Saturday, February 23, 2008


Harvard Business School features Massar!

Well, I can't believe I haven't mentioned this before now, given the amount of time it involves, but Massar is going to be featured as a case study in the Harvard Business School MBA programme in April this year. HBS got involved in Massar by starting a case study on Martha Schwartz, who are doing the landscape work for us, and then found Massar so interesting that they added a module on the project. This is very stimulating, and for many people acts as a powerful endorsement of what we're doing and how we're going about it. Mrs Assad has done some pieces to camera putting the project in context, Dina and I have been interviewed, HBS have shot a lot of footage in Syria, and we are all (sans Mrs A, sadly) making plans for a visit to Boston.

At the same time, interest from the architectural press is picking up. The building has emerged from Stage D not only very striking aesthetically but interesingly also setting some quality benchmarks for other major projects in Syria. In a presentation to the Governor recently, he mentioned that he had sent back another (French) architectural practice to do more work on their building scheme, because it was not up to the quality of our discovery centre.

It's also a very strong piece of engineering. There was a small earthquake recently in Syria, and so we were able to reassure the Governor that the three cores of the building plus the linking floor plates made the discovery centre design immensely stable but flexible in the event of an earthquake.



Finding the right people

I sent in a reply to a question posted on a business network site recently about looking for the best qualified staff to recruit. My point was that qualifications are only half the story, and that the best PhD or MBA or whatever is worthless if the person is going to alienate colleagues, represent the project badly, traduce common working values, in other words fail to fit in. It's possible to build technical skills, but all but impossible to ask someone to change their basic nature or personality. So, I said, I hire on character - assuming that there is a basic level of technical competence in all candidates. The benefits are in the far lower need for maintenance within the team, and a capacity to focus on the task, not on resolving personality clashes. And of course everyone brings a distinct team role as well; irrespective of qualifications I can't have a team full of Completer Finishers, but need a balance of capabilities to get the work done. Whenever I have broken this habit, I've regretted it.

So I was a bit taken aback to find the questioner climbing onto the moral high ground and taking to task those like me who said they ever hire anybody except the best qualified candidate. This to him was just subjective and unprofessional - and weak. I think he's wildly wrong.

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