Workplace Strategy to Realization: Manifesting the Master Plan

Reception desk at IMAX
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Caroline Robbie
"No project or design process is ever exactly the same…but each project needs answers to the same fundamental questions."

atrium at IMAX

The 2015 marketplace for commercial design services is all about creating workplace strategies that define and master plan individual corporate entities. Defining and creating these strategies can take clients from a quick test fit space plan to an in-depth, metrics-heavy analysis report on everything that a company is and does. Buzzwords fall off real estate brokers, project managers and designers tongues alike: collaboration, privacy, productivity, attraction and retention, workplace culture, disruptive innovation, wellness, synergy, authenticity and empowerment. A workplace strategy is a tremendous organizational tool that lets you know your company’s DNA but its successful implementation hinges on how well the strategy is translated into design. No project or design process is ever exactly the same, as no two organizations are identical, but each project needs answers to the same fundamental questions.

Is the organization committed to the process of change?
This is much more complex than the question implies. The old adage is that everyone hates change. This is quite true – we hate change because it is a threat to our position and perceived importance within an understood hierarchy and therefore goes directly to our competence and identity. These are tough things for an organization to face. The most successful projects can answer this question with a resounding yes.

Will the project have a champion?
If there is a strong, decisive and empowered project champion from within the organization, then the commitment to change is there. This person doesn’t need to be intimately connected to the project execution team, but they have to communicate that the company is going to make a change and that with appropriate feedback loops, everyone is expected to be on board with the change and do what they can to make the move forward for the organization.

What are you willing to invest in your future?
If the overall workplace strategy calls for greater collaboration, then there need to be equal part financial and operational commitments to see the change through to its conclusion. This is what a workplace strategy and master plan will do best for any organization – you will know on a global scale the cost commitment required and what pieces will come into place at what time.

What should you do first?
This is not always a clear choice. Financial pressures might move demolition of private offices up in the schedule to free up space to fit more people, but if you have not started with communicating the overall vision to your organization, there is a risk that a backlash will derail the entire process. In a current project working with IMAX Canada, despite the urgent need for a testing theatre, it was decided that upgrades to a social space that is shared by everyone was a key piece to do first. It was a quick win for them on a few fronts. Even if the staff weren’t paying attention to facilities department emails about the design process, they saw that the space where you eat lunch is brighter, cleaner and that the organization is making an investment in them first. That’s a pretty powerful message to get people within an organization on side with making a change that will enhance their bottom line.

Ultimately, transforming successful workplace strategies and master plans into real space is not about blindly following the latest trend. It’s about aligning your workplace to your business objectives, your corporate culture and most importantly, to your people.