PLACEMAKER

by Paul Carder (paul.carder@occupiersjournal.com); Twitter: @paulcarder

When Terry Hall of Fun Boy Three brought Bananarama in as backing vocals in 1982, to release “It ain’t what you do, its the way that you do it”, he couldn’t have foreseen it being quoted in a blog about work, work-styles and workplaces! But here it is, and its true – its the way that you do it, that’s what gets results. Organizations of all kinds are about getting results, for their investors, customers, charitable donators, voters, or any other group of stakeholders. So, one has to question why managers so often feel the need not only to allocate work (‘what’ you do), but also to manage the location and process (the ‘way’ that you do it). Managing the ‘way’ that work is done, especially for highly skilled knowledge-workers, restricts their ability to tailor their work output to their own personal circumstances and preferences. Everyone is different. Why expect them to all work in the same place, in the same way? Its like giving them a car, but fixing the seat height, the steering column, the mirrors, giving them a one-speed gearbox and a speed restrictor…..the car would soon be returned to the leasing company! Why do we do it with workplaces?

The PLACEMAKER, in those circumstances, also has two hands firmly tied. Their skill-set includes finding the best work locations, flexible providers, great service experience, and supporting the individual in whatever way they chose to work. But, the PLACEMAKER may only be allowed to use the one element of that toolkit – the large, standardized, pre-set, corporate office, in the centre of the city. Or worse, not even in an interesting city! The corporate office could be in a nondescript business park, where the only respite from monotony is the entrepreneurial woman from the nearby town who brings a van-load of assorted sandwiches at mid-morning. Or a smoke in the purpose-built smoking shelter, with your other buddies, also ostracized like citizens of the Athenian democracy (albeit not for ten years, just for ten minutes). Yes, I have been one of their number….

In one of our OJ network discussions this week, Marcus Bowen (our man in Hong Kong) raised a very interesting point. It is an unrestricted gulp of fresh air to be PLACEMAKER to the ScrumMasters in the software development industries. They do not suffer from these restrictions. The much sought-after (and expensive) ScrumMaster will fly into a hub like Hong Kong, or Singapore, all pre-arranged and planned by a multi-skilled PLACEMAKER. The ScrumMaster and her team will have done a lot of preparation work remotely, in one of many different personally-suited work settings. But then, at some point, they need ‘face time’. They need that frenetic activity – a short, intensive work period – to get over that creative hurdle. Maybe three or four days – they will be too tired to do more.

Before they get to the Scrum, the group of software developers will have been using remote team-working tools; sharing a work-space in real time, but not real proximity. They may ‘sit’ next to each other, online – but in reality could be a mile or a thousand miles apart. It makes no difference. The PLACEMAKER will be there, wherever, to provide (maybe through a third party) the place, and the space, and the service experience which supports productive work.

I hear some readers saying, ‘here we go again – this is all about knowledge workers!’ The laptop and tablet-carrying free agents of the contemporary workplace. Highly paid and highly skilled people, whose needs have to be pandered to. But, it is no longer true, is it? We would have said, medical doctors need to be in hospitals. But paramedics with helmet-mounted cameras now routinely get advice from a doctor who could be anywhere.  We would have said, teachers need to be in schools and colleges – they may be, but their students can be anywhere with a webcam. Or vice-versa. The man (it is usually a man) digging up the road will be there, until someone invents a machine that can do his job all day without leaning on his shovel for ten minutes every hour. The person fitting caps on toothpaste tubes will equally be physically located on a bench, day in day out, until similarly someone invents a machine with equivalent dexterity. But, these jobs, in fixed locations, are reducing in numbers every time there is a new innovation – and they are not being replaced.

Much has been talked about the future of the office (no….open your eyes….stay awake now) – its quite simple, it will be a bit of what we have today, and part working at home, plus many other locations and spaces which suit the individual at a specific time. Workplace becomes workplaces. Corporate real estate teams will be providing an agile service to the workforce, not a fixed ‘product’, in a fixed place. Facilities management will become more about managing the work experience, of place, space and customer services – but as those places are spread around, to suit the individual more than the corporation, this new higher-level facilities management will be provided by the PLACEMAKER. The developer, the entrepreneur with an interesting ‘place’ where people just really want to work. The bus stops here – all change please, all change….

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In November, I wrote about Place-as-a-Service (PaaS), based on the now common term SaaS (Software as a Service): http://occupiersjournal.com/place-as-a-service-paas-time-to-join-the-connected-world/

The article was supply-side focused. I was considering the changes, already being seen in a small way, in how workplace accommodation is provided. Regus is the most well-known, globally; but there are many new entrants – in fact, who really knows how many?

Looked at from the user perspective, is this simply the consumerization of workplace accommodation? In a similar way that cloud-based IT and personal devices have been picked up by users? Not provided by the corporation (usually, the employer), but paid for by the consumer?

Where is this going? How far will it go? Of course, we do not know.

Will flexible accommodation, on flexible terms, reach a plateau? That seems unlikely.

Will agile working become universally accepted as simply the most efficient and effective way of working? That seems likely.

When people can truly work almost anywhere, at their choice, will they choose to commute to the corporate workplace? That remains to be seen. There are many ‘push/pull’ factors at play here – the need to belong to the wider ‘group’, recognition, immersion in corporate culture, versus time and cost to the individual.

How will corporations (employers) react? Or, indeed, plan for this eventuality? IT had its BYOD (Bring Your Own Device), and that spread rapidly. Will our sector have its own BYOD? Buy-Your-Own-Desk? And charge its use back to the company? A Regus account will do that already; how many others will follow?

So many questions!….what are yours?

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PLACEMAKER: Research Programme: Questions?

by Paul Carder on April 17, 2014

by Paul Carder @paulcarder & paul.carder@occupiersjournal.com

This post relates to the open LinkedIn Group of the same name: https://www.linkedin.com/groups/PLACEMAKER-Research-Programme-5093552/about

PLACEMAKER is our next research programme, and we would like to get you involved. It comprises the kind of exploratory research, across multiple-disciplines, which we love – and upon which most of you will have a view! It is also related to my PhD, which officially started on 1st April at UWE Bristol, and as you know will be a long process (hopefully around four years). So, personally, I also very much welcome all your feedback – now, and into the future…

For now, I just want to put these questions out there, for you to comment upon, and add to:

  1. What is the relevance of PLACE to an organisation? Or to a part of an organisation, in a specific place?
  2. Location is one key aspect, but what are the characteristics of PLACE at different levels – region, city, sector, street, building?
  3. An organisation, any occupier of PLACE, is the demand-side of the ‘economics of place’ – what are those demand factors?
  4. Users (employees, contractors, consultants, visitors) form part of the ‘demand’ profile – what level of user engagement occurs?
  5. How does the supply-side of the ‘economics of place’ position itself to deliver to this demand profile?
  6. How do regions, cities, and sectors of cities, impact on and relate to demand from organisations and their workforce?
  7. How does the economics of agglomeration, and the competitive advantage of cities, relate to PLACE?
  8. What, and who, is a PLACEMAKER? City Mayors, property owners/developers, hub operators, and occupiers?
  9. How do they work, and interact, for mutual economic advantage?
  10. What will the future PLACE look like, for organisations and their knowledge-workers? Hooks to PLACES? Or free-roaming?

There are many more questions that we could ask – but what are the key questions? I look forward to your comments! Thank you in advance, Paul.

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