The Workplace Management Framework – Supply Chain Management

Supply Chain Management covers the entire Supply Chain life-cycle from strategic policies and plans, the selection of suppliers of all workplace assets and services, the negotiation of contracts, the mobilisation of supply, monitoring of performance and where appropriate the termination of contract.

In previous blogs we discussed the idea of a new emerging ‘Workplace Management function which is well connected to the ‘C Suite’, valued as a business contributor, recognises leaders as ‘clients’ and their people as workplace ‘consumers’ and is responsible for defining and delivering a workplace ‘experience’ that is tuned to deliver clearly defined business outcomes. In this blog we’ll explore the implications this has for the supply chain and its management.

strategic management and client relationship performance infographic

But before we do that let’s talk about ‘workplace experiences’ for a minute because this idea makes a dramatic difference to the management of our supply chain. Over the last 25 years we have seen a progressive shift from the provision of services by in-house teams to one where almost all are done by external businesses that compete largely on the basis of cost savings. This business model has, by and large, successfully delivered savings and improvements in building management practices but has also resulted in a more adversarial contractual relationship between supplier and client where the experience requirements of the knowledge worker have not been foremost.

Delivering workplace experiences necessarily means re-balancing cost with experience outcomes and thinking about journeys and destinations, the fusion of space, information, services and behaviour – and how these reflect organizational personality, support human effectiveness, and provide a magnet for the best talent. It’s about designing and delivering multifaceted, minute-by-minute, multisensory experiences that deliver on a number of business driven ‘missions’ and create a consciously chosen, emotional response.

An experience can’t be measured through the lens of a single supply chain partner; it has to be measured through the lens of the consumer who sees the experience as one stream of consciousness. If any one element of the experience fails, the whole experience fails. From a supply chain standpoint an experience necessarily involves a variety of different parties and skills, but to the consumer they are all part of one experience.

Let’s use the example of a meeting room experience to examine the wider issues. Meetings are important moments when you bring a variety of minds together to deliver something that none of them alone could deliver. Meetings are often complex and require high levels of focus, so a failure of the experience could lead to a loss of time for all the attendees (not just one), distraction and a loss of group concentration.

It’s worth remembering that a 2 hour meeting of 4 people (say) is probably costing an organisation upwards of £1000 when the fully loaded costs of a knowledge worker are factored in, but more importantly the value generated from the meeting should be way more than the cost.

So we want an environment that delivers a friction-less experience, where nothing fails, that places no burden on the brains of the attendees and which enables the people involved in the meeting to deploy all their brainpower on the task they came together to work on (and not fixing the experience). The different requirements for the different components of the meeting experience might be defined as below:

  1. Meeting rooms are configured as requested and available at the time booked.
  2. Someone who is driven to achieve the highest standards of service is charged with the responsibility to quality check the meeting room at the start of each day and to ensure changes are made at the end of the day in readiness for the following day.
  3. Temperature across the whole of the meeting room at 21 degrees C regardless of how many people are in the room.
  4. No drafts.
  5. An appropriate amount of fresh air per hour.
  6. Fresh minted cool water and clean glasses for all. 
  7. A table that allows people of different heights and genders to work together and achieve easy eye contacts.
  8. Chairs that are comfortable and positions easily modified.
  9. Easy power connectivity for all participants.
  10. Easy and high bandwidth (20MB +) connectivity per participant.
  11. Easy projection from personal devices to screens.
  12. Easy connection to other participants outside the rooms with audio, video, screen sharing and white board capability.
  13. Easy ability to share screens and data.
  14. High definition and consistent video quality.
  15. High quality sound capture quality from any part of the room.
  16. Provision of connected electronic white boards & pens.
  17. Adjustable lighting that can be tuned to user/video-conferencing needs.
  18. Acoustics that avoid echo and reverberation and support good quality audio.
  19. No distracting noises from either A/C, equipment or overheard speech from other meetings in adjacent spaces.
  20. Provision of flip chart paper and filled pens.
  21. Experience output based Performance metrics are determined to ensure that the aggregation of the above succeed in providing excellent meeting outcomes.
AWA Advanced Workplace Associates 2019 Homepage Gallery-Slide-1

All in all, 20+ elements and if any one of them fails, the experience fails.

