SmithGroupJJR Announces New Corporate Leadership Team

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For nation’s oldest architecture-engineering firm, internal succession process started in 2009

(from left to right) Michael Medici, Russell Sykes and Troy Thompson

(from left to right) Michael Medici, Russell Sykes and Troy Thompson

Our goal is to be an industry model for the succession of a partner-owned firm.

Michael L. Medici, AIA, Russell P. Sykes, PE and Troy D. Thompson, AIA will assume managing partner roles for SmithGroupJJR effective May 18, 2015 upon their election by the Board of Directors.

The three promotions represent an internal succession process started six years ago, and marks the continued evolution of the culture and organization of the oldest architecture-engineering firm in the U.S. In their newly defined roles, they will succeed current President & CEO Carl D. Roehling, FAIA and Chief Operating Officer Randal E. Swiech, PE. Roehling and Swiech will continue to practice with the firm and remain on its Board of Directors. David R. H. King, FAIA, current Chairperson, remains in his role.

Managing Partners
Medici, president and managing partner, will lead SmithGroupJJR’s eight practices and firm-wide marketing functions. He will oversee the strategic growth of the practices, each of which is centered on key client markets. He is currently the Corporate Learning Practice leader and previously served as the director of the firm’s Phoenix and Dallas offices. Chris Purdy, AIA will assume the leadership of the Learning Practice firm-wide.

Sykes, managing partner, will lead the 10 offices of the firm with a focus on improving the quality and efficiency of the firm’s project delivery processes. He was instrumental in championing the development of the Shanghai office in 2013 and will continue to shepherd the firm’s China expansion. His current role as the Science & Technology studio leader in the Detroit office will be filled by Nick Salowich, AIA.

Thompson, managing partner, will lead the firm’s initiatives in talent development, research, knowledge management, and innovative planning/design tools and processes. An historic preservation specialist by practice, Thompson is also the director of operations for the Washington, DC office and will be succeeded by Steven Cohen, AIA.

Succession Process
The three new positions are the result of a succession process that started in 2009. With the realization that much of the current firm leadership was in the same “boomer” generation, there was a desire to manage the retention of senior talent while providing leadership opportunities for future generations. Two new policies were adopted: one was an equity transition policy requiring buy-down starting at age 63, and the other encouraged senior principals to continue to practice with the firm after leaving leadership positions. To identify potential successors for every key role and to manage the development of these potential leaders, a “depth chart” of talent was developed. Firm leaders agreed that the corporate officer succession process must be seamless, retain valuable expertise in the firm and provide new opportunities for up-and-coming leaders.

“Our goal is to be an industry model for the succession of a partner-owned firm. Our 180 partners are the strength of the firm and our financial autonomy is key to attracting and retaining the best talent,” commented Roehling, outgoing president.

In 2013, Roehling, president, and Swiech, chief operating officer, announced their concurrent plans to transition back into practice in mid-2015. A succession committee of the Board of Directors was formed to determine the leadership needs required to advance the firm. The Committee recommended that three co-leaders would provide greater capacity for change, nimbleness and innovation. It then began the process of identifying internal candidates who might have the skillsets required by the new structure. All of the candidates were members of the Committee and helped to develop the new leadership approach.

King reiterated, “We have been the beneficiary of adding outside talent to our team, but what is most notable is that we had the depth of talent to make this transition possible from within the firm. This ensures the continuity that our clients and staff expect and require.”

A separate nominating committee, which included the two outgoing officers, was convened to select the slate of candidates for approval by the Board. The three finalists were endorsed and charged with detailing their new responsibilities within the current organization.

“Our first task as firm leaders was to design our new roles. We think they both reflect the evolution of our culture and position us for the next 10 years of success,” stated Medici.

In September 2014, the new team started a formal “shadowing” process of the current leaders. They have embarked on a long range planning process that will align firm leadership and address key issues of design excellence, women in leadership and practice innovation. Each will continue to reside in their current office locations.

Roehling and Swiech will continue their current project leadership roles and will expand their involvement in programming and strategic planning. Both support clients in multiple practice areas.

SmithGroupJJR ( is a recognized integrated architecture, engineering and planning firm ranked in the Top 10 in the U.S. with offices in Ann Arbor, Chicago, Dallas, Detroit, Los Angeles, Madison, Phoenix, San Francisco and Washington, DC, joined by its new office in Shanghai, China. The firm is organized into eight client industry-focused practices. They are Health, Workplace, Learning, Science & Technology, Cultural, Campus, Waterfront and Urban Design. With a staff of 900, SmithGroupJJR is a national leader in sustainable design.

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Sandra Knight, APR
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