12 questions to incite architectural practice

Architects asking questions of their practice
Questions to uncover the roadblocks in your practice and establish strategies to help get around them, so that you go further faster.

I’ve recently spent time trying to answer the question:

“What would a template for levelling up practice look like”

Of course a comprehensive and detailed template is a big hairy audacious goal (or bhag), not one realistically achieve in the week I’ve given it to date. But I’ve made inroads.

What’s it for?

It’s for practices to better understand where they’re at and where they might be wanting to go.

Practices are often too caught up in the day to day of practice to take a step back and think about where they’re at, let alone where they want to go. It’s a state often described as working in the practice, rather than on the practice. This template is for practices to take a brief time out to work on their practice rather than in it.

It’s also a mechanism practice owners or principals can utilise to choose to step up their leadership. Through a methodology helping shine a light on what’s not working and on a way forward. It’s more a gentle nudge for change, than a solid push.

Less template, all questions

We spend a lot of time questioning answers.
That’s the answers we’ve given (and executing) as to what architectural practice looks like.

We spend far less time on answering questions.
That’s not enough time to asking, what are we doing, why are we doing it that way and is there another way?

“We spend a lot of our lives defending past decisions instead of considering new paths forward.”

Seth Godin

We therefore spend a lot of time rationalising the decisions we’ve made. Telling ourselves stories as to why something might not be possible. Giving no time to come up with how to make something possible. It stops us from taking action.

It started me thinking,

what if instead of starting by coming up with solutions to our identified problems, we started by leaning into answering some difficult questions?

What if those questions were designed to propel us forward in a way that makes those stories we tell ourselves as to why something might not be possible, obsolete?

What if those questions started to establish a framework around which change could be constructed?

What would that look like?

The questions would have to uncover the stories that have held us back. Identify the roadblocks, the goals and objectives, as well as establish the motivation for change. In order to achieve all that,

What questions would we ask?

This is my draft or working list.

A dozen-ish questions to incite your practice

  1. If someone took control of your practice tomorrow, what’s the first thing they would change?
    • What are you willing to do to make that change happen?
  2. What’s the work you resent doing, taking you away from the work you love doing?
    • Is it what you’re best at?
  3. Where are the bottlenecks in your practice?
    • Describe them and the cause.
  4. What’s the cost of withholding the agency and responsibility of others in your practice?
    • Ask others if you need to.
  5. What would you do in your practice if you could not fail?
    • This is about your ambition for your practice not your designs.
  6. What are you putting off out of fear?
    • Usually, what we most fear doing is what we most need to do.
  7. What are the outcomes or benefits of taking action to make changes?
    • In 3 months, 1 year and 5 years.
  8. What’s the cost of inaction?
    • In 3 months, 1 year and 5 years.
  9. Who will benefit from your success?
    • List everyone and in what ways.
  10. What will keep you going when things get hard?
    • Who can help? What’s the outcome that’ll continue to motivate and drive you?
  11. What might be the benefits of an attempt or partial success?
    • Is that enough to help you to start?
  12. What are you waiting for?
    • The only correct answer is: “Nothing, I’m on it.”

What to do with your answers

First. Go back and ensure you’ve answered ALL the questions as honestly and thoroughly as you can.

Have you done that?


OK, brilliant! I know that might’ve been hard.

I’ve got some more questions for you.

  • What are your key takeaways and learning from your answers?
    What do you now see differently about your practice?
  • Go back and read your answers to No.7 and No.8.
    Sit with them, really sit with them, especially No.8. What does it tell you?
  • What actions can you take to address your new insights?
  • What’s one thing can you do today to start?
  • Go do that now.

Keep going

So you might now recognise what’s holding you back, the challenges in your practice, and what change needs to happen.

And you might now understand what better looks like. Use it to motivate you to start and keep going.

Build in accountability.

Remember your answer to No.10. Hold it close and keep going.

The answer to No.9 might be useful when things are hard too.

You might also need help. Find it. I’m here to support you.

You got this

AI image created in Canva

Hi! I’m Michael

I’m an architect and coach, helping the professional culture of the architecture profession. I believe the best way to do this is support leadership development.

I’ve worked in architecture for almost 30 years, and ran my own practice for 14 years. I understand architectural practice from the inside out. Fun Fact: my NSW architect’s registration is #10 007 and I have a license to skill.

I help practices work on their leadership team and strategies. Supporting practices to become more open, fluid, and adaptable. Realising the collective energy, passion, and capabilities of their people.

Interested in hearing I can help? Let’s chat about the leadership development of you or your team.
Book a Call

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