An Unanticipated PUSH by Fate

Business leaders and Organizational Consultants have contemplated impending CHANGE for years.   Change, based on unprecedented advances in Technology and Social Communication were visualized and brought to fruition through the perception of “…a new way of doing business”.   “Change”, to this point, had been at the forefront of most organizational thinking procedures …largely being dealt with on the basis of how it affected an otherwise normal work routine. 

The consequences of a Worldwide Health Epidemic have forced change in unprecedented ways …bringing about the immediate and total disruption of traditional and, in many cases, what were thought to be forward thinking organizational procedures.
By necessity and with extreme measures, employers, utilizing a hurried integration of IT support, have had to permit and expect full accountability of their employees to work outside the traditional work environment. (Many business organizations were embracing these procedures previous to the outbreak while others found it problematical at best).
Since the enactment of these, most necessary, practices and in most cases, employees have accepted full responsibility for their individual contributions to the organization with outstanding and positive consequences!   Individuals who never contemplated work away from their assigned workplace, are finding a new “Middle Ground” between Work & Life.   They have come to the realization that accountability to their individual responsibilities is no longer a factor from 8 to 5 but exist 24/7.   Personal Life and its obligations can, and do, blend with Work obligations on a daily basis.
As a result, the element of expected trust if individuals, working on their own to the common good, is coming to fruition.   Organizational leaders are rapidly discovering that individual productivity, based on timely input of responsible and accurate information to the organization, is much stronger authority than any mandate by management.  And, that the natural “animacy” of these new business processes may tend to occur in a more accurate and timely manner than past expectations.

As this, most disruptive health occurrence winds down, it will be vital that business leaders NOT return to business-as-usual without first observing how this unparalleled experience has affected their perception of how they do business and the intimacy of their own business organization.   They must thoughtfully and thoroughly understand that every aspect of business, their own, their clients and their competitors, has forever changed …bringing with it new challenges and vast opportunities in a positive and forward looking future.      

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At the Confluence of Information and Knowledge is PLACE

Today’s socially complex organization relies on a Tacit Knowledge Base that must be nurtured to its full extent and sustained with a Planned Methodology that will lead to unmitigated success in meeting business goals.   The implicit physical setting in which this, all-important, activity takes place is critical to the very essence of business acumen.
The Planning and Execution of an appropriate Work Arena cannot be left to chance for it is a KEY element to a High Performance Business Strategy!

Employee Engagement is the fundamental engine that drives creative thinking and problem solving.    Any dynamic organizational culture will demand a physical environment that provides the necessary tools (including Space, Technology and appropriate Furniture Settings) to accomplish goals in an effective and timely manner.

A thorough and candid understanding of the organization and its culture must be the center-point of planning the appropriate employee experience.

Do your people and their interactive counterparts, from outside the organization, have the appropriate tools to do their jobs?
Does their work environment support collaborative activities as well as other aspects of employees’ jobs? …can they concentrate as necessary? …can they easily share ideas?
What number and combination of spaces will best support the variety and proportion of the work-modes identified?
Is the message your environment sends consistent with the rest of the organization’s needs?
Does the Space Allocation and Management Strategy position the organization for inevitable change?

Every organization is unique.   Thus, individual cultural criteria cannot be based on assumptions or solutions of other, like, business entities.   Business Leaders, working with a qualified Planning Team, must take the crucial time to create an intimate Foundation of Knowledge regarding their specific organization.

Promoting the strengths of your workforce culture through a complimentary physical work environment will be a critical factor to the realization of business factors.

It’s just Smart Business..! 

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Anticipating Inevitable Change is Key to sustaining a productive work environment.

Was your new workspace designed for an organizational culture that has since, clashed with your true work culture?

