There is a misconception about ABW out there being all about the physical building, which has been perpetuated by all the voices at the table claiming to know ABW. But ABW can be so much more than the way the building is designed and built! It is a rare opportunity to be able to design your workplace, one that comes along maybe every 15 – 20 years. Why not, then, invest the time and effort to think through how your office can truly work for you?
We often spend a lot of time with clients talking about the opportunity that a new way of working can create. The hope is to open up the possibilities. Yes, we can come in and help to create a better physical environment, however, the power of ABW is all about the story you create and share about the intentionality behind the design and how that design supports your workforce in how they work.
Putting it simply, it’s all about the culture.
This sometimes comes as a surprise as our clients come on a journey with us. As a steward of change, I myself have reflected on how to create more predictability around the outcomes, how we can measure it, and how we can manage it. However, through my experience I have learned to let go of control. After all, ABW is transformational change. And transformational change is messy, unpredictable, and terrifyingly exciting. It is high risk, high reward.
So what do I mean by transformational change?
The word transformation has been a bit of a buzz word of late, however transformational change is fundamentally different than how many of us have experienced change in the work environment.
Unlike a typical change management project, transformational change (TC) is all about reinvention.
Typical change programs focus on incremental change, perhaps it’s a new process, policy, system, or structure that is being introduced. It tends to address a past pain point or seek to add incremental improvements to our current world. TC, on the other hand, forces organisations to fundamentally challenge their own paradigms. In many ways, it turns the current world upside down. ABW, to me, has been one of the most powerful levers for transformational change. It touches every person, process, system, you name it….it creates an invitation for everyone to rethink and reinvent how they show up to work. So if TC is all about reinvention, that means multiple initiatives have to be created to drive reinvention. These initiatives often cut across the entire organisation and have interdependencies. Execution then becomes very complex, perhaps never fully defined.
Woah. That sounds scary. Never fully defined? The question then becomes, how do we manage what we can never fully define?
My answer: Be clear on the why.
The why is your north star, your destination. Then, take out your compass and throw away the map. Your map will never be accurate, and relying on the false sense of security it creates is dangerous if your goal is reinvention. Reinvention requires walking into the unknown, testing and learning, and reflecting on what is and is not working. Take a few steps with your compass…and see what happens.
It also requires dialogue and support. When the world you are creating doesn’t feel familiar anymore, people need to come together to make sense of what is happening and how best to move forward. Together. The unknown is scary, transformation is not for the faint of heart. But surrounding yourself with those who believe in the future and that north star is how true change can be achieved.
So start exploring the unknown…and let ABW help you along that journey. And who knows? You may come out with something even greater than a beautiful building.