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Time to think?

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For me, 2014 has been fast-moving, changing and challenging – especially in the last three months. Where has the year gone? Why did I not have time to reflect and post some blogs? As we approach the Christmas break, I’ve taken time out to stand back and think about things. Since September, life has been particularly frantic; I had to juggle a lot of balls in order to do interesting things with interesting people. Trying to make sense of multiple conversations, both virtual and face-to-face, reinforced my view that enabling work is changing profoundly: it’s no longer just about providing a facility. There is a clear shift in emphasis from building centric to people centric.
Having said that, it struck me that there are very small number of people who are concerned or interested in this field. I wonder why? I have observed that it could be due to the fact that many organisations and their leadership are simply unaware of the of changing nature of work and fail to understand the implications for their business. Reflecting on my discussions, it has become clear to me that this is because the connection between efficiency and effectiveness is not being made. No matter what sector of enabling business one belongs to, for example HR, facilities, property, IT or procurement, the key focus is the efficiency agenda – doing more with less. But surely there comes a point when the law of diminishing returns kicks in? Some professional organisations have recognised this and are just starting to consider a bigger picture. CoreNet Global for example, has been shifting from cost to value.
That is not to say that the focus on an efficiency agenda is no longer useful. There are still many organisations, both public and private sector, which could take a lot of waste out of their respective systems. Take real estate holdings, for example, where there are huge amounts of underutilised buildings held by corporations and public bodies. As we get smarter in understanding how to optimise the use of space, and indeed where we need to work, this will throw up some really interesting opportunities for both employers and their workforce.
However, that is only part of the picture – and this brings me to the value enhancing or effectiveness aspect. For the majority of us who were involved in enabling work, our primary motivator is efficiency – getting the job done at the lowest cost or at best value for money. This is understandable, given our respective backgrounds, professional training and our siloed value systems. This has served us reasonably well over the years as professional mindsets were the order of the day. However, I believe the rules of the game changing; the pitch itself may be shifting and the teams may be different. We need to build a better understanding of how we all play our parts in the ecosystem of work and come out of our silos. This will better equip us to understand how together, using a joined up mindset, we can promote the effectiveness agenda. This will generate and capture real value for our organisations.
There are big changes afoot in how we do business and go about our daily lives in the 21st-century. Much of this is driven by the digital world we now inhabit, which has unlocked endless previously unthinkable possibilities. We need to really get to grips with what all this means for how we, as enablers of work, help organisations cope with this tidal wave of change. Herein lies the challenge and it’s all about understanding. We can no longer just think about the issues from one perspective – say, a property viewpoint. An office building is a factor of production, a component of a value system and not just a facility where the workforce is housed. Taking this simple example illustrates to me the need to help all the stakeholders involved to understand the context, the issues and the opportunities presented by the changing nature of work. Maybe we should reflect back to Stephen Coveys’s fifth habit – seek first to understand?

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