By Phil Wales
An Enterprise Workplace Management strategy is much more than a new coat of paint on everyday corporate real estate (CRE) tasks and challenges. It literally establishes a company’s operational parameters and becomes a compass guiding the organization forward. The strategy ideally provides clear, well-defined direction through three components: Envision the organization’s future, Enable its strategy and continually Evolve the practices.
Envision The Future
Most facility executives are familiar with the time-proven saying that “It’s hard to reach or achieve your goal if you don’t know where you’re going.” This maxim illustrates why, when bringing about organizational change or implementing change/innovation, a key step must be taken. Get the organization’s unique needs out in the open and identify the specific level of transformation required.
The overall purpose of the Envision state is to understand the organization’s mission in-depth so that the real estate/facility organization mission strategies and goals can be fully aligned with its corporation’s goals. In real-life terms, this entails going beyond the basics of ensuring floors are mopped and air filters changed into actually adding strategic value to the corporate mission. Strategic visioning starts at the very top with a fully engaged CRE leadership that develops and delivers a high-level, actionable business model for change.
Facility executives can accomplish this by answering questions such as, “How do our services help the overall company accomplish its mission?” Within that framework, define a multi-year plan by answering two more questions: What key services should we be offering and are these services strictly operational or do we add strategic value?
In other words, as the Envision stage comes together, a road map can be charted to show how the organization can move from today’s position to where it should optimally be in five or 10 years.
Enable The Strategy
With the roadmap in place — which includes the strategy, when it is due and who is responsible, so that accountability is involved — the process becomes more tactical. It becomes critical for executives to see how to take the first of three components and determine what is needed to evolve the business in a way more aligned with the vision. This Enabling stage targets operational and technology alignment.
The key question about Enabling is “How can the business be more aligned with the Vision?” In determining where work is being done well, along with what should be improved, the focus is heavily on business process alignment.
For example, how does a particular operation within the company’s Real Estate group affect those upstream and downstream of them? Illustrative is an executive being tasked with finding the least expensive lease meeting the stated requirement. That may be easily done but could actually create operational issues for the group which will take it over and must maintain the building, not to mention performance issues for the business unit that will occupy the space.
Avoiding those potential predicaments involves CRE personnel staying closely attuned to Enabling. Ask “How do the processes work and how do I optimize what I’m doing?” so that in addition to the fiduciary responsibilities of operating the portfolio efficiently, helping the revenue-generating part of the business more effectively perform their duties is the greater responsibility. Consequently, look beyond simply selecting systems and more at the processes which should be put in place to assure that the enterprise life cycle vision continues.
That includes Change Management to help ensure that everyone within the organization understands what their new role is and that they buy into it. These Change activities during the Enabling phase allow the organization to align with the vision and processes to both be streamlined and operate more effectively. Additionally, this enables information to be gathered more easily and metrics analyzed. This analysis delivers the answer to “Which Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) do we really need in order to add value to the overall organization?” — not simply task-based measurement.
Bringing all this about is the aforementioned Change Management to ensure that people understand not only what is happening and the status but why, in order to get all the stakeholders on board. Invariably, some within the organization are change-resistant and this avoidance of buy-in requires an entire package of initiatives that realistically has no direct relationship to project deliverables – but must be done to assure success.
In the fusion of Envisioning and Enabling, there is a strong correlation between an organization’s strength and the ability to create an effective portfolio. Therefore, the upfront part of Envisioning phase is deployed during the Enabling phase thus aligning what the portfolio needs with how the organization is structured to support that.
Evolve The Strategy
At this point, an astute facility executive will recognize that “The creation of a great vision and enabling it by specific activities (from technology to organizational change) are an excellent start but the work they perform and the business they support will continue to evolve. Thus, we can’t relax…we must continue testing all our Envisioning ideas to see what has worked, what hasn’t and what are key changes (if any) in the evolution.” In many cases, companies realize they should fix certain issues but do fail to look at how each fits in context with the original vision.
When organizations implement projects and “come up short,” they have not necessarily done a bad job on the project but may have been fixing the wrong problem or at least not the prime problem. They conclude that by having fixed the obvious (and thus most likely tactical) problem they can resume normal operations without realizing that today’s world is evolving too quickly for that mindset. And the CRE group must be extra diligent in this respect because real estate decisions are often much slower to implement and harder to shift than most other areas in the business world.
Essentially, from Envisioning to Evolving, the big idea is for facility executives to not just react to problems but to set a new direction that addresses the question, “What does our portfolio look like if it is to help our company be more productive?” This requires that Envisioning not be done in a vacuum. Instead, it means being engaged with business strategy to get the CRE portfolio operationally optimized.
The key involves understanding how each aspect of the portfolio impacts the way that people work and then putting that understanding into action. The entire concept of workplace strategy keeps evolving and, to be a force in allowing employees to generate maximum revenue and/or creating the best product, facility executives need to Envision, Enable, and Evolve.
Wales is CEO of Houston, TX-based eBusiness Strategies, a consulting firm providing corporate real estate and workplace management services. The company helps clients develop and articulate an enterprise-wide workplace strategy, standardize business practices, increase mobility, and align technology solutions.