LEADERSHIP AND OFFICE SPACE IN THE 21ST CENTURY

During the last weeks of 2014 I was fortunate, once again, to have visited my home country for the holidays. After traveling to Guatemala City for the past four years, I’m always amazed at the pace in which the urban landscape changes from one trip to the next. There is explosive growth in commercial, professional and residential real state, far beyond what I’ve seen in any major city in the last decade.

Besides going to some of the newest shopping malls, which rival those in the U.S. in terms of scale and design, I was invited to check out a new office set up for a technology services firm. This project began with a request from the firm’s principals to come up with an efficient and attractive design using some of the features of the “open floor” plans that are common in this sector.

The project was completed before the holidays and the staff will report to work in their new environment, which emphasizes a “bull pen” style layout, among other features.

I was told that the company’s leaders wanted to express some of their values and culture in those new offices. By looking at floor plans and photos of the finished product, those values could be interpreted as: transparency, equality, accessibility and efficiency.

When I engage leaders for consultations on how to increase their effectiveness, I speak about three “leadership spaces” that need to be addressed:

–       Articulating and executing a Vision

–       Designing and implementing successful management and leadership Structures across the organization

–       Producing, sharing and evaluating Results with all the organization’s stakeholders

Office space may appear to be something low on the priority lists of a leader. This is a common mistake: the physical space shared by those responsible for carrying out the daily work is as critical and relevant as any other leadership task, and it should be carefully considered in all three of the above mentioned spaces.

Employees, clients, partners and suppliers will appreciate a well thought out design that takes advantage of all the tools and criteria available today to make their interactions as efficient, productive and comfortable as possible. Researching and coming up with a new office layout is a great opportunity to identify how work flows and critical processes are carried out, and creates opportunities for aligning and engaging the different stakeholders.

While there are pros and cons to an “open floor” option, depending on the scale and scope of the business, leaders can represent their core values, principles and culture in every square meter of their shared space, and maximize their organization’s commitments to excellence and success.