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Rethinking Planning: The Game Has Changed

Not since Henry Ford pulled workers from the fields to the factories have we seen such a comprehensive change in the workplace as we are now experiencing. Changes are simultaneously happening in how, when and where we work. To facilitate these changes, strategists and designers have developed innovative workplace solutions that can respond to, and even inspire, these new ways of working.

The challenge for Corporate Real Estate (CRE) teams is to leverage these new solutions across large or disparate portfolios to enable, and even encourage, new modes of work. Understanding the impact of these changes on the planning process can help CRE leaders make informed space decisions across the broader portfolio. No longer can planners rely on the old rules of occupancy planning, aligning occupancy demand with space capacity at a simple 1 person:1 seat ratio.

The game has changed.

Today’s planner realizes that work styles are changing and that workplace solutions need to support mobility and flexibility. Add to this the ever increasing need for integration of organizational, technology and real estate strategy, the growing availability of space analytics, a focus on employee experience, and the increasingly agile nature of work itself, and the work of planners and CRE managers can seem intimidating. So where does a planner start?

As occupancy planners, problem solving is at the core of what we do. Whether developing a high-level portfolio occupancy strategy, planning the implementation of that strategy, or managing routine occupancy changes, we are solving what author and security expert Gregory Treverton called either a Puzzle or a Mystery. The problem ultimately has a right answer, even if we can’t find it. One of the first steps in any planning effort, therefore, is to decide which type of problem you are solving. If you’re unsure, I would recommend reading Treverton’s original premise in his Risks and Riddles article on the Smithsonian. com website. What he asserts applies to the space and occupancy planning world in a variety of ways; following are two examples that planners tackle every day.

Problem: Is this a Puzzle or a Mystery?

You have been charged with providing additional space for a new line of business (LOB) at your headquarters facility. Let’s look at the key data you’ve been given and what can be obtained:

· You know from the FM data that you have 20 open seats.

· You know to plan for 50 employees from organizational benchmarking of similar LOBs.

The team doesn’t fit, so we would typically start looking at additional leased space... Not so fast! With a little deeper inquiry...

·  You learn from HR that workplace mobility was a big concern noted in recent employee surveys.

·  You simultaneously conduct a workplace survey and a space utilization survey.

·  You identify from these surveys two departments that have both a low seat utilization rate and a desire for change.

·  You work with the workplace strategist and designers to create a renovation plan that creates an agile workspace that promotes new work styles and accommodates up to 80 additional staff, meeting the need and even providing for growth.

Answer: Because you were able to add new levels of data to reach the right answer, this would be considered a Puzzle.

Problem: Is this a Puzzle or a Mystery?

You have been charged with providing space needs for a new campus headquarters. Let’s look at the key data you’ve been given and what can be obtained:

· You know from the FM data that you have 6% vacancy across 3 buildings to be consolidated.

· You know that new government regulations will impact your industry in the coming year.

· You know company executives want to create space that encourages collaboration, innovation and efficiency.

· You have conducted workplace strategy and a space utilization surveys, and created new space standards.

· The staff fits and the new workplace will be a model of innovation and efficiency.... Not so fast! With a little deeper inquiry...

· You learn from HR that the new legislation may require a new team to update current company policies.

· You learn from Operations that the new legislation may require additional regulatory oversight staff, and that two LOBs will be significantly reorganized or even dismantled.

· You work with HR and executives to create three occupancy scenarios addressing growth / flat / reduction staffing models.

· You work with the workplace strategist and designers to create a master plan leveraging new work environments, mobility strategies and a variety of shared seating options to provide flexibility within the plan.

Answer: Because you were not able to provide enough data to create a single plan, the solution becomes a framework of options from which to address the unknown. This would be considered a Mystery.

The planning game has changed. As planners, we must adapt by re-thinking our approach and the questions we seek to answer. Asking the right questions will help us leverage key data, incorporate agile strategies, create innovative solutions and ensure the value of our counsel.

Value which can be simply stated: From Data, to Information, to Transformation.

About the Author: Phil Tackett is an occupancy strategist with Little's Workplace Consulting team.