Towards the Corporate Placemaker in 2016

by Paul Carder on December 23, 2015

by @paulcarder

I have been studying and thinking about this concept of the Corporate Placemaker for some time now. I trace it back to our work on Raising The Bar, a global study for the RICS which, after more than 140 years of history, seemed to coincide with their awakening to the importance of Facilities Management (FM). But, take a look at the link path, and it is Home/Property/FacilitiesManagement. So, FM is still a subset of property (real estate, or ‘real property’). But, is it?

I can categorically state (as we are dealing in how to ‘categorize’) that whatever we decide the “corporate placemaker” may be, it is not just property/ real estate or facilities management. Property (real estate) is heavily biased towards ownership (as its very name suggests), and maximizing the benefits of ownership of some physical asset. It can easily be seen how little the real estate market and professions care about the ‘use value’ of property by the comparatively tiny proportion of media dedicated to the subject (a key reason for our launch of Work&Place, our journal, in 2012). And facilities management is such a nebulous term which I sincerely hope can be eventually replaced with something clear and meaningful.

I think we are all searching for what to call real estate and facilities management, working together, are we not? Corporate Real Estate is represented in research, with Corporate Real Estate Journal (Henry Stewart Publications), and Journal of Corporate Real Estate (Emerald). But what is the “subject area”? – Property Management & Built Environment. As is also Facilities and Journal of Facilities Management (both Emerald).

But what of place in the context of organizations, and the people who use spaces and places for some other reason than for the asset? There is a Journal of Place Management and Development (again, by Emerald), supported by the Institute of Place Management, a body that “supports people committed to developing, managing and making places better”. Sounds promising. And the concepts are promising for the future – such as marketing and branding of places (corporate marketing take note!), the consumption of place (yes, that is what occupiers do!), and place competitiveness (again, a subject of interest to HR and corporate executives in deciding how to support their efforts to win the ‘war for talent’). But, before I get you too excited, this whole subject is about cities and town centres generally. Take a look at one of the leading Masters courses in this field and that is immediately apparent. However, this course is positioned in the department of Marketing, Operations and Digital Business at MMU Faculty of Business and Law, which is a good start! It is all about the use of places, not the built environment as an asset.

Still, nothing yet for the use of places by organizations and their people. Research and teaching has yet to make much impact on the ‘supply-side centric’ thinking which abounds in the real estate and built environment disciplines. The world of the occupier, or ‘demand-side’, is under-represented.

This is why I am so focused on the term (and hopefully the emerging discipline of) the “corporate placemaker”. I hope you can see where I am coming from. This is wider than corporate real estate and facilities management. It must pick up some of the social sciences and business administration disciplines covered by “place management” above, but focus on corporate places rather than city public spaces and town centre management.

In fact, my PhD study is grappling with exactly what it is to be a corporate “placemaker”. Leading placemaking for an organization, rather than wider society in urban spaces. The subject areas are diverse, and may include the following:

  • Organizations, Occupations and Work – sociological change, and the future of work;
  • The ‘draw’ of places – perhaps ‘place appeal’?;
  • The psychology of environment and behaviour (org. psych.);
  • Strategy and competition (esp. in competing for talent, a key HR issue)
  • Brand and image – marketing – the impact of place;
  • The consumerization of everything – including ‘the place to be’ on any one day;
  • The experience economy – not just place, but service, and experience;
  • The health & wellness debate: stress, work-life balance and related issues;
  • Workplace economics – cost vs value, taking all the above into account;
  • Corporate places, home, and ‘third places’; coworking; hubs; collaboration; innovation;
  • Home or away? – the only real human options (i.e., everyone choses either to stay at home, or to go somewhere… the default in the future may be to stay put! or work closer to where we live)
  • Management, procurement and delivery of places for corporations, employees, and their networks.
  • Relationships between the ‘placemaker’ team and the rest of the corporation & stakeholders.
  • The future provision of corporate places – new market entrants?;
  • A sustainable, low-carbon, low-stress future; we cannot continue the way we are today!

What would you call the management discipline which encompasses all of the above? The multi-faceted and strategically-minded role in large organizations, which moves between Group HR, operations, marketing, IT infrastructure planning, corporate real estate and facilities management?

(clue: the answer is not Facilities Manager. Though there is nothing to say that a good strategic-thinking FM could not develop into this role! But then, so could a good HR manager….)


Happy Christmas all… and our very best wishes for 2016.


Paul Carder

Co-Founder, Occupiers Journal Limited


Productivity is important at a macro-economic level. How much a country produces, measured by GDP, is still important.

Productivity at an organization level is also important, when measuring ‘output against inputs’, usually turnover and profitability.

But, unless an organization is a simple ‘producer’ (e.g., manufacturer of items for sale), then productivity is yesterday’s issue. This is now one of the key challenges for any non-manufacturing organization – and even many parts of the manufacturer, not directly working on the production process.

