Walk first, run second

“The test fit will change?!” squeaked Bob, pen poised over his notepad. “Why?!” I had a bit of an ‘er…’ moment before replying “Well, it’s, um, just a test fit” trying hard to not infer anything negative, like surprise. “We have yet to engage with the business.”

It turns out that Bob was used to using the test fit to define his final proposal, fixing very early on what he would be delivering. The old process ran with this and simply absorbed any issues that arose.

So what is/is not a test fit?

  • A test fit makes sure the building you like will actually fit the needs and requirements of the business and local compliance.
  • That’s it.

To explain, let’s roll back the process a bit…

  • Your organisation will have standards and target metrics.
  • You will have a space budget, or space calculator, containing those standards, the space they require and other essential add-ons like team storage, circulation, etc*
  • On preferred buildings, the space budget is planned into the space, using your standards and initial visioning sessions as a guide to create the test fit.

Test fits will not show the final construction layout of the ‘executive suite’, where leadership have to agree a layout that supports their new ‘unassigned desk’ status. There are many revisions yet to come on this area alone, particularly in countries where hierarchy is culturally important.

Test fits may not have the shower/ping-pong table/bike racks that all your end users are pushing for – and which you are able to supply.

Test fits don’t take into account the looming occupation study outcome, how that data might impact the business case and your standards.

Test fits don’t know if the budget approval will include costs for HVAC changes, or if the landlord/compliance will let you move fire curtains, or if negotiations with the business mean more desks and less construction, or the other way around.

Test fits identify the road you will be travelling on. They do not show the destination, the story arc, the curves in the road or all the characters you will meet.

‘Wait!’ cried Bilbo, running after the somewhat end-game fixated dwarves, ‘I have the concept design plans!’

 


* Because you want to avoid mis-calculating the space needed and end up seeking a space based on NUA instead of NIA. (RICS download for terminology buster)

 

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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.

 

 

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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The Engagement Fulcrum

Workplace has been traditionally a ‘tell’ environment. If you are not familiar with engagement-led models, how do you lead change when a ‘tell’ is not an option?

When working with people who are new to engagement models, the common themes tend to be based around all of some of the below:

  1. We’ll never deliver on time/on budget
  2. I don’t have time/am too experienced/other to have to learn new stuff
  3. I may mess this up and look stupid
  4. Engaging with Bob is going to be a whole world of pain I could do without

So let’s just stick with the ‘tell’, it’ll be easier to maintain control on all of the above.

Control and Engagement, not easy bedfellows. It’s like a seesaw. The more control applied to one end has an equal and opposite effect on the other end. The skill is managing how the control is applied so the other end reacts the way you want it to. Oh, plus emotions, that ever-present ingredient.

Seesaw Example:

  • High control = low engagement = end users get what they are given.
    seesaw underdog status - leahy

    How not to view the process…..!           (Source unknown)

    • Emotion: Impacts trust, loyalty, well being, employee satisfaction.
  • Low control = High engagement = end users expect to get what they want.
    • Emotion: Confusion, frustration; and I’ll be taking bets on ‘high dudgeon’ if things get really bad.

Find a balance. If you wish to engage, and I recommend you do, try this:

Always

  • Get your ducks in a row first. Be detailed and thorough when setting up your Framework of Influence.
  • Carry out mind-mapping, categorise the output, group into common themes. Use front-line knowledge and proven experience to help you do this. Also get these people to support you with a dry run, or soft landing if they are also part of the change. Incorporate feedback.
  • Maintain credibility with your end users and mind the 5P’s**

    influence, kinnarps gensler future of work

    (Source: Kinnarps-Gensler ‘The Future of Work March 2017)

  • Choose your attitude. Assume the best, prepare for the worst.
  • Prepare to be challenged; some cultures will engage most obediently, others will engage with hearty debate or eye-watering ‘black & white’ directness. None of which is wrong, except for offensiveness. Accept that different cultures have different methods, including their definition of ‘offensive’.
  • Be prepared to politely and firmly direct people back to the framework model. If asking for a swimming pool is out of scope, do not support conversations about how great it would be to have one.
  • Acknowledge if you need to hire someone to do the engagement for you. They will have tried and tested tools which work, and work well; do you really want to reinvent the wheel? After all, it was a long, bumpy journey between rolling over logs and using an inflatable tyre.
  • Remember: if you are leading the change, or asking people to change, you must adopt and embody those changes. People will look to you. Walk your talk if you want the change to both land well and be sustainable.

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*Prior Preparation Prevents Poor Performance….but you knew that already, right?

 

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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.

 

 

How Workplace Change is Like a Novel.

How you engage will impact the acceptance of change – it’s all about how you tell the story.

Long ago and far away I had a boss whose mantra was ‘Do it right, do it once’. This is critical within workplace change. This is because we are dealing with human frailties; each participant brings a different variable to the table.

Now I’m not saying design by committee; reducing everything to the lowest common denominator is a non-viable investment and delivers more disappointment than joy. What I am saying is: know how to engage.

Change is effectively a story about a journey that creates itself in the telling.  Confused? Walk with me a while….and let’s explore two tellings of a story that changed the world.

Story 1: It’s a story about a huge battle. There are swarming crowds of humanoids having a fight, lots of yelling, slashing, and strange, war-machine type things. There’s a big stand-off at the end between two of them, they both die. The end.

Do you care? Neither do I. Life is too short to invest in something that can’t be bothered to invest in you.

Let’s try that again.

Story 2: It’s a story about the innate goodness of people, of friendship and how a journey walked together forms the tightest of bonds. It’s about characters that slowly reveal their sometimes bruised lives, letting us connect and learn what forms their motives and inspiration to continue against all odds. They walk to stand against the absolute horror of oppression and murderous tyranny. They speak to you of the possibilities of a life not worth living while showing you the way to vanquish it. And 63% remember story 5% remember statswhen characters die, you grieve.