Of course, the provision of this experience starts with careful thought about requirements and the harmonious orchestration of all the interacting elements that make up the experience. But once this is achieved, we have to clarify what the requirements are for each element of the experience is and the implications for failure and what happens in the event of a failure, what’s acceptable and what’s not.

So, think how many parties are involved in the delivery of the experience? mechanical and electrical engineering, facilities services, IT networks, AV, Unified communications, catering. Some may be in house, others contracted all with different cultures, backgrounds, skills.

So if we’re going deliver experiences with multiple parties contributing, we need to get them each to share a common understand of the experience and the part they play in it. We also need to have them work in unison as a team recognising that any individual service failure reflects on them all. 

So, what are the factors to think about in setting up a supply chain to deliver an experience? Here is a list.

  • Clarify experience requirements: what is the vision for the experience? What are the contributing elements for the experience? For each element what is the service level (time, service, behaviour), what constitutes a failure?, what is the recovery service level?
  • Build Resilience: What resources and processes are expected within each element to ensure that the element is delivered regardless of changes in personnel, sickness, equipment failure, consumable shortages and process failure?
  • Build Measurements that reflect the effectiveness of the experience: What measure do we need to measure the overall success of the experience, the elements that make up the experience and the processes/machine behind the scenes that delivers the experience.
  • Build a motivation strategy: What incentives, rewards will encourage suppliers to work together as a team and remain focused on delivering great experiences every day.
  • Select suppliers on capability and culture: Select suppliers who understand ‘experiences’ and have a culture of customer service and deliver experiences in ‘high touch’ sectors. Select suppliers who have a culture of open-ness and sharing.    
  • Build a Team: Pro-actively create a Workplace Experience team involving everyone that has a part to play in delivering the experience. Share measures, create a Watsapp group, organise social events.
  • Create a contract that creates the conditions for collaboration on longevity of relationship. As opposed to one which divides suppliers and creates division.
  • Create the conditions for flexibility and innovation: Things change in business and you want your supply chain partners to change easily and innovate with you to enhance the experience over time.

Supply Chain Strategy

Compare all this with what we typically do today, and it becomes clear that we need a fundamental rethink about how workplace services are procured and managed against the future strategic importance of the battle for performance of knowledge-based talent. It is a key part of a Workplace supply chain management and the fundamental responsibility of a new role we see emerging to take overall responsibility for the workplace experience. The ‘Chief Workplace Officer’ ensures that the supply chain is involved in the design and delivery of the workplace experience.

It may seem rather daunting given the scale of the change and the multiple stakeholders involved but it does not all have to happen overnight. The rendering of services offers an excellent opportunity to re-think and define the workplace experience you really need for your business to be successful and review the existing supplier selection criteria and whether the existing contracts encourage the behaviours necessary to provide great experiences to the consumers of those services.

In summary …..

Delivering workplace experiences require significant changes in the contractual relationship between the organisation and suppliers, but these are not the only challenge. There are real changes in the operational relationship between consumers and suppliers needed also. Suppliers are fundamental to the delivery of great workplace experiences and supplier management and their staff need to be treated as jointly accountable to their achievement by the internal Workplace Management function. As equally important stakeholders they should be included in work done in defining workplace experiences required, agreeing the performance measures necessary to judge success and the setting of achievable targets. Suppliers and their operational staff should also feature alongside consumer management and staff in change management initiatives to ensure friction-less changes. ‘Experience’ thinking changes pretty well everything when it comes to delivering the workplace experience and requires a new consumer centric approach.