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

May 2015

Its all a game!

Acey Trey the Fourth***

Acey was last seen reporting to a brand new VP in the obscure “accredited university”. Some have claimed that the VP was placed as a plant by the board of trustees to keep eyes on the doings of the President. Who knows? Stranger things have happened.

A New Leaf

Anyhow, in the facilities realm, the first order of business for the VP was to fill the leadership opening that was left behind by the recent tumult. The job description for an Associate VP was written by a “consultant” who had ties to the new VP, the position was officially posted, and the search began.

Now Acey, thinking he was in the group of likely internal candidates, gave an application some thought. His conclusion: “I Like the capital side. This is more than that. I think I’ll pass.” It wasn’t too long after that Acey got a call from the “consultant”, saying that he was slated to start a newly created position at the university leading the capital program. He wanted to ask Acey some questions.

Feeling blindsided, Acey’s first call afterward was to his primary contact in the university’s HR office. “What’s this all about? The position this guy is talking about isn’t even posted. Had it been, I absolutely would have gone for it. What’s going on here?” The HR person was equally blindsided, and asked for time to investigate.

It didn’t take long to confirm the VP had made an executive decision without involving HR, and the deal was close to being closed. Acey asked once again “What should I do. That’s a job I wanted.” The HR person rationalized “If you do nothing, it will show that you have no ambition. I suggest you apply for the unposted position.” Acey complied - with vague uneasiness.

The Inevitable

While he waited during Christmas recess, Acey spoke to his friend, the former Associate VP, who was now enjoying his new stint at another highly regarded university. He said, “I’m not surprised. From the moment I met the consultant, it was obvious he was after the job. He’s too tight to the VP – let it go.”

Later, another university VP called Acey, with allusions to his application being considered. But, as Acey’s friend had predicted – the deal was done. At least Acey got a courtesy call from the VP about three hours before the official announcement.

Bad News

Walking TallHave you ever met a person so mean-spirited and duplicitous that it shakes your desire to believe there is some good to be found in all people? You might want to have met the new Associate VP. His inspirational artwork was a framed poster from the The Rock's remake of Walking Tall. He particularly liked the image of the big stick. The corporate bully had an enabler.

In his mind, many things were wrong, apparently including Acey’s business practices as part of the university’s way of doing things. Lord help anyone who chose to contradict the new guy’s preconceptions.

Behind closed doors, he would vent explosively about any number of issues and people. Outside the office, these people, policies and procedures would be “dealt with” with a bare smidgeon of professionalism. It wasn’t pretty. One woman coworker confided in Acey: “I don’t put on any mascara until I get to work; I’m crying too much on the drive in.”

About 6 months into the Associate VP’s tenure, yearly merit increases were doled out. While Acey’s salary was adjusted by something approximating CPI, the more interesting conversation came during the mandated “performance appraisal”.

“We have failed to achieve Vulcan mind meld.”

Yep – that’s an actual quote. Acey’s unease with the new order had apparently been noticed. He was advised. Get with the program, or get out of the way.

Acey felt cornered. He didn’t have the temperament to a) find a place to hide until the storm clears, or b) do what he’s told as a way of holding on to his job. Fortunately, there were some sympathetic ears in the HR offices.

Acey left – beaten, deflated, and angry, but with principles intact. He felt for former coworkers who would be subjected to continuing abuse. He felt for the university, which was being taken down an unproductive path. He wondered when wisdom would ever prevail. It took three years for the university to see the light. The Associate VP was then gone.

Good News

Acey was able to take some time off to recover. For the first time since high school, he was without a job for more than two weeks. Time for some therapy – manual labor. The unfinished attic needed work, and Acey’s wife had more than earned her home office. It took 6 months. When it was done, there was some sense of accomplishment, and some degree of wound healing.

Also, the work gave Acey time to think.


While largely self-taught at the school of hard knocks, Acey felt he knew how to make “things” work. He had participated in some successes as well as failures, and recent experiences had also offered great examples of what NOT to do when seeking to make change.

A construction firm asked him to participate in a training weekend for its senior managers. They wanted to hear from an “owner” what traits were valued, and how they could be sure they were remembered. His opinions and experience seemed to have impact. Acey learned from the contractors too, as he was allowed to attend their other work sessions.

He was asked by an architectural firm to help strategize an important project proposal, and ghostwrite significant elements of the submission.

The same architectural firm, particularly satisfied with the results of winning the project commission, wanted its organization and business practices reviewed. What deficiencies might be noted, and what might be done to improve things? Acey spent 2-1/2 months sitting in the actual center of the office, looking at many aspects of the firm. He read what had been documented, looked at work products, analyzed procedures, and interviewed many staff members and all partners. This was the sort of work he enjoyed.

After delivering his report, the firm’s response: “Now that you’ve told us what you think should be done, why don’t you join us to direct the effort?” It seemed that Acey was now sought after. In addition to the architectural firm, a specialty contractor and another university were advancing him for consideration as a new hire.

Another Chapter

In time, Acey turned down the contractor, while continuing conversations with the architectural firm and the university. Terms were finally agreed to with the architectural firm, but the university remained in play.

Want to know how this all worked out? Wait for Acey the Fifth.

Missed earlier newsletters? Find them here:

January 2015  “Nature or Nurture?”
August 2014  “Acey Trey Trey?”
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.