by Michael Downs, Momentum, Inc.
Our work with executive leadership teams all over the country consistently reveals that virtually every Credit Union faces some type of challenge related to its workspace. Whether it is overcrowding of employees, disparately located operations functions, or missed opportunities to access new markets, all are intrinsically linked to the strategic use of space. Simply stated, workspace impacts every facet of a Credit Union’s business. In spite of this fact, there is still research, such as that performed by Bell and Joroff in The Agile Workplace indicating that a very small percentage of U.S. corporations use space as a strategic tool1.
The convergence of spatial, social, informational, and economic trends has generated greater demand for workplaces that can support different types of collaboration, resulting in greater efficiencies. In today’s work environment collaboration is nearly constant, and it weaves itself throughout the entire workday. It occurs in a variety of places all over the organization including hallways, meeting rooms, team spaces, break rooms, and it is most often spontaneous and informal discussions that lead to fresh ideas. By developing workspace strategies that fully support team-oriented work and improved learning, more innovative and rapid decision-making can result.
The growing emphasis on collaborative work, combined with increasing competitive pressures is requiring Credit Unions to take a closer look at their overall investment in space and how it can be used more effectively to support the organization’s goals. There is an increasing realization that the issues related to workspace are deeper and more complex than the basic question, “Where should someone sit?” Unfortunately, many Credit Unions are attempting to create more efficient work environments, which typically results in trying to force-fit a newer process into their existing workplace. This is not a transformation that can be done in a vacuum.
Although nearly all leading businesses today value the idea of talented teams collaborating on work, there are many differing theories, thoughts and opinions about what that actually means. Therefore, as a starting point it makes sense to establish a basic definition of a “workplace”. The General Services Administration (GSA)2 defines the workplace using the following equation; Workspace Strategies + Culture + Space = Workplace. In this formula, Work Strategies represent the alignment of goals that balance cost reduction and increased performance. Culture is the shared system of values and process within an organization, or simply, “How we do things here”. And finally, Space represents the actual physical work environment. The ultimate goal is to strike a balance among all three components of the equation.
As we progress through the subsequent articles in the series, it is important to keep in mind there are four basic “modes” of work, each of which should be considered when developing workspace strategies. The four modes as originally described by Nonaka and Takeuchi 3 in their book The Knowledge-Creating Company are:
- Focusing – Time spent with uninterrupted concentration to perform specific tasks such as studying, strategizing, processing, and other mentally taxing work.
- Collaborating – Work conducted with one or more people to achieve a goal, such as collectively creating strategies, solving problems, etc.
- Learning – The process of building knowledge. Whether in a classroom or a conversation with peers, learning happens best by doing and building on what’s already known.
- Socializing – When people socialize and work with others in both formal and informal ways, both learning and trust are built.
Ultimately, a workplace is much more than basic physical elements such as furniture, offices, or a departmental seating chart. It involves an organization’s goals, culture, communication patterns, and employee work styles, all combined with the physical attributes of its space. With this in mind, it is imperative for Credit Unions to recognize that each of these components will continue to evolve and change at different intervals over time. Therefore, an organization’s approach to space planning must be adaptable enough to fully support future rates of change. Finally, by developing flexible workplace strategies that seek to balance all of these key components, Credit Unions can begin down the path of turning their space into one of their greatest competitive advantages.
- Bell, M. & Joroff, M. (2002). The Agile Workplace: Supporting People and Their Work.
- GSA Office of Governmentwide Policy. (2006). Innovative Workspaces: Benefits and BestPractices. Washington, DC: U.S. General Services Administration.
- The Knowledge-Creating Company, Ikujiro Nonaka and Hirotaka Takeuchi, Oxford University Press, 1995.
This is the first article in the CUinsight.com six part series Six Things Every Credit Union Should Be Doing to Turn Their Workspace into a Competitive Advantage by Michael Downs, MBA, CFS and Greg Barrett, CFS. Keep an eye out for part two next Monday: It’s About Your People: Understanding Your Most Valuable Asset.
This series is co-authored by Michael Downs and Greg Barrett of Momentum, Inc. Mr. Downs holds both a Bachelors and Masters of Business Administration, completed the ABA School of Bank Marketing at Southern Methodist University, and has more than twelve years of experience working with clients on strategic planning and marketing. Mr. Barrett holds a Bachelors of Science in Finance and has worked with and for financial institutions for more than nineteen years. Mr. Downs, Mr. Barrett and the Momentum team work with credit unions to facilitate strategic planning, evaluate facilities growth needs, and implement systems for ongoing measurement and benchmarking. Learn more at www.momentumbuilds.com or connect at www.twitter.com/plandesignbuild