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Written by Tyler Wetzel on Monday, September 09, 2013
We’ve all heard the saying, “we are products of our environment”. While we may apply that to our social lives, it’s as equally important in our work lives. The real problem is how to bring this philosophy into the workplace. Human resource managers have been struggling with the concept of company structure for decades, and it’s always been held back by an unwillingness to change the existing system. While this may be true for bureaucracies, it’s easier to address in a small firm. There are several structural changes that a firm can implement to increase integration and communication in their workplace. For most creative firms we’re already on the right path, but what do the specialists say on the matter?
When I first stepped foot in boldUnderline I was surprised to learn that the entire office consisted of one room, where everyone was crowded around a few tables. It didn’t seem like a business. Everyone was comfortable, relaxed and carefree. Either these people were delusional or I was crazy. I tend to think the latter.
Indie music drifted through the air, and I could smell the sweet scent of fresh brewed coffee. Everyone was wearing regular street clothes, and I couldn’t distinguish between staff and clients. There were no badges, no offices, no fancy attire - nothing that I was familiar with coming from my previous job as a media coordinator in a university where everyone had their own office, suits and fancy titles. I took a breath of fresh air. It was unsettling, yet homey. I couldn’t imagine how such a serene environment could be more productive then some of the mainstream offices of GM, IBM, or Dell that my father used to work at. It was definitely different, but I couldn’t tell you exactly why at the time.
The secret lies in a nifty science called Structural Change. The difference is structural when it’s something physical. It’s these tangible changes that stick. Simply asking someone to do something different doesn’t always work. Will they truly change their behavior or continue doing what they have been comfortable doing? That’s where the magic of agile/lean workplaces come in. It focuses on work flow and processes within the company. By breaking down the barriers that promote differentiation, it forces your employees to interact, to be involved, to be aware of one another. When everyone appears equal then you form a much stronger sense of being a part of a team.
THE DIFFERENCE IS STRUCTURAL WHEN IT’S SOMETHING PHYSICAL. IT’S THESE TANGIBLE CHANGES THAT STICK.
As for Bold, it was intuitive to put everyone in one place. It makes sense. If I have a question for the boss, then he’s right next to me. I can just ask away without having to take time out of my busy day to run to another floor, or to a separate office. When collaboration between one another is made easy, then you boost integration among your employees. Many businesses do the opposite. They implement more meetings, programs and put together lengthy ad campaigns to boost company collaboration. This is only temporary and usually cost quite a hefty sum to maintain.
My father, David K. Wetzel, specializes in changing the workplace. He has over 30 years of Six Sigma and Lean management experience with such companies as IBM, Dell, Arthur Anderson, GM, and Xerox. He has found that most bureaucracies are resilient if not downright indignant towards change.
It’s costly to reform and most managers don’t want to have their status symbols removed. While they still want to parade around in their fancy suits, they also want a motivated workforce. Status symbols act as a division, much like offices and suits do. They are unnecessary, and put more emphasis on getting promoted for the “perks” instead of for the betterment of the company.
Now, he could write on this for days, but I am going to focus on some of the key points.
Anyways, this is just advise. You can do whatever you want to do!
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