How do they do it? David Lock Associates’ Joanne Cave

Written by: Adam Branson
Published on: 30 Apr 2014


As a partner and director at consultancy David Lock Associates, Joanne Cave co-ordinates multi-disciplinary master planning teams working on mixed-use regeneration projects and large-scale urban expansion schemes.  Her work includes the preparation of development briefs and design guidance.

Q: What are your objectives in your current role and how are you measured against them?

A: I have responsibilities in terms of our project workload, but also in terms of driving the company forward in management terms. So it’s partly about consultancy and partly business management. The partners as a group manage the business together. The company has a strategy for the next few years and that is multi-faceted. So, it’s to do with our turnover, but also qualitative things such as staff development and our prominence in the marketplace. Our targets are expressed through that strategy and it’s the responsibility of the partners to drive the company forwards within that framework. We take collective responsibility for meeting those targets.

Q: What key lessons have you learned during your career that help you to fulfil those objectives?

A: You’ve got to be an optimist in this game. I’m often surprised at how long it takes to get proposals together and to get planning permission for a development. That is often characterized by setbacks or changes of direction. You have to deal with those things and keep moving forward. An optimistic view of the outcome is essential.

You can never stop learning. There’s always something new to learn, no matter how far into your career that you are. I think that it’s part of the job satisfaction of being a planner. There’s always the changing policy context, but also our clients bring us really interesting challenges that force us to think about things in different ways. We have a reputation for identifying opportunities and coming at problems from a slightly unconventional direction. It’s always a challenge and you learn something new on every project.

The planning profession is about teamwork. Team working always produces the best results and I think that we have to play to people’s strengths. We’ve got a broad skills base in the office and every project team is put together specifically for that project, so we have to look at who has the right skills for a particular challenge. At the end of a project we often look back at who in the organization has contributed to it and often it is an amazing long list.

Nurturing your staff is good for business. We try to treat people well and give them interesting work to do. We give people challenging work and through that they become valuable and loyal employees. I’ve been here for 17 years. I came to David Lock Associates in my 20s after doing my masters. Like I said, the company treats people well and as a result we have a very low staff turnover. That’s good for us but it also provides stability to clients.