Mismatched solutions are highly disruptive to employees as well as disappointing to leadership who want to believe that they are initiating dramatic and positive change.    Due to the rapid transformation of work processes and ever-changing  technology, this divergence from the original criteria is to be expected.   Truly Innovative Planning & Design must be specific to the requirements of each individual business culture and its impending potential for change.   A Purposely Planned work environment, relative to the needs of its occupants, must be based on intimately developed criteria specific to that organization and NOT merely assumptions of need based on like organizations.   Critical consideration of early criteria must respect the understanding that inevitable change is persistent.   Most importantly, the overall solution must include a program that will continue to Visualize and address future requirements.   The constant oversight and inclusion of a diverse work assemblage of Space, Work Tools & People, is critical to the on-going success of any organization.   This fundamental responsibility often falls on Facilities Managers and/or Human Resources Professionals who must be prepared as “Change Agents”, to advocate for new processes and procedures and continually educate their constituency to these factors of change.
As an On-Going Process, the Leadership Team must continue to openly share their business objectives with these, all important, Change Agents.   They, in turn, will make their associates aware as to WHY the change has occurred and HOW changes in their work environment are to be utilized to the highest benefit.   Idealistically, these solutions must remain malleable in their ability to transform space and processes to the immediate needs of the occupants.   Whether there are six or six hundred occupants in a given work area, finding the “perfect” work atmosphere for each inhabitant is unlikely.   However, the highest degree of satisfaction by the majority of the employees will come from a work environment that continues to be carefully programmed and planned to the specific requirements of the entire organization and offers an element of CHOICE regarding various work settings most appropriate for immediate needs by all.
Constant and Candid Communication, throughout the organization, is critical to the on-going success of reaching business goals in an effective and timely manner.
…It’s just Smart Business!


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Who is Sustaining Your Workplace Culture?

A cohesive working atmosphere cannot be left to chance!

The innovative physical “Work Arena” is rapidly becoming commonplace as a positive resource for today’s business operation.   Today’s business entities are made up of individuals representing a diverse generational employee pool of empowered, self-managed workers who expect more personal autonomy and a leadership that respects their obligation to an overlap of work, social and personal time.   Likewise, as intellectual contributors to their organization, these employees require a program/process of continuous learning that is fluid and compatible with their multifaceted work style.   Also, a percentage of these workers may even be in a tacit position with the organization but may, as contributors, expect some of these same benefits as the openly, full-time associates.   As a result, many business establishments are moving into imaginative physical workspaces that have been carefully planned and designed for the specific needs of their occupiers.   By their very design, they are metamorphic in nature and must be continually managed as such.
The Interactive Social Element is a significant feature of the new organization and must be recognized and orchestrated with sustained diligence.   With such vast diversity among today’s associates, the processes and procedures necessary to support them are extensive and require an on-going commitment.   A relatively new accountability of nurturing this Social (Cultural) Change is at the center of these innovational practices and the task often falls directly on Facilities Managers and/or HR Professionals.    Acting as advocates for all associates, these individuals have become the conduit between employee initiatives and leadership goals and they own the responsibility to create the desired culture of Cross-Disciplinary awareness and the Social Circumstances that lead to a Unified Workforce.
It is critical to the success of the mission that these individuals, and/or teams, have the necessary training and tools to accomplish this, most important, task.   The responsibility of maintaining a socially cohesive working atmosphere is crucial to the success of the business entity and cannot be left to chance!
The continued facilitation of the social elements that have been put in place by these individuals, must be strongly and openly supported by leadership.
…It’s just Smart Business!


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Is Physical Space really the Foundation of Organizational Culture?

Or, will collective Social Culture survive despite its physical surroundings?

Today’s business acumen is largely dependent on a highly interactive culture that can respond to change when or even before it occurs!    Thus, we all know the importance of Employee Engagement within today’s organizational environment.
I used to ask clients the question, “How many ‘hall-meetings’ do you have?”   A vast majority of them answered positively that a great number of their meetings were indeed, in the hallway and occurred as spur-of-the-moment interactions.
Perhaps the biggest incidence of social interaction within the organization was when individuals realized that their most credible and timely information was indeed, gained in the hallway!    Here, they quite literally picked up the pulse of the organization and ran with it (Talk about Engagement!).   It was no longer suitable to sit in your cubicle, in relative obscurity, relying on memos and input from your manager for guidance.    Even before open space was purposely planned, individuals would often seek out communicative areas in order to obtain that all important peripheral knowledge relative to their specific goals.   Therefore, business leaders began to embrace the significance of those hall encounters and, working with designers and space planners, they created areas within the physical workspace that would intuitively bring various disciplines together in order to broaden thought and promote a more holistic communication process throughout the organization.
Any dynamic organizational culture demands a physical environment that provides the necessary tools (including Space, Technology & Furnishings) to accomplish goals in an effective and timely manner.   Likewise, all occupants must have the autonomy to freely move from one work setting to another in order to efficiently accommodate their immediate needs.