They are the same story told in different ways. Story 1 lands you in at the end. There is no context. It does not let you connect with characters and root for someone. It treats you like a commodity.

Story 2 treats you like an individual, introducing you to characters, experiences and emotions that you can identify with. It lets you immerse yourself in the tale. And once you have connected – it stays with you after the final page. That’s why this tale spawned a vast global market (and on reflection it’s a pretty good synopsis of a good number of other books or films that stick with you).

And this is what we get when applying this to a workplace change context:

Scenario: A business has traditional approach to workplace, everyone has a desk. Managers have offices. Space is territorial. The business direction is to expand headcount within the existing building footprint. Significant changes are required to meet business objective.

Workplace Strategy: Based on data analysis (utilisation studies, compliance assessment, densities, headcount forecast, business strategy including IT and Personnel). Decision-maker level meetings take place to discuss opportunities, including relocating headcount to regional (and significantly more cost effective) offices, risks and impacts per options. The Decision-makers arrive at a decision (for this exercise let us assume this excludes regional relocation) based on cost efficiency and speed of delivery, and the new workplace is installed. The employee’s engagement is limited to the grand reveal – and the glories of the rumour mill.

I can tell you now that people who have limited (usually zero) experience of a non-traditional working environment will not have a clue how to use the new workplace.  Where is their ‘home’ for the day? Where are their friends sitting? Where does the boss find their team – and ensure they are actually working? Where do they find the boss? Effectively, where is my ‘tribe’, where is my leader?

It’s Story 1 all over again: the end user is a commodity; the concern was to complete a piece of work and short term financial gain. Someone, somewhere gets some glory (hence the grand reveal) and everyone is dragged along for the ride. I have witnessed instances of resistance and conflict caused by this method.

Badly landed workplace change will result in it being declared a non-viable option, a failure. The end users have been trained that agile working means their worth to their employer is diminished, this will affect morale. Be mindful of your well-poisoners, they can instil an equality of misery more swiftly and effectively than you can instil a positive view of the new workplace.

There is little you can do to come back from a Story 1 method. The emotions associated with work have been negatively impacted; damaged. And people have been bluntly, clumsily, told what to do with the expectation that they will obey. Trying to persuade people that something they have experienced, and been hurt by, is actually a good thing, no really it is – is nigh-on impossible. It’s the old ‘fool me once’ adage in action.

Let’s invest in a scenario that will work:

The powers that be decide on the same workplace strategy as before. Behind the scenes selected stakeholders from across the business (respected, level-headed influencers with a balanced outlook) are approached to be part of the concept working group. Group members include the key stakeholder and appointed workplace strategist/consultant. The group establish a communication strategy.

The Board then make an announcement to all employees, outlining why the change is happening, what the framework is, and when it will start. Why is important. Provide context and understanding. Representatives (approachable, responsible, possibly resistant to change because, let’s face it (and to quote my school chaplain) ‘there’s none so devout as a convert’) are sought for change workshops. Expectations are managed. Frameworks of influence defined. Then you ask a simple question….and listen.

Just. Listen.

This workshop is not about you, it’s about them. It’s a ‘safe place’ where they get to voice their likes, dislikes, frustrations, hopes, fears. Listen to the tone. See who holds the floor and the ear of others. Are there any introverts in this group; with 30-50% of the

Photo: Quietrev.com

Photo: Quietrev.com

workplace[1] being introverted, one hopes so. Identify where there may be challenges – within the workshop group, the end users and the business’s processes. Nudge the conversation back on course, gently nipping rambling in the bud. Use your skills to obtain quality information.

Then, protecting anonymity as best you can, feedback the barometer; Personnel may need to develop management skills or change performance measurements. IT may need to get some investment PDQ. And exactly what is going on with the coffee machine on the 3rd floor?

Do this in each workshop, defining the parameters of each workshop on the outset. The first three drive out the workplace plan.

The second three, are to establish a ‘Charter’ of workplace use. This requires a different selection of people and includes ‘training the trainers’. This ensures a wider inclusion specifically including line managers – after all, how are they to support people in the brave new world if they are learning how it works themselves?IMG_3166

The ‘Charter’ is essentially how end users want to use their workplace. Is it ok to leave used coffee mugs on the meeting tables? Can we have the desks cleaned for us? Can I use my earphones? What about personal phone calls? Should the sofa area be bookable?

The Charter will be unique to each area of the business, it is critical that the end users lead this, thus reinforcing their feeling of ownership and contribution to this change. The Charter will be guided by the culture and moral compass of the business and the employees. Your role is to facilitate the conversation, to enable managers to feel confident leading the change post-completion, and to ensure timing of completion coincides with that of the workplace installation.

This is Story 2. Relationships have been forged. A journey travelled. We’re all in it together (including the bosses), we have not only survived but we have influenced direction; we have been heard. And when the big finale comes, we are ready for the dawn of a new day, for those first steps into a new workplace and we feel able to live here. We know how we are expected to behave. We understand our community.

And like many a good novel, there is an epilogue:

It is also critical that the leadership understands that the existing culture will take time to change so agile working is the norm. Changing the workplace is just the beginning; the workplace behaviour change will need to be regularly coached for many months after completion until the change is absorbed into the culture. Where habits return to the old method this is because the change “[Began] with a vision or story, but [failed] to put in place the management tools that will cement the behavioral changes in place.” [2]

[1] Susan Cain, www.quietrev.com and author of Quiet, The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking.

[2] http://www.forbes.com/sites/stevedenning/2011/07/23/how-do-you-change-an-organizational-culture/