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.

 

 

Advertisements

Turn the Beef Around

An example of how a change in workplace strategy benefits people, place and budget and can be quite different to people’s perceptions.

A long time ago in a galaxy campus far, far away….we broke the mould.

In a rather traditional company I had managed to influence a director to take a calculated risk and adopt agile working. Not long after moving day,  a letter was published in the internal newsletter:Picture6

I notice Team X has got a new office that is different from everyone else’s. As the company goals include cost reduction and our values include equality for all staff, please can you explain the costs, how this office compares to the rest on campus and  what consultation took place? *

These are some  everyday misunderstandings about what is needed to adopt a new workplace strategy.  Designing a different type of workplace does not have to be expensive, time-consuming, or unfair.

  • Costs can be mitigated by clever design and by getting your collaboration groove on with other workstreams.
  • Programmes can incorporate engagement requirements  (yes, they can). You might need to support hard-core construction PMs through a learning curve.
  • Quality can be maintained, you’re going to have some criticals that must be achieved, but the rest, as they say, is gravy.

—–

*This is paraphrased verbiage of an actual though rather more challenging letter. The response covered the below:

  • The Director took active ownership of leading the change and achieved Board-level buy-in.
  • The staff engagement model was thorough, well framed and end-to-end.
  • The project cost 15% less than a traditional project.
  • The SqM PP met the campus standard.
  • The space was future-proofed for the next three years while maintaining standard quality for existing staff.
  • Homeworkers chose to come into the office just to enjoy using the space.

A year later:

  • Reduction of churn requests from 50 per year, down to two.
  • The annual staff survey saw an 11% increase in workplace satisfaction.
  • The project was the gateway to changing workplace strategy at an organisational level.

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Do’s and Don’ts of the Framework of Influence

Some additional tips about how to ensure your engagement structure works.

It’s easy to make mistakes when adopting an engagement model. The following tips build on this Framework of Influence (FoI) article.

Always:

  • Remember that engagement is leadership, and that it is the role of the leader to ‘take employee engagement […] to a cultural pillar that improves performance‘(1).
  • Stay honest, credible, professional, ethical, transparent.

    gallup state of worksplace 2017 - leaders changeto millennials, not wait for them to become boomers

    Source (1)

  • Deliver the ‘Why’. Why there are changes; why their suggestion was not taken up. When you engage, engage fully even if it’s a challenging conversation,
  • Work at that relationship. Bob may be hard work – but he also may be marked as talent, or at the very least his leaving would cause downtime/cost for the business. If he feels engaged, he’s one of the 37% of people actively keeping an eye out for opportunities. If he’s not engaged, then he’s one of the 56% looking, and if he’s actively disengaged he’s one of the 73% actively looking – and most likely being a toxic employee while he’s at it. (1) And in my experience, sometimes the actively disengaged are very comfortable where they are…

Avoid:

  • Encouraging people to believe they have influence if you are not really going to allow any. Engaging will build trust, leading people down a path will result in loss of trust and disillusionment. It’s hard to come back from that.
  • Opening the conversation if the decision has already been made. Any existing decisions should be outlined in your FoI from the start.
  • steelcase - moderate engagement quote

    Source: Steelcase Global Workplace Report_Boosting Employee Engagement

    Moving the goalposts. If there is a big change (ie: the business changes direction) you must be very clear of ‘why’ changes are happening.  Help people understand and you bring them on the journey.

  • Avoiding the ‘Why’. Ever. No, people may not like what they hear, but they deserve a well-reasoned, professionally constructed and delivered explanation.
  • Avoiding follow-up requests to the ‘Why’. Sometimes, people will have more questions and this is OK. We are all wired differently. Some people need more support than others to adjust – but adjust they will.

 

(1) Gallup Report, State of the Workplace 2017

More Than Meets the Eye

A short piece on when people are more than their CV, how a simple engagement direction has made some people very proud, and how going the extra mile benefits the project.

At one interview the curveball questions at the wrap-up was: ‘Does your sewing machine have a name?’

We’re all long enough in the tooth to understand that the dreaded ‘Hobbies and Interests’ section of the CV gives people a glimpse behind the professional mask, though when was the last time you actually used those hobbies at work? Or asked your employees to share those skills…and they actually agreed to give up their free time?

So this comes back to two of my favourite subjects: 1) engagement and 2) delivering a quality space on time and on budget.

Engagement:

These images were taken by employees. Their roles had nothing to do with photography, graphics or artwork.  I run a photography competition on live projects. The competition is only open to end users at the affected site; the short list is created with Brand influence before being shared across the site for peer-voting. The winning image is installed with the staff member’s name embedded in the image for all to see.

Their skills, their office, their pride and recognition. No matter how many projects we roll this out on, it’s a humbling and uplifting experience.

 

Delivering on Budget

I object to paying 70 Euro for a single, simple cushion. There, I said it. So when the budget is (once again) directed towards infrastructure and the FF&E budget is cut, there is only so much I am willing to sacrifice. The cuts need to still provide an effective, appropriate solution from Day 1.  In my view, one does not simply walk into Mordor install bleacher seats without something soft to sit on.

Which is how I found myself sewing 22 identical cushions, all with inset zips (without a zip foot on the sewing machine) for a project. Would I do it again? Ask me in a few months. It gave me a whole new respect for professional machinists.

milan cushions

—-

 

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.