Note to Self – Part 3

Place

40. Design briefs should be contextual to the greatest extent practicable so that buildings augment, enrich and support an organisation’s operational work whatever shape or form this comes in. However, they also need to allow for flexibility (i.e. the ability to implement cost-effective future changes in use, layout, occupancy levels etc. in short timeframes) insofar as these changes are foreseeable or predictable.

41. I cannot improve upon Neil Usher’s post on the ‘Living Wage Workplace’ as an aide-memoire of design brief ‘must-haves’ for any workplace. Places of work should be designed to meet people’s physiological, safety, psychological and emotional needs, especially given the overwhelming evidence demonstrating the contribution of effective workplaces to improving people’s productivity, health and wellbeing.

42. The Facilities Management profession needs to avoid the trap of becoming too focused on ‘being strategic’ at the expense of operational excellence. All workplaces need outstanding technical services, customer-facing services, moves and projects services and amenities to support and enable people and technology so that they can be focused on meeting customers’ demands.

43. Effectiveness in a portfolio management context means that an organisation’s properties should be sufficient (both quantitatively and qualitatively) to support and enable people and the effective design of work so that they can be focused on meeting customers’ demands. Traditional efficiencies (e.g. optimising lease events, asset management) can then be pursued so long as they do not undermine effectiveness.

44. ‘Workplace’ normally evokes thoughts of offices but we must not lose sight that the diversity of workplaces is huge e.g. factories, warehouses, shops, restaurants, schools, libraries, hospitals and airports to name but a small handful. Therefore, choosing when and where to work is only a viable option for the privileged few so care must be taken not to overstate the importance of certain aspects of flexible working such as remote working, homeworking, working from home, co-working hubs, ‘coffices’ etc.

Technology

45. The Good – whatever enables:

  • Social Media (excluding the proliferation of trolling and cyberbullying) used for both business and personal reasons and the places where these two converge…
  • The collaboration made possible by current communication technologies
  • The huge advances in data transfer speeds and data storage capabilities
  • The opportunities for learning enabled by technology
  • The possibilities for improving work created by the new generation of apps
  • The improvements in building services and building control systems

46. The Bad – whatever ensnares:

  • Systems or software that constrains method by prescribing workflows and procedures (guaranteed to not give the customer what they need)
  • Paying 100% of the cost of an ERP system when you only require 20% of its functionality
  • Beware! Features seldom bring benefits
  • IT Help Desks – the embodiment of ‘doing to’ rather than ‘acting with’ customers

47. The Ugly – whatever destroys value (although IT suppliers do rather well out of it):

  • Big data. All too easy to hide behind and completely lacking in context. It’s great if you prefer not to think about the actual requirements of your work. And it is only as good as the quality of data at the point of collection or entry into a system – and this is where most mistakes occur. Data on its own is seldom information that can be transformed into knowledge
  • The over-monitoring of people’s movements and activities using mobile and RFID technology. This technology can provide very useful information for planning and design purposes but the flipside is that it can also be used as a tool to control people’s behaviours and re-inforce the notion that people cannot be trusted to do the right things (not to mention the privacy issues that arise). It should be deployed and used with extreme caution
  • The costs of IT change. Doesn’t it work like you expected it to? Oh. Don’t worry, we can also provide change management consultancy and our day-rates are very reasonable
  • Service delivery outsourcing (especially with volume-based pricing contracts). I know of someone who asked an outsourced contractor to provide him with a list of existing systems and apps for his function across his company’s global locations. He could have done the job himself in a few days by ringing around and asking some questions. They gave him a full project management proposal and wanted to charge him $1m for doing it. Enough said
  • Shared services, unless the work in your organisation involves the management of a very high volume of low complexity transactions. Mostly, it is a multi-departmental method-constrainer on steroids. It also has a tendency to have an overly-complicated and unintuitive user interface
“As a guy who lives on a farm, I’ll learn more about cows from standing in cow shit than from ‘big data’ about cows” – Tom Peters
“IT is one of the most efficient processes for turning value into waste and multiplying the waste again” – Stephen Parry

48. I prefer Seddon’s method for the deployment of technology in support of operations in any organisation: understand “how the work works” and see if you can improve performance without new IT ‘solutions’. Only once these two activities have been completed, should new IT or changes to existing IT systems be considered. In this way, IT and technology moves from being a ‘push’ to a ‘pull’. This is important because IT is an enabler and enablers allow customers to pull what they need; they are not meant to push ‘solutions’ onto customers. I agree with Seddon’s logic but there is no substitute for effective and early dialogue so I would involve IT at the earliest opportunity in conversations around designing work against customer demand.

49. Many companies have invested significant sums of money in so-called “top hat” reporting solutions where a master software programme pulls together management reports from a number of other applications. I will buy shares in the IT company that realises the future is in a foundation or under-pinning programme that provides “one source of the truth” in terms of people, equipment and other asset data which can be used to feed into any number of HR, workplace, financial and procurement platforms.

Final Thoughts

50. In the absence of an appropriate collective term for corporate support services functions, Neil Usher offered us the logasphere. From my perspective, the logasphere captures and describes the following disciplines:

  • The eight elements of Human Resources (as per the CIPD Profession Map)
  • All aspects of Corporate Real Estate, Workplace and Infrastructure from portfolio and transaction management through to design, construction, projects and Facilities Management (operations)
  • Enabling technologies and platforms
  • Data and information
  • Procurement
  • Financial operations
  • Corporate affairs and communications
  • Occupational health
  • Amenities and associated workplace services
  • Health & wellbeing, safety and security
  • Sustainability and environmental performance
  • Ancillary services (e.g. travel, expenses, accommodation, venues, fleet, transportation etc.)
  • The legislative, governance and ethical frameworks for the above

51. I strongly believe that the logasphere is uniquely positioned to drive performance improvements in organisations but only if it is managed as a system in its own right (or, if you prefer, a sub-system of the organisational system) where colleagues are viewed and treated as customers. In this way, it can have a profound impact on people in terms of how they experience work as it enables them to do their work as enthusiastically, productively, efficiently and safely as possible.

52. This matters because, irrespective of the on-going technological advancements that are supporting the automation of certain types of work, people will continue to be the most important determining factor of organisational performance since work is predominantly designed, performed and directed by people and consumed by people whether as customers or shareholders. As such, there is an overwhelming commercial and moral imperative for change. We can, and we must, do much better.

“In the film The Matrix, the main character, Neo, is presented with a choice by a mysterious character called Morpheus. Morpheus offers Neo two pills – a red pill and a blue pill. The red pill will answer the question: What is the Matrix?’ The blue pill will allow for Neo’s life simply to carry on as before…The blue pill represents the status quo. It will leave us as we are, in a life full of habits and things we believe we know. The red pill on the other hand represents an unknown quantity and the pursuit of trying to understand the world we live in. It symbolises risk, doubt, questioning and, ultimately, enlightenment.

The scene in The Matrix illustrates the difficult choice that business leaders face nowadays. Do you acknowledge the new reality and adapt to it? Or do you choose to carry on with the same mindset, skills, behaviour and organisational culture, knowing that it will potentially damage your future existence?

Enlightenment never comes cheap. The same applies to the transition from The Industrial Age to The Network Age. But one thing is certain: we live in a time that offers great opportunities for reinvention.

The question is whether you take the blue pill or the red pill?”

Kenneth Mikkelsen

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One Response to Note to Self – Part 3

  1. Pingback: #NZLEAD PREVIEW: Working in the logasphere; an approach to building effective leadership | NZLEAD

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