Leaders are responsible for seeing the unseen – it’s at the core of our job description – vision. I believe this is the most critical of all our responsibilities. Yes, I understand leadership is more than vision. However, I also know leadership always begins with a picture of the future.
Over the last 12 months, I have had the privilege to be part of a team exploring the future of work. We are actually trying to see the unseen. Our team set out to figure out how much more office space our organization would need over the next decade and the most cost effective way to provide it. However, we decided to pull up and embrace a far bigger question:
How can we create a work environment that creates competitive advantage and multiplies the impact of our amazing talent?
Questions of this scope and scale require a lot of thought. It is a journey we have not yet completed. We are doing interviews, focus groups, two surveys (one on engagement and one on personal work habits.) We have even placed heat sensors in our existing space to determine current usage. The process has been fascinating.
The outcome should create a space where people want to work rather than to avoid. It should be a space to foster collaboration and creativity while providing an appropriate balance of “We Space & Me Space.”
Although we’ll not have our official findings and recommendations for several months, I have already begun a personal experiment with a concept called Free Address. As I began to explain the idea to people, I was encouraged to write about my journey. So, today is my first report.
Let me begin by defining the term Free Address. As our team has learned, there is no universally accepted lexicon for the different modes of work. In light of this, I am not professing to have coined any new vocabulary. However, as you think about the future of work in your organization, beware; when you use a “common term,” the chances are good everyone is not on the same page. Here’s how I’m defining the term Free Address.
Free Address is a phrase to describe a worker who moves from space to space within a given day as the needs of the work dictate. For example, the photo above was where I started my day on Friday. I was actually in another building not inhabited by my core team. I was actually sitting in another department… radical I know!
After a couple of hours there, I joined our team in a large department-wide meeting. After that meeting, I went to our café and worked solo for a half hour before a lunch meeting in the café. Then I joined my core team in a nearby conference room. I closed my day with three calls on the drive home. Although I’ve only been Free Address for a couple of weeks, I’m guessing this is the new normal. The work is wherever you are – not in your assigned office or work station.
Some might hear this and say, “It sounds like you are a remote worker.” The way I define a remote worker is someone who is predominantly off-site. I envision Free Address as mostly an on-site work style.
Why the distinction? Remember the title of this post? The Future of Work. There is much I don’t know about the future, but there is one thing I am willing to bet on…
The organizations that will win will outsmart and out execute their competition on a regular basis.
A key strategy for harnessing the collective energy, passion and creativity of your workforce is collaboration.Although it is possible to collaborate via Skype or on a conference call, I still believe face-to-face is the preferred method.
My favorite quote from Peter Drucker is applicable here, “The best way to predict the future is to invent it.” We are trying to invent a future of unprecedented collaboration leading to unparalleled performance. I’ll share more as we continue the journey.[GLS_Shield]
Does your current workspace enhance or hinder collaboration?