Wednesday, January 6, 2010

"Workplace Matters"...a design and organizational process resource

I ran into Kevin Kelley from the GSA public building service at NEOCON East in Baltimore last fall.

He mentioned Workplace Matters, a GSA applied research design book published in 2006 as a great resource for those interested in the design of the high performance and sustainable workplace. Kevin was a principal author along with Kevin Kampschroer, Kevin M. Powell, Judith Heerwagen and Intern: Patricia Cheng. Though it's a few years old now it offers an in-depth overview and explanation of the GSA's design process along with a variety of case studies illuminating best practices in application in the field at GSA projects around the country.

The book explains why the workplace matters in Government (or private settings). It identifies on page 8, "The emphasis of workplace design should be on the people and the work they accomplish. The cost of people in a building is typically 10 to 12 times the cost of the building’s infrastructure." So often, in designing, conceiving and constructing workplaces, the focus is on first costs rather than long-term operational costs and the soft-costs of human capital. This is unfortunate as much can be done in the design and implementation of workspace positively affecting long-term organizational effectiveness, while serving the public good. This is the heart of the message of this book and it's case studies.

Some Key GSA processes which emerged from the book:
  • Using a Balanced Scorecard in the design process: The system is a mission driven measurement and management tool developed by two Harvard professors. Specifically it analyzes key financial, business process, human capital, and customer outcomes and creates a “balanced” perspective on how well the organization is performing and helps guide improvements.
  • Quantitative and Qualitative Discovery Toolkit. GSA’s WorkPlace program develops design concepts and proposed solutions by seeking to understand how organizations tick, their mission, goals anFeedback Loop. GSA’s WorkPlace program uses a modified version of Deming’s “Plan, Do, Check, Act” continuous feedback loop. The hallmarks of this process are clearly identifying connections between business/workplace goals (plan), designing solutions (do), measuring organizational outcomes (check), and improving upon the originally identified business/workplace goals (act). objectives, the make-up of the people, their clients etc. The GSA uses quantitative analysis of space use, turnover rates, absenteeism, and costs. The complement this by using qualitative tools such as a Web-based workplace satisfaction survey. They also conduct visioning sessions focused on seeking out organizational goals, behavioral norms and workplace expectations.
  • Change Management: The GSA cast a wide net involving as many employees in the process with surveys, workshop and targeted focus groups. They gather information to influence thinking and build consensus about new ways of working and organizational behavior. This helps shift the organization from a entitlement to needs based space- allocation culture.
  • Feedback Loop: Their program modified Peter Deming’s “Plan, Do, Check, Act” continuous feedback loop process which identifies links between business/workplace goals (plan), designing solutions (do), measuring organizational outcomes (check), and improving upon the originally identified business/workplace goals (act). (paraphrased from p.14)
Workplace Matters also tackles other issue such as dealing with "Generations at Work" where Millennials, Generation Y, Generation X and Baby Boomers all work together in the topsy turvy world of the blended workplace. Each generation has its own work /life expectations and proclivities in the workplace. It's part of the story and any considered design process. Steelcase provides an interesting white paper on this subject as well entitled Millenials at Work.

For those interested in specifics on their process check out the chapter/ section on "Deep Dives", the workshop driven, data collection, brainstorming process so important to involving key stakeholders and deriving key design constraints.

All in all the book provides a very helpful complement to other Workplace Design resources written about on prior blog posts. It's a great find and better yet it's freely available online!

Give me your feedback on how valuable or informative resources such as Workplace Matters are to you in your work developing the high performance workplace!


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