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Jun 2, 2015

Spanish Surprises



Recently, I had the opportunity to renew my acquaintance with Madrid and it turned out to be a very interesting experience in more ways than one.  Apart from participating in 3-Goffice  conversation about the Spanish perspective on the future of work and the workplace; I had the opportunity to see an example of smart working.  It reinforced for me that it is important to keep a watchful eye on not only what is happening on the home-front but also in places further afield.


Reflecting on my notes from the Future of Work conference there are a lot of similarities between Spain and the UK in terms of how everyone is approaching the huge amount of change underway in how we can work and the implications for how we could use our workspaces.  It was however refreshing to hear about the Latin take on things and more about that later.

Rather than comment about key aspects let me share some of the soundbites that resonated with me.  They are in no particular order but do provide food for thought;-

  • Managers need to learn about integrated processes and shift their focus away from silos.
  • Smart working = engagement + empowerment.
  • Technology has made us change the way we work.
  • There is a need for a fresh approach to people management.
  • Consumers can kill a brand by mass blocking on social media.
  • The collaborative economy is here now where participants are seen as the new ‘Artesian’ of the 21st  century
  • If a Company connects with its staff things will go better.
  • We’ve spent that last few years developing collaborative models the next few years will see widespread application of these models.
  • The nature of a Company will shift from something solid to a liquid porous one.
  • “Simple better human” – the rise of people focused workplaces
  • Work is a way of being

During the conference we had a lot of stimulating discussions which focused on the people aspect and how they consume workspaces given that we’re living through a period of enormous change.  The global financial crisis certainly hit hard in Spain but it appears that the tide has turned and things are improving.




This was very evident when we had the opportunity to hear about the CEPSA HQ relocation project and our hosts for the conference.  Listening to their story and looking around their new home was very thought provoking.  In fact arriving at the Cuatro Torres Business Area in the Paseo de la Castellana was in stark contrast to when I worked on the launch of the Disney channel Espana project many years ago. As the tallest skyscrapers in Madrid they dominate the skyline and act as an interesting contrast to the city’s more traditional streetscapes.

Source FeriaColegiosMadrid

Source FeriaColegiosMadrid

As one of the four towers the new home of CEPSA–this Foster designed building had lain idle for a few years but it is now a vibrant working space where CEPSA occupy 21 floors or half the building.  It was really interesting to learn how they used a consolidation project to harness significant cultural change and to reap the rewards over a very short period of time.   CEPSA decided it needed build a ‘CEPSA of the future’ build around four key focus areas; – culture, space, technology and processes. It felt that to be successful the organisation must focus on collaboration and teamwork.  So the move was not just a traditional property consolidation of its multiple holdings in Madrid into a single location.  It was much more and their labelling of the project gives us a clue as to the goal of the exercise.  It was called ‘Project HADI’ an Arabic phrase that means – the tower that guides us.  It reflects the corporate commitment to a new future by helping everyone to adapt to new ways of working.  On looking at some of the key focus areas for the project they are impressive;-

  • Reduction of red tape
  • Reducing the amount of paper used
  • Improving knowledge management
  • Embracing new ways of working (agreed guidelines, clear desks)

IMG_8195 sala_agoraplus





In our tour of the space we learned about the key features of their approach which included;-

  • CEPSA managers led the change agenda.
  • All of their Madrid based workforce participated in discussing how the project should look.
  • They set up a laboratory to test space concepts.
  • 90% of the space is unassigned
  • Staff have access to a gym and a restaurant.
  • They aim to have zero paper.
  • They wish to rationalise emails to the minimum
  • Staff have individual personal lockers accessed by RFI chip in their pass and 1 liner metre of storage.
  • 90% of staff use laptops.

Looking around some of their floors which are now home to 1,700 staff it was hard not to be impressed by the feel of the space.  Whilst one has to take into account that the space is new it has a different feel to the typical office floor.  Maybe it was the absence of paper and folders or the usual clutter of cabling in meeting rooms?  The designers did comment that they ‘hate to co-design space but they had to accept it” I wonder?


To cap things off I came across an interesting article in BA’s Business Life magazine on the way home where Julie Meyer talks about a ‘new generation of movers and shakers reshaping Madrid with their innovative business models’  It made for interesting reading and re-affirmed some of the insights I had formed from my visit.  I was genuinely surprised and impressed by what I had uncovered and I couldn’t help agreeing with the sentiment of the article – there are other places in the world where leading edge thinking is underway.  It all goes to prove that we should spend time scanning the horizon to see what we can learn from others…


View from CEPSA tower towards central Madrid

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