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Oct 18, 2016

Letter to the edge #3 – the wood from the trees



Reflecting on the insights gleaned from my participation in the recent Smart Working Summit reminded me of the great session we had together in Melbourne last June. Although separated by 10,000+ miles its remarkable how many similarities exists when it comes to thinking about workplace and how we use offices in the 21st-century. In both London and Melbourne it seems that everybody is looking at this issue through the lens of their own particular area of expertise/interest (their silos) and very few folk can take a holistic view – to see the wood from the trees.

A fortnight ago myself along with my partners Caroline and Euan we facilitated a workshop at the Smart Working summit. Where we concluded that we could all benefit from setting aside our silos and build bridges to new, more meaningful solutions for work, the workforce and the workplace. This spawned the concept of forming a coalition of the convinced. Looking back to Melbourne on 22nd June it struck me that there are many parallels. I was there at the invitation of CoreNet Australia to engage some 200+ for the afternoon around Is the future of work really about the workplace? Are we missing the point by thinking about offices as we always have? How do we find a modern workplace based on creativity and human engagement? For many us brought up in the CRE, Property, Real Estate world our sole focus is on the physical aspects of the workplace. For years I have been asking does it make sense to broaden our horizons? What can be gained from really thinking about how workplaces perform from both the investment and the consumption perspective? For me I wonder why very few people are joining up the dots within Corporate Rel Estate (CRE) let alone the wider support services spectrum of an organisation? I concluded some time ago that having been trained to think about space as the deal, the fit-out, the design and facility management one needs to step back and see the wood from the trees. Little did I know at that time that most aspects of supporting an organisation or enterprise is just as silo focused as my own world.

I promised everybody who attended that session that the output would not be lost. So this blog post is just part of my efforts to keep that bargain. Having mulled over the feedback sheets for the 14 groups the key output from that afternoon’s work might best be summarised as – “take a leap of faith and turn the telescope around and focus on the right things early”
Looking across the various pieces of output which stretches to seven pages of bullet points the following key themes emerged; –
• We can all accept that change is now the new norm.
• One size doesn’t fit all when it comes to 21st century workplaces.
• Sustainability is here to stay and deeper shades of green are on the way.
• The search for the right tools to measure and define ‘value’ needs to include intangibles
Whilst there were many aspects of the discussion which understandably related to local considerations it was interesting to me to note the multiple areas of common ground. In chatting with participants afterwards I sensed that the session was, for some in the room, an ‘AHA’ moment. Having joined into the discussion representing their own particular point of view they realised that others had different perspectives! As the session progressed they came to see how that the fragmented nature of how we approach work the workforce and the workplace causes all sorts of problems. Indeed, some working groups concluded are we in the Workplace sector at a ‘Kodak’ moment. We all acknowledge on the day that change is happening and many of us saw possibly for the first time in that session that change happening at a different pace dependent on your perspective. However, the one thing that we have all have in common is that we have to keep up. I will leave it at that for the moment and look forward to a response…

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