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April 06, 2009
Harvard Business School
Padraic Kelly became Managing Director (MD) of the engineering services firm Buro Happold in 1996. One of his first initiatives was “Aim for Growth,” which was intended to help the firm grow beyond its current size where it was constrained by a structure of having each of the firm’s founding partners responsible for a group of 25-30 engineers. This initiative was very successful, but the firm then found itself with a lack of leadership skills at all levels of the organization to manage a company of a much larger size, growing by a factor of 10 over 10 years. In response, Buro Happold developed its first formal internal training programs under the name of “Archimedes Academy.” The first two programs were (1) the Job Leader Program, targeted for senior engineers and designed to help them be more effective in working with clients, and (2) the Project Leader Program, targeted for project leaders and designed to help them develop the “softer” management skills to complement their technical ones. A distinctive aspect of Archimedes Academy is that these first programs were developed and delivered by the cohors who first attended them. Rather than partner with a university to develop an accredited program, the firm decided it would be better off developing the program itself, with the help of an outside consultant who had done something similar at his previous employer, in order to make sure the programs were specific enough to Buro Happold’s needs and relevant to the firm’s culture. The first two programs were a big success and the firm expanded the training offerings under the Archimedes banner. The case ends with a client, a Middle Eastern city authority, asking Buro Happold Consulting, a new unit created by Padraic Kelly after stepping down as MD in 2006, to develop a training program for them. This request raises the question of whether this internal training capability should become the basis of an external service offering.
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