It’s not about us…it’s about them

We design great spaces….for people. Design without end-user input is easy but will it create a space that people actively want to use?

Visioning sessions reveal desires. After a few years of leading them you can predict the requests, the wish list items are achievable. But what about when the request is viable but is disruptive to the status quo?

It’s very easy to say no and to simply repeat what has been done before. It’s less work. A cookie-cutter model is a quicker, simpler project to deliver. We don’t have to figure out a solution or negotiate with other people’s work streams or agendas. road-less-traveled

The get out clause of  “It’s not standard” can be translated as “It’s nothing to do with me, Guv’nor, I am just the delivery agent, I don’t make the decisions.”  The risk here is that this gives a message that the decision has already been made; it fosters the question ‘why bothering consulting with people?’

Or we could say ‘yes’, or at the least “We’ll consider it”. So when end users ask for low hanging fruit such as….:

  • To be part of the furniture selection process for their office
  • A choice of designs for spaces they are going to work in
  • To have a vote on colours they will be surrounded by
  • To influence the graphics/artwork choices they will have to live with…

….we can start talking to the team and figure out what the right answer is.

We can say “No”. We can say “That’s not how we do things.” or “We only give you X choice.” Or we can work out how to say “Yes” and be able to deliver a responsive workplace that people feel is theirs.

Workplace design isn’t about us, it’s about them. Let’s take the risk and make it happen.

 

 

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Regarding Headcount…

This article shares why identifying headcount is not as straightforward as it seems and how a good workplace strategy requires repeated investigation.

Headcount forecasts require approval before they can be considered viable, however formal headcount requests can be refused. Often, the realities of headcount do not reflect the official line. So when is headcount, not headcount?

1. Contractors, InternsStealth growth

These can be overlooked (or excluded) in headcount forecasting as they can be linked to projected CapEx projects or have approved OpEx budgets re-calibrated during the year to create headcount not considered in, or possibly struck from, the annual round up.

2. Remote Staff

Usually included in headcount, though excluded from real estate calculations. Why provide additional SqM for staff that are never in, right? Not if they need to/chose to come into the office on a frequent basis. Even remote staff need human contact some times.

3. When approval for 1x headcount in Country A might be switched to 2x headcount in Country B. Or not. They are not quite sure.

Fortunately I have found this to have minimal impact. If necessary, your strategy should allow for flexibility in this area.

4. Project Duration

When projects can span 18 months or more, you need to re-visit headcount, preferably every six months to ensure the strategy and project remains fit for purpose. It is easy to draw a line under the headcount at the start of the project and then move in to a space operating at or near capacity. This is not strategic. It does require a project process to be flexible, responsive and open to change.

All this impacts your workplace strategy. If you follow the Finance approved headcount without question, the headcount is likely to be incorrect. The outcome of this assumption is  that the space you create will reach its peak sooner than your strategy intended, with associated knock-on to cost, effectiveness, wellbeing and business impact.

 

The Framework of Influence

How to create a ‘Framework of Influence’ to manage engagement effectively.

At the heart of every project is a Scope. It defines the project in terms of what needs to be achieved and the work that needs to be completed to deliver said project.  That’s the easy bit.

It’s easy because ‘relocate A <business entity> to B <SqFt> space by C <date> to meet D <growth forecast> using E <desk sharing %>’ doesn’t tell you everything required to be included within the Design Management workstreams. For that you need to start asking questions about how people use the space, how they should use the space, how the business leaders want to lead business change in their staff. These kind of topics define a good amount of how the space will be designed.

This is where, if you are not careful, that you will end up unwittingly setting expectations and a brief that far outstrips the scope. This is avoidable.

  1. Know your audience. It is cynical though it is useful to assume they know little about project processes and will ask for the moon.
  2. Always go into a conversation knowing what you can/cannot offer.
  3. Promise nothing, consider most things.

Why not consider everything? Because this comes back to the scope. It’s easier in the long run to be very clear up front about what can/cannot be affected or influenced. This is why having a Framework of Influence (FoI) is critical for every piece of work that requires engagement – with clients, colleagues and suppliers.

An example below is taken from a previous project of mine. It was targeted at the Working Group which included selected end users, the architects and the change manager. The outcome was assessed and incorporated into the brief.

Blog slides

Objectives of the FoI

  • Confirm what is not possible or not up for debate (Out of Influence). This is the ‘to be obeyed’ bit.
  • Make clear where staff can debate and innovate, including simple target metrics (the human brain loves a puzzle).
  • Provide a clear direction for their journey; if you reference other sources, ie: business case, make sure the relevant pages can be shared – and fast.
  • Start behaviour awareness (liaise with the Change Manager to ensure you are on message, ideally they should be part of the Discovery process).

Remember:

  • Those you engage with many not schooled in processes or language of projects, programme or construction. Keep it simple, keep it honest. Be prepared to help their understanding.
  • They also may be an old hand at this kind of thing and be more help co-leading the Working Group than being a delegate.
  • Include another slide explaining a simple timeline of when any decisions and sign offs need to be completed, and by whom.
  • A Framework of Influence can be applied to any situation where you want to seek engagement or put governance structures into place that you require to be applied to the outcome.

 

 

What’s it All About, Alfie?

Where I aim to make the language of work space, and fork force, trends more accessible.

Daily I talk about subjects that cause many a furrowed brow. Subjects like Incubators, Accelerators, Millennials, touchdown, free address, five generations….  These are subjects that work space obsessed folk such as myself trip merrily off our tongues without a moments thought, we all instantly know what the other person is talking about.

When it comes tquestiono bringing new, far-reaching concepts to an organisation, this is not often the case; in communicating work space change we are divided by a common language.

In these interesting global times it is increasingly important to talk openly about the human element of doing business. Employees are a cost, the buildings they inhabit, a cost. Inefficiencies in both are being sought out, and addressed, as businesses position themselves to survive – preferably thrive – in these turbulent times.

Though how can you talk about work space, and work force, change if the consultant is using words that do not mean anything to you? For example, one of the buzzwords of our time is ‘generations’; significantly, the five generations. This is a massive subject; more of which in future posts.

A quick search for ‘What are the five generations’ resulted in several HR reports on motivation and management, an excellent intro piece by a mechanics site and the ever reliable Forbes.com. Not much about their impact on the work space itself.

This, and the educational journey I walk with many people, have led to the tongue in cheek Tag called ‘What’s it All About, Alfie?’ where I aim to make the language of work space, and fork force, trends more accessible.