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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I’m curious …Did anyone that attend Business School in the last forty years receive any education regarding the value of Planned Space to employee productivity?
In 1958, Peter F. Drucker proclaimed that, “The primary resource in the post-capitalist society will be knowledge and the leading social groups will be ‘Knowledge Workers'”. In 1968, Robert Propst stated that, “The office, as we have come to know it, is an adolescent statement starved for appropriate definition and somewhat oblivious to the forces of change”. In 1996, Michael Hammer declared, “These new (work) processes often call for empowered, frontline individuals who should be provided with information and expected to make their own decisions” …further stating that business leaders should “adapt their companies to new ways of working“.
With the exception of some incomprehensible advances in technology, the overall message in these statements, over the last sixty (yes, 60!) years is still quite relevant today. An yet, many organizational leaders still perceive the physical work environment as merely an enclosed, conditioned space where their employees “work”!
Today, there are enormous amounts of valuable information substantiating the need for appropriate workspace for this, not-so-new, way of work. Planned Space that supports today’s interactive work processes, while providing semi-private areas for more concentrative work, is a must in business acumen.
A physical workplace that defines work is not a short-lived trend but a critical asset to business success!
Business leaders are being inundated with reasons to create a more competitive, interactive, work facility for their organizations. And, yes, there is a lot of merit to the value of a workplace planned for the new work initiatives. With that said, much of the push for innovative space seems to be from an “all-or-nothing” perspective which does not need to be the case!
Many going concerns are doing just fine in today’s business environment with a much more traditional business model in place. As a result, their leadership is reluctant to fix something that is far from broken. They do however, see significance in creating area(s) within their organizational space that promote the valuable, interactive, space that can lead to innovative thought within their ranks.
The most logical location to incorporate this type of “communicative” space, within the existing work environment, is in a place where most of the employees naturally cross paths throughout the day. The obvious areas of consideration would be lunch rooms, break areas, copy/support areas and , the often underutilized, entry foyer. Any of these areas could be targeted and repurposed as a virtual oasis of highly interactive, collaborative, thus Innovative Space!
This physical environment, promoting somewhat serendipitous, cross disciplinary, interaction, will greatly accelerate new thought within the overall organization without disrupting the more traditional work modes. However, leadership cannot rely on a “if you build it, they will come” mentality! Employees must be informed of the physical changes within the new environment and be thoroughly educated as to how the space is to be utilized to its potential.
The addition of this new, more open and inviting, location within the existing facility will greatly compliment the more traditional workplace …allowing all employees a greater choice from which to bring their goals to fruition.
I recently attended a presentation given by Kirk A. Young, President of Job Match Assessment, an Overland Park based consulting firm that serves organizations by quite literally, matching available jobs with high performing individuals specifically suited for the job.
Kirk spoke of the recent challenges of “Engaging and Motivating Millennials”. He explained that, even today, many workers new to the workforce come in like other generations have. “…anything is possible but the costs and the paths are not clear”.
Today’s business leaders, and particularly HR Professionals, have an entirely new set of values to match when working with the millennial generation. Leadership must know and understand the unique needs of millennials well. Millennials live in a highly connected society so leadership must make it a point to connect with them. And, they, in-turn, must be allowed to be interconnected with their leadership. In order to be fully effective, millennials must be “continually informed” of the goals of the organization. They must be provided the skills and the tools to do their work in a “Self-Managed” and “Self-Directed” environment.
Today, motivated employees are working to maintain and grow their personal vision of themselves. As a result, their success is achieved by reaching their personal goals as they relate to the fulfillment of their organization’s goals.
As suggested by Kirk, HR Professionals can utilize on-line tools to support their efforts in engaging and motivating millennial employees. For further information, please visit Kirk’s website at JobMatchAssessment.com.
Certainly, as change relates to organizational culture, in many cases, excessive management merely gets in the way!
True cultural change must be promoted through a forward thinking Leadership Team pointing the direction of business goals …allowing their respective associates, as individuals and in groups, the autonomy to reach their objectives.