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.

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*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.

 

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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.

 

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

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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.