Friday, March 7, 2014

Space as a Resource

I started blogging about eight resources that are needed to create an agile organization.  One of those resources is space, in this case physical space.  Space is a resource to manage, and I wonder how CIOs and other IT leaders learn how to manage space as a resource.

Why do I want to manage space?  First, there's the basic space management issue:  a workspace for each employee.  I remember early in my career, taking a contract analyst position, and the company pulling out the department refrigerator and setting up a table with a computer for my workspace, without even bothering to dust.  This was not a positive experience!  And the time 5 analysts were crammed into a room designed for two; in order to move, one person had to pull his chair in under the desk so the other person could back his chair away from the desk.  These situations do not convey a sense of value to the employee.  We need to do better.

Once we've handled the basics, we need to consider what kind of space contributes the best work environment.  We want to manage workspace to emphasize values. Values to consider are privacy, productivity, security, collaboration, and agility. We've tried offices, cubes with tall partitions, cubes with short partitions, and open hotel space.  

Staff members with highly detailed development tasks want all the quiet and distraction reduction that we can possibly provide.  Front line network and telecom trouble-shooters, who are in and out of the office and want to talk about what is happening, are satisfied with the hotelling concept.

We need more collaborative workspace today than we needed in the past.  We are working together on more projects, and having a room that seats 8 to 12 participants, with a large computer projection system and whiteboards, is very popular.

Some recent articles talk about current ideas in space management.

First, there's an article in Harvard Business Review:  Employees Perform Better When They Can Control Their Space.   Higher levels of satisfaction, innovation, and job performance were associated with employees having choices about when, where, and how to work.  That seems to be key, even with the cubicle culture.  What I would like to do, if I had more space to control, is create a variety of spaces and allow employees to move among those spaces, finding the workspace that best fit the task that the employee was currently working on.

The New Yorker published material about the downside of open offices:  The Open Office Trap.
Interruptions in open office spaces can be detrimental to productivity (that's not surprising, really).  But a surprising finding from a 2005 study shows the impact again of control:  "... the ability to control the environment had a significant effect on team cohesion and satisfaction."  Another interesting perspective was that with exposure to many inputs and distractive noises at once, senses become overloaded and we have to work harder to achieve results.  Could this be a reason why we feel so overworked at times?

Finally, The Diane Rehm Show on NPR had a program on designing modern work spaces.  This discussion proposed that perhaps our open office spaces are sacrificing focus for free-flow of ideas.

While I've focused on office and employee workspaces here, I also need to manage datacenter space, whether on premise or in the cloud.  As a leader, I need to identify spaces to house the systems and servers, with adequate space to support quick shifts in direction or new services for the university.   These spaces also require strong environmental and security controls, involving another ken ledge base.   One resource is, a professional association that encompasses aspects of design. 

As a CIO, I am left wondering how I can manage space to create the environment that supports an agile organization.  How can I successfully work with those responsibility for facilities to create the spaces we need?  What is the path for new IT leaders to learn about space management as a resource issue?  That is an interesting question to ponder.   Successful management of space is critical to creating a successful and agile IT organization.