A government organization delivers output, not measurable in ‘units’. An advertising agency originates ideas, sometimes a spark of genius, or sometimes the result of a process of team brainstorming and analysis. The productivity of the work process is hard to measure – maybe impossible.

Traditional ‘productivity’ is about “stuff” made/time taken. So, time is the measure. But, non-manufacturing organizations do not work that way. How long the Creative Director takes to produce a new TV advert may become a problem if the project is running late. But, equally, the whole concept could come quickly as a flash of inspiration, as ideas bounce around a bright team of thinkers. Where does productivity come into that process?

Society (and therefore corporations delivering products to society; consumers) needs creativity. And, that creativity needs inspiration. It needs many other things also, as the process of innovation is not just about ideas. It needs knowledge, and people who are engaged in what they are doing – not just going through the motions. For more about the innovation process, read John Kao, who we heard speak at the CoreNet Global Summit San Diego in 2012 – certainly a process, but can it be measured by ‘productivity’?

Post-productive Places must inspire people to be creative. Places must also make people feel valued, and part of the organization, to be fully engaged in their work. Increasingly ‘places’ are also one element of the process to attract good people to work for an organization (or at the least, not to dissuade them from enquiring!). The result should be engaged people, working together in “places” designed (and managed) to inspire.

We need ways to measure the success of such places – but, it is not “productivity” as such – it is more about performance. Human performance, leading to team performance, leading to organizational performance.

Paul Carder (; Twitter @occupiers


Organizational Landscaping: a search for references

by Paul Carder on December 14, 2013

I am going to try to crowd-source this one! – I need your feedback please! The term “organizational landscape”, or the term in action, “landscaping”. Have you used it? Has it been used by any group that you recall? How and why?

I do like the term “landscaping”, because it is physical (like our world of spaces, and places) and also partly because it could sit in a suite of terms prefaced by the word “Organizational”. For example, as follows:

Organizational behaviour (OB): looks at individuals, groups and structures;

Organizational development (OD): relates to OB, but is a deliberate planned intervention to improve organizational effectiveness;

Organizational model & structure: how you make sense of the form of the organization

Organizational politics: see this interesting article using the term “landscape”

Organizational vision & values: arguably the most critical success factor – where you are heading, and how to get there responsibly!

Organizational Landscaping could be a useful term to describe the design and management of the whole physical environment that an organization uses to deliver its mission, efficiently and effectively. It is both of the following:

  • a number of built environments used by people across the organization, and across all geographies; and
  • a number of information infrastructure environments (computers, mobile devices, communications technologies);

Has anyone used the term already?

Lawrence M. Miller used the term in his blog, “The Lean Culture Challenge: Can You Graduate from the 5S’s to The 7S’s that Really Matter?”

He says, in relation to the lean thinking 5S’s model, “[It] does not address the big issues that drive the culture and competitiveness of any organization.” Lawrence goes on to describe 7S’s “that are the key levers, the things that determine your culture.” He says, “These are the things that you can change and these are the things for which leaders must take responsibility.”

So, thinking myself about how the physical environment – spaces, buildings, places, service culture – must be one of these 7S’s, I was excited for a brief moment to find the first ‘S’ was in fact The Landscape! So, maybe I have found my guru! But not quite…

The Landscape: If you are developing strategy you develop that strategy to adapt to a changing environment… and it is always changing! If you are in the business of retail sales you must be adapting to the external changes in technology and social habits. Are you developing a strong web and social media presence or are you stuck in brick and mortar stores? These are obvious elements of strategy that are driven by the realities of the landscape. Economic and political changes will also affect strategy. …..And changes in the climate may have something to do with where you build that next plant and what your insurance costs may be in the future. All competitive strategy involves gathering intelligence and developing a response to the challenges of the external environment. The corporate graveyard is littered with the names of companies that failed to recognize and adapt to the changing landscape.

It is all fair enough, but it is not what I wanted to read: a management guru talking about the physical ‘landscape’ of the organization.

“Bodies in a Landscape”

Johanna Hofbauer, in a book called “Body and Organization” used the word Landscape in her chapter, “Bodies in a Landscape: On Office Design and Organization“.

I do not have access to the whole text, but it is good to see the term Landscape being used in the context in which I had imagined it – i.e., physical space and environment.


Do you know of any other precedents for the use of “Organizational Landscaping” as a term which could fit into the body of knowledge on organization and management? We need something, to capture the higher-level view. All the terms we use are far too specific and/or technical. Even corporate real estate is too focused on buildings. “Infrastructure” is a possibility, particularly with the convergence of the built asset infrastructure and the information technology infrastructure.

I like the term “Landscaping” – what do you think?

Paul ( Twitter: @occupiers