Describing Workplace Transformation

Recently I was asked for my views on how Workplace Strategies were resulting in workplace transformation. It got me thinking… Could you have a workplace transformation without having a workplace strategy in the first place?

Workplace transformation describes one option for change that supports or aligns with a workplace strategy or objective.

Furthermore, what did we mean by the word “Transformation” in this context? The Collins English Dictionary defines transformation as “change or alteration especially of a radical nature.” I would add that a change cannot be a transformation unless it results in a different stable state. It is hardly a transformation if the changes only become temporary and revert back to the previous state. The new state needs to be maintained.

Given these characteristics, I cannot see how a change can be described as a transformation in the absence of a strategy. We may be able make changes such as putting squeezes on budgets or to use space more effectively but these are hardly transformations. We do also need to be careful with our use of words like “Transformation”.

What do we mean by Workplace Transformation? How do we measure our progress to achieving it?

We have to be very clear what we mean by the Workplace Transformation we have in mind and, if we are serious about it, be able to describe in simple terms what the workplace design, experience and working conditions would look and feel like if it were to undergo the radical change we seek.

Successful transformations need the engagement of senior executives, department managers, supervisors and staff right across the business. Much reliance will rest upon trust. It is useful to create people based stories around descriptions of the transformational change. Stories that paint a working description of what it would feel like and look like, how people would be supported, how new workplace processes and workplace technologies make improvements to working lives and how people will be developed to be more engaged in their work.

Transformations are hard to make and affect many people. To succeed requires an enthusiasm for adventure and acceptance and management of risk. Perhaps it is because organisations lack workplace strategies that we see so few real transformations.

This article was originally written by Graham Jervis, the Advanced Workplace Associates (AWA) Director of Service Management.

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