How a Project Management Consultancy Successfully Managed its own Workplace Transition, Part III

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 the final part of our three part series: Tim Hannaway, Faithful+Gould’s director of program management, talks about the all-inclusive management of assets.

View of open plan working space. In the center, there are worktables with 24″ LED monitors on articulating arms. This enables flexible dual monitor work from employee laptops. To the right are high top worktables for seated or standing work and meetings. The coffee bar lounge and reception are seen in the distance. Photo by Tim Hannaway.

The All-Inclusive Management of Assets

Facing the unseen: What gets left behind?

This is the point when you help your staff understand how they are going to use the new space in new ways. In Faithful+Gould’s case, they had a new open space with no offices, no assigned seating, and fewer desks than staff. There would be two or three staplers and a copy center; nobody would have to walk more than twenty feet to get there. Gone were the days of personal printers and office supplies — everything would now be communal. That was the vision, now it was time to test it.

“So often we only look forward, but it is equally important to look back and acknowledge what we’re leaving behind,” said Hannaway. He conducted an activity by activity, space by space inventory of Faithful+Gould’s existing offices and charted what was coming with them and what wasn’t. “It was an eye opener for everyone involved and that’s just what it was intended to be,” said Hannaway.

Gone were the days of personal printers and office supplies — everything would now be communal. That was the vision, now it was time to test it.

Holiday decorations, binding machines, postage scales, marketing surplus, personal trash cans: the list went on and on. Then followed the conversations. “It’s important to talk to staff about your findings,” said Hannaway,  “It reveals a lot of hidden information.”

In Faithful+Gould’s case, these conversations uncovered that the staff and visitor logs had been overlooked in the programming and the design for the reception ledge was expanded as a result. They also discovered that there were multiple large binding machines because the firm used different types of bindings for different materials. Ultimately, the team decided one binding was acceptable and the design proceeded unchanged but by revealing the issue early, conflict was avoided and staff had appropriate time to plan a new way of working.

“Successful workplace transformations occur when people transition to new space with minimal disruptions to their workflow,” said Hannaway. “When you’re changing the very way that people work, it is going to be disruptive and that is what you must recognize and address as early as possible. So it’s important to look at these items — what gets left behind and what you bring with you.”

Furniture – Class A, B, or C:  What’s appropriate?

“We visited a lot of furniture and design showrooms. You see phenomenal, technologically advanced products, and it is so easy to get enticed,” said Hannaway. The challenge is to avoid overkill by spending beyond your needs on quality and features that you might not need.

“Our office had furniture from the local office supply retailer that was probably best described as Class D. All of the sudden we’re looking at $90,000 furniture packages,” said Hannaway. “You don’t necessarily need to make that vault into luxury.”

If the first thing you do is visit a Mercedes showroom, you’re going to want a Mercedes,” he said. “It’s the same way with furniture.

His advice? Approach it like you’re buying a car. Not your dream car – your everyday car. Do your research first: Find out which are the top-rated vehicles based on what matters to you, then see what they cost and decide if you can afford it, and then go to those showrooms that carry the top-rated cars in your budget.

“If the first thing you do is visit a Mercedes showroom, you’re going to want a Mercedes,” he said. “It’s the same way with furniture.”

The before and after. Image courtesy of Faithful+Gould.
The before and after. Image courtesy of Faithful+Gould.
IT – Futureproofing or Presentproofing?  You need both.

It’s worth noting that the prevailing misconception among employees about any workplace change is that the company is only making the change to save money. What the employees tend to focus on is “less space.” To the contrary, Hannaway emphasizes that agile working environments are much more about transforming the way people work and not just the workspace itself. This often represents a significant investment with companies transferring capital from real estate to technology to provide more effective and advanced systems for their employees to flourish.

In the initial stages of planning Faithful+Gould’s D.C. office, there was debate about spending in three key areas: IT, AV and furniture. The team asked themselves: Why can’t we use what we already have?

“While not everything needs replacement, you have to make an investment in the right equipment to really make this work,” said Hannaway. “This is about changing the way we work and increasingly that is accomplished through technology.”

“A lot of people look at future-proofing their new office,” said Hannaway. “But you need to present-proof, too.”

Faithful+Gould calls it present-proofing and it happens when you ask, “Does the investment make sure the staff has what they need now,” said Hannaway. These needs include everything from ensuring the technology supports the new work processes but also looking at your staff’s ability to use and maintain it. Faithful+Gould’s vision for a completely agile office included wireless LED TVs mounted in each work room. Hannaway explained, “They were a hit to the few staff tech savvy enough to link to their laptops. We hadn’t factored in training of our staff or our helpdesk so the screens went underutilized at first. This was easily resolved but did impair full use of the workplace, diminishing the initially positive response from staff.”

Future-proofing is essentially about planning for the ever changing infrastructure and environmental needs of evolving technology. “In our new office we invested in building in capacity and network functionality that would support not only our physical growth but the growing needs of the systems of the future,” said Hannaway. This represented a strategic investment for Faithful+Gould but the initial engagement and vision setting for the business were clear that this was essential.

Looking back, Hannaway marvels at how they’ve changed their business and their people with their workplace.

“What’s truly incredible is how easy it became once we embraced the idea that we were reinventing the way we work and not just the space within which we work,” he said. “One employee recently told me,I thought this was going to be one of the worst things that we could do to our business. Now, if we went back to the old way of doing things with all of the offices and cubes, I honestly think I’d quit.’”

“That says it all,” said Hannaway, “That is a successful workplace transformation.”

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).
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