Thus, the two entities must go hand-in-hand.   An effective Organizational Culture must be sustained by a well planned Physical Workplace and likewise, that Physical Work Environment will be ineffective if it is not tempered with a Culture of vibrant individuals who are consistently supported and edified to the value of their contributions towards organizational objectives.            …It’s just Smart Business!


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Exploiting that Flash of Innovation..!

Innovative thoughts are pervasive and can come and go in an instant.   When that idea occurs, are you and your organization prepared?

Innovation is NOT a tangible product that comes out of the end of an assembly line.   According to the dictionary, Innovation is “An Act or Process of inventing or introducing something NEW and, usually starts with an idea”.   That  thought, along with the appropriate action steps to bring it to fruition, will often lead to products and services that exceed organizational goals!
The process of innovation is not new.   Business leaders have historically relied on innovative and creative thought to stay ahead of emerging trends.   At that time, innovation was perceived as a specialty to marketing and business analytics.   Organizational leaders would often sit aside a few hours or a weekend to purposely strategize the future and try to come up with ways to modify and energize existing organizational goals.   This process, that was done once or twice a year, has now become a Continual Procedure to be carried on throughout the organization and expected to influence every business action in a timely and productive manner.
The acknowledgement and movement to continuous innovation should be patterned by ALL employees as engaged participants, and is critical to the continued success of any business venture.
Louis Pasteur, the noted French chemist once said, “Chance only favors the prepared mind”.   In today’s environment,  perhaps we should paraphrase Pasteur’s  comment to be plural…  prepared minds!
Organizations can no longer make decisions regarding their future based on historical data.   They too, like scientist, working as individuals and in groups, must continually look at the current available data to determine their path to organizational goals.   Innovational thought favors a work environment that allows continual progression from creative thought to tangible action and outcomes!

Today’s planned environment should be conducive to the uninterrupted interactive and collaborative movements of its occupants.   As a result, the path from Innovation to Fruition will be greatly enhanced  …furthering the timely accomplishment of business objectives.

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Yet another aspect of Cultural Change

A new set of values and beliefs among potential employees has created a new, emerging business culture.

Behavioral change is occurring within the organized workplace that is far beyond the control of its leadership!   This transformation of the basic human condition is innate in today’s society and is greatly affecting the “Culture” of every business organization.
For perhaps the first time  in history, leadership is not in a position to totally stipulate the overall work arrangement and work processes of their employees.   They must work WITH their associates  …sharing the goals of the organization and, together, creating a path to fulfillment.
Business leaders must thoroughly understand the social atmosphere of their organization.   Good or Bad, the existing social culture of an organization is very hard to change.   However, through the planned physical manipulation of People, Work-Tools (including furniture) and the Workspace, a highly effective work environment can be realized.
Promoting the strengths of your workforce culture through a planned physical work environment is a critical element to business success.


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Do you miss your cubical? …Really?

Do you remember sixty-inch high panels on three sides of you?   With lots of storage and, at least, two drawer pedestals, overhead bins and your own file cabinet?   All of your personal stuff was laid out on your work surface sharing space with your own Personal Computer, Monitor & Keyboard  …located near your personal telephone?   Did you even have your own guest chair?   …Sound familiar?

You did your job in relative obscurity relying on memos and input from your manager for guidance.   But where did you get your real information?   How many “Hall-Meetings” did you have throughout the day?   It wasn’t long before those hall-meetings became the mainstay of your productivity.   That’s where your most valuable information came from!   Somewhat serendipitious at first, the information was timely and impactful to your organizational responsibilities.   Before long, these meetings became less impromptu as the value of this knowledge became apparent.   Wisely, your management team began to embrace the significance of those hall meetings and created areas within the existing physical workplace that would bring various disciplines together in order to broaden thought and promote a more holistic communication process throughout the organization. 

The idea of a physical workplace that promotes collaborative and interactive work activity is not new.   The original philosophies of “Office Landscape” planning originated in Germany with the QuickBorner Team in the mid to late 50’s.   Largely misunderstood by business executives and space planners alike, the open office concept was often perceived as a way to get more people into less space with little regard as to what those people did or how they did it.

