How a Project Management Consultancy Managed its Own Workplace Transition, Part I

A deep-dive look at how Faithful+Gould successfully implemented their workplace consulting service line in their own Washington, D.C. office. This week, in part one of three: Tim Hannaway, Faithful+Gould’s director of program management, explains that it all starts with your people.

View from reception area into open plan working space. Details: To the right are worktables with 24" LED monitors on articulating arms.  This enables flexible dual monitor work from employee laptops.  To the left are high top worktables for seated or standing work and meetings with semi-private conference rooms visible beyond. Photo by Tim Hannway.
View from reception area into open plan working space. Details: To the right are worktables with 24″ LED monitors on articulating arms. This enables flexible dual monitor work from employee laptops. To the left are high top worktables for seated or standing work and meetings with semi-private conference rooms visible beyond. Photo by Tim Hannway.

Part I: It All Starts With Your People

Engaging Leadership

Faithful+Gould implemented their Workplace Solutions process for their own offices beginning in Philadelphia. When it came time to transform the Washington, D.C. office, business leadership had already bought in based on what they’d heard about the previous successes.

“Still,” said Hannaway, “their focus centered on the positive outcomes, but what we really had to do was to make sure that everyone understood that there would be great challenges along the path to those outcomes. Ensuring that leadership is prepared for both the benefits and the challenges of a workplace transformation is vital to your success. Equally as important, we also had to define who the true project leadership needed to include.”

Hannaway pointed out that when embarking on a project like this, you must understand which people in the client organization are actually the decision makers and decision influencers; the true project leadership. Far too often, that list is surprising to an organization and includes individuals and groups that are commonly engaged too late in the process. The list changes with each organization and for Faithful+Gould, it included not only the operational leadership but also IT, human resources, office administration, and the QSE group.

“You need to understand those people, their resources and their concerns,” he said. “If they’re not engaged from the very beginning, they likely won’t be given the opportunity to weigh in until it’s time to review solutions – solutions developed from an incomplete plan. That leads to backtracking, which will cost you time, money, and morale. All along, we sell an aesthetic vision of what the final product will be, but many times people haven’t taken the time to understand the process, the timing, the schedule, and the cost up front. That’s why you’ve got to identify and engage the true project leadership early to create an informed vision with buy in from all of the decision makers and decision influencers.”

The before and after — it looks so easy, doesn’t it? In this series of articles, we’ll take a journey down the road that Faithful+Gould took to get here. Arduous, but worth it. Image courtesy of Faithful+Gould.
Engaging Staff

“The first thing you should do with the staff, after getting leadership on board, is talk to them. Find out what they think the project is about, find out what they already know, and understand their concerns,” said Hannaway.

Faithful+Gould did this simply with informal meetings over pizza in their conference rooms. “We said, ‘You’ve heard about what’s going on in Philly. Let’s just talk,’” said Hannaway. “They got out a lot of their fears, but also their hopes.”

The biggest fear that emerged from D.C. was loss of personal space and lack of storage for files and manuals.

“But we also heard from a lot of people that they liked the idea of turning a page. There was something fresh about the new idea,” said Hannaway. “We had a resource library in the old space but no librarian to maintain it so it was out of date and had become unused. Through technology, people had adapted to not need the library and we had an entire room that nobody used. So these conversations also informed the design.”

These conversations to engage the staff also helped us build our project team from the people who were on the fence about the project.

“To be successful, you’ve got to surround yourself with people who will challenge you,” said Hannaway. “Probably five percent of the staff was totally opposed to the project, and five percent was totally positive. While all of their concerns were taken in, when forming the project team, we needed to avoid people who would work against us, and we didn’t want yes people.”

They zeroed in on these people in the middle to help constructively challenge and inform the project going forth.

Here, open plan worktables with 24" LED monitors on articulating arms.  Designed for general task oriented work, the tables contain unassigned seating with randomly assigned file cabinets nested at both ends. Photo by Tim Hannaway.
Here, open plan worktables with 24″ LED monitors on articulating arms. Designed for general task oriented work, the tables contain unassigned seating with randomly assigned file cabinets nested at both ends. Photo by Tim Hannaway.
Engaging Project Consultants and your Broader Industry Network

“The idea is to maximize the benefit from the architects, the designers, the contractors — whomever you bring on to the project,” said Hannaway. “Bring them into your business goals and objectives, beyond the physical transformation. If they understand how your people work, why you’re trying to transform your people’s way of working, they’ll be much better equipped to deliver you success. If you don’t bring it up, it stays hidden and the transformation will be about your space and not your people – not your organization.”

Hannaway also said that it’s helpful to engage your broader industry network when you’re going through the transformation. “Everyone is thinking about workplace. Even if they aren’t directly involved in a project, they are sure to have thoughts on it. In one case it was helpful for me just to go to a baseball game, talk to a client who had nothing to do with my project, and share some challenges. We broadened one another’s perspectives.”

For more information please contact either Tim Hannaway, director of program management, by email (timothy.hannaway@fgould.com) or cell (703-283-4730), or Steven Bernstein, director of workplace solutions, by email (steven.bernstein@fgould.com) or cell (609-225-0054).

Tune in next week for part two: understanding and approaching business change.

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