intention is good, the success rate on resolutions is only 8%. Reasonable people like engineers will use more effective change management methods.  Make plans, not resolutions, if you really  want to improve your practice.

Although most people call them “drawings” instead of “plans,” there’s a reason that costly infrastructure is built using a detailed set of plans that describes all of the pieces that need to be brought to a site and assembled in a particular order. Without detailed plans, no amount of wishing will create new infrastructure that meets some pressing need.

Treat your business the same way. Identify your requirements, assess your budget, specify the pieces that need to be assembled, and make a schedule with milestones for delivering the new program. Only with a detailed plan can you reliably effect change in your practice that achieves your goals.

Atlas Geotechnical, in addition to our ever-evolving 5-year strategic plan, will execute two focused strategic plans in 2014. One involves earning repeat business from a very large, well respected infrastructure design firm. Their projects have complex foundation problems at a rate and severity higher than other firms, which makes them an ideal match for Atlas’ approach to foundation engineering.

The other strategic plan is more speculative. We will attempt to build a 3-firm alliance to pursue means-and-methods engineering projects. The team members are all willing, but we’re not yet sure about the market size and the real potential for profitability.  The first step in that plan is to confirm that the plan really is a worthwhile use of scarce resources.

Be assured that by the middle of January both of these initiatives will have detailed plans that include resource requirements, milestones, and performance expectations.  Only with this level of planning can we reliably convert “I wish I had more cool projects” into “Wow, look at our marvelous backlog of cool projects.”  I hope that each of you, by the end of this new year, can say the same.



Success comes at surprising times.

Here at Atlas GT we’re huge advocates for strategic planning. Invest extra effort into pursuing clients who have interesting and important problems and your practice will grow in an interesting and important direction. It’s a habit that we learned at GeoEngineers back in the ’90’s  that has served us, and GeoEngineers, very well. Combining their commitment to strategic growth with ours has just yielded extraordinary success, which is the subject of this post.

So our old friend and collaborator Trevor Hoyles is the Pipeline Group Manager at GeoEngineers.  Recently, he and I both were pondering strategic approaches to a large gas transmission project here in the Bay Area.  Atlas was too small but temperamentally suited and proximal; GeoEngineers is arguably the leading HDD design firm in the US but lacks a Bay Area presence. We agreed to team up, present the GeoEngineers brand, and see if we could get some work. Boy did we ever.

So here’s the problem with Strategic Plans: The point of strategic investment is to disrupt the existing paradigm, make a dramatic change, grow rapidly.  You never can know with certainty that the plan will work, but you hope for success, you strive for it, you commit yourself to the plan and by extension to the people and companies also investing in the plan.  So when success does come, whether soon or late, you are absolutely committed to acting on it.

I think that Trevor and I were both thinking in terms of “if” we’re successful, when we should have been planning actively for “when” our plan bears fruit.  “If we win this big project I’ll start looking for collaborators.”  “If we win I’ll need to be careful not to take on any low-value projects that would crowd my availability.”   I don’t know what GeoEngineers was planning, but I do know that they just won the geohazards and crossings work on the Pacific Connector Gas Transmission project in southern Oregon. They’re busier than ever.

So when one of GeoEngineers’ longstanding collaborators brought them in on a fast-moving component of this big strategic project, of course they agreed and staffed it, and of course I cleared my calendar and got out to the site right away. That assignment went well, as you’d expect given the team involved, and the Customer wants more of the same.  Suddenly we’re successful to a degree that’s actually causing some discomfort. Of course we’re committed to success, but I’m learning that Atlas could have been better prepared for success.

That’s the lesson that I’d like to share with you all: expect to succeed. When we set our minds to something, and assemble a great team, more than likely we’ll succeed at it.  We need to be prepared to succeed, pro-active instead of re-active.  And that’s what I’ll be doing this weekend; making a better plan for handing the success that we had hoped for, but not necessarily planned for, when we established this part of our strategic plan.

Have a great weekend, everyone, and drop me a line if you’ve got solid pipeline expertise and like the thought of wintering in California.