It has taken several decades for business leaders to realize and understand that the true economic value of physical space planning is not merely reducing the real estate footprint but in the streamlining of human interaction and communication!

Utilizing a well planned physical facility that intuitively supports the needs of today’s complex work processes is a critical factor for organizational success!
…It’s just Good Business.

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Where is Your “Workplace”? The Attraction & Retention of talented employees relies largely on individual CHOICE!

It is largely understood that in most work cultures, the vast majority of work is the responsibility of individuals and small teams assigned to specific tasks.  In many cases, it may not matter where the work is done as long as the individuals (and groups) meet the fulfillment of their goals in a responsible and timely manner.
Jason Fried tells us that we have traded the eight-hour work day for twenty-four hours of “Work Moments“.    Most of us would agree that, when those invaluable moments occur, it is essential that we are in a work environment that is relevant to our immediate need.    No matter where or how individual work occurs, the fact is that its effective and timely accomplishment is critical to personal objectives as well as those of the organization.    Therefore, the personal choice of easily available and appropriate workspace, wherever it might be, is often up to the individual.
In most cases, business leadership would prefer that the majority of those workplace offerings be located within the physical confines of the greater organization.   Beyond the day-to-day work activity, there is always the potential that unplanned and somewhat serendipitous activities within the workplace might lead to constructive interaction and innovation.
Whether business leaders are striving for Innovation, Interaction and Collaboration or, just getting the job done, the fact is that the course of actions necessary to get work accomplished has rapidly become the individual choice of those who own the task and is often entwined with other duties, both personal and professional.
Alternative workplace may be located in the home or in a public offering (Library, Coffee House or an organized Community Work Campus) it is, however, critical that it is conveniently located and contains the appropriate tools (including furniture and space) that support a variety of work needs.    This makes the attraction to an appropriate work environment, by employees, a critical factor in the accomplishment of overall business goals.   Therefore, decisions concerning Work Processes and the Physical Spaces in which they take place must be a high priority with business leaders.
Providing and Maintaining a dynamic work environment, that continually supports its users with appropriate tools and a variety of work settings, will be essential in creating a First Choice  destination for associates in this highly competitive job market.

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“Space is an organization’s second most valuable resource, yet little attention is paid to how it supports the new ways of working or the high-performance business strategies driving corporations today”. 1995, Workplace by Design, Franklin Becker and Fritz Steele

In the twenty years since Becker and Steele published their enlighting book regarding the importance of the planned work environment, many business leaders are still overlooking the value of the organizational workplace.   Many leaders still see the workplace as merely conditioned space in which their employees work and, as such, write it off as a cost of doing business with little or no regard to the effectiveness it can bring to organizational output.   We have spent the last twenty years (and more) prophesying about the “Office of the Future” and its capabilities of supporting new ways of work.     THE FUTURE IS NOW!    We can no longer rationalize today’s organizational space as adequate enough until the future arrives.
In 1995, Becker and Steele asked business leaders and space planners to “take the trouble to do a thorough up-front analysis” towards an effective planning process   …Asking for an “organizational ecology approach”.   That advice has never been more pertinent than it is today! 
    Ecological (Human Centered) methodology should be a priority in space planning today and should largely be driven by organizational leadership!   An appropriate workplace, based on diverse employee need, is more critical to a successful business than ever before.    And yet, many of today’s workplace “solutions” are still based on assumptions of past need and, as a result, are detrimental to interaction and collaboration thus stifling the fulfillment of organizational goals.
It is no longer about organizational real estate as such.   It’s about People, the Individuals, the Workforce that occupy that space and that environment’s capacity to effectively support work activity.
Over these many years, the semantics have changed but the message remains consistent.   Whether you call it an “Open Plan”, an “Organizational Ecosystem”, or an environment of “Biotic Diversity”, the fact remains…
The effective and timely completion of the business objectives of today’s organization are directly related to the physical space in which that work takes place!    This is no longer merely a theory of design practitioners but a fact of smart business criteria.   The last two decades have only intensified the necessity of physical spaces that support incomprehensible advances in technology and social diversity within (and outside) the work environment.

Smart business leaders must take the lead in regards to planning an effective work environment for their organization.   Having a thorough knowledge of their existing culture (or what it should be) and working in collaboration with organizational space planners, they will truly generate a positive Workplace by Design. 

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