These randomly scheduled missives will opine on a variety of topics, mostly intended to be germane to design, construction, capital program management, and other related issues.

For shorter trips through the countryside, take a look at our blog, also called Notes from the Road.
Notes from the Road

August 2014

Its all a game!

Acey Trey Trey?**

New York

When we last chronicled the exploits of our favorite intrepid Architect Acey Trey, he was toiling away at his job in New York.  A few months into the new one-year contract, he was approached by a headhunter working for what John Hodgman has described as “an accredited university”.

They were looking for a person to direct their in-house facilities design group.  “No thanks.” said Acey, ”But, I think I know just the person for you.”  They hired that person.  A couple months later, his friend calls.  “OK, you didn’t want my job – how about managing capital projects?  What do you think of that?”  “Now, I’m Interested.”, said Acey.

After a seeming endless series of interviews, Acey was hired.  The effect this might have on his dating relationship was unclear – but this is the story of the man’s professional journey.


Every process and system in the university division needed work.  Design management, financial management, budget setting, job descriptions, personnel polices – even replacement of tired desk chairs.

Acey’s boss, now somewhat of a mentor, said “The reason I wanted an Architect is because I can train you how to be an Owner’s Rep.  I can’t take the time to train you with an understanding of the design and construction process.”  What he didn’t reveal, however, was how internecine the politics of university employment can be.  It seemed Acey's mentor was walking around with an invisible target on his back – easy to happen when you spend millions of dollars. Barely three years into the job, Acey's boss got “reorganized” out. The new guy lasted about two more years before he too was shown the door. A year later, the acting Associate VP was relieved; and Acey was introduced to the newest hire for Chief Facilities Officer.

As part of the “get to know one another” retreat, Acey was told  “You’ve had this job for five years now.  That’s more than anyone has a right to expect.”  Acey couldn’t tell if this was praise or warning.

Above facilities, there was also turmoil. An array of Presidents, Vice Presidents, and interventionist board members each had their personal take on how things should be managed. “Reading tea leaves” became a worthwhile skill – too bad Acey was a coffee drinker. Eventually Finance & Administration resolved itself with some apparent stability. Problem was the new VP had an opinion: “No Architect could be qualified to run the Capital Program, that person needs to come out of the hard-nosed world of Construction”.

Fortunately for Acey, the new Associate VP became an ally.  Between the two of them, they held things together.

Even Further Elsewhere?

Now about 10 years into the job, Acey was weary of the turmoil.  A few prospects to move had come and gone, when he was approached to lead Capital Project management for part of the portfolio of a large western state university system.  Eventually, he accepted the offer, and the deal was closed.

Then, came the task of giving notice to the supportive boss.  That did not go as expected.  “Acey, what’s wrong.  How can we fix this?”  “I’m not here to negotiate, the new job is waiting for me.”  ”Seriously,” came the response, ”I would like to hear.”

Acey relented, and described his frustrations. The final one being the “No Architect” comment. His boss replied, “I still want to fix this.” Acey caved. “If I am not going to show up for the job I accepted, I want to tell them right away. Can we close this conversation in two days?”


Two days later, Acey listened as the boss outlined some changes – all good. Acey, now waffling, responded with one more condition. “If I am going to accept this, and walk away from a new job, I need to know that the VP actually wants me here. You have to assure me that you’ve cleared it with him.” “Fair enough, I need a day.”

With assurance that the VP really did want him to stay, Acey called the westerners. “Now there’s a burned bridge”, he thought, as he listened to the reaction.

Back to Elsewhere

A week later, Acey received an email from the university president announcing the resignation of the VP for Finance & Administration. He had accepted the VP position at a large western state university system – the very same system that Acey had been hired by, only to renege on the offer. Turns out that Acey and the VP were on parallel tracks. The coincidence never would have been uncovered had it not been for the intervention of Acey’s boss, and the providence of Acey insisting that the deal to stay be cleared. Acey never found out if the VP wanted him to stay where he was, or if he just didn’t want him in his new home.

Interestingly, Acey and the VP have stayed in touch over the years, with a solid professional friendship having developed.  Go figure.

Back at the shop, with the departure of the VP, instability returned.  Acey’s boss was made interim VP, as a search was mounted.  The new guy ended up being a bust, and Acey’s boss developed his own frustrations – only to leave himself.

With yet another VP in place, the opening of the Chief Facilities Officer now had to be filled.  How would this affect the erstwhile Acey Trey?

The subject of a future installment.

Good news sidelight – Acey married the wonderful girlfriend from New York.

Missed earlier newsletters? Find them here:

June 2014  “The Seven Deadly Sins”
March 2014  “Thar She Blows!”
November 2013  “Giving Thanks”
September 2013  “Back to School?”
June 2013  “What Time is It?”
March 2013  “Acey Deucey?”
January 2013  “A Swamp Full of Alligators”
October 2012  “Plan to Live Forever, Part Deux”
July 2012  “A Midsummer Dream”
May 2012  “Are you Virtually Working?”
March 2012  “Your Huddled Masses”
January 2012  “Observing Observations”
October 2011  “I Want What I Want”
August 2011  “A Beach Read”
May 2011  “NeoLuddite or Technophile?”
March 2011  “Do Your Silos Leak?”
January 2011  “Plan to Live Forever!”
November 2010  “May I Have A Plan, Master?”
September 2010  “How do we choose?”
July 2010  “Good People Behaving Badly”
May 2010  “LEED: LEADing or Dead Weight?”
March 2010  “Why does it cost so much?”
January 2010 “Design/Builders show us your softer side.”
November 2009 “What the Facilities?”
September 2009 “Why Do Architects Make Good Owner’s Reps?”

© 2005 - 2018 No Left Turn, LLC All rights reserved.