MEREDITH Strategy & Design

We design great places and spaces that enhance the experience of  work. 
Our purpose is to help companies and organizations of every scale
more effectively achieve their goals
and capture value from what they and their people do.

Jim at meredithstrategyanddesign dot com

(248) 238-8480

SMPS Michigan Workplace Strategy Panel

I was part of a panel speaking before the Michigan Chapter of the Society for Marketing Professionals. The event took place on February 18th and focused on some of the emerging drivers influencing the path of workplace planning and design strategies for our clients and markets. The panel was an excellent one including representatives from a client organization, a real estate professional, a change management consultant and myself, representing design. (Link)

My comments reflected some of the matters that we see important to our clients and how we are responding to them. Guided by the moderator's questions, I addressed five subjects –

  1. Evaporative cooling – a condition some clients are experiencing in which their workplace, more a hindrance than a help to achievement, contributes to the progressive loss of their top performers.
  2. Managers' versus makers' spaces – how workplace design has rarely focused on the makers, yet this is the largest base for design, engineering and manufacturing in the country. Makers are much different from managers and need a different approach to workplace planning and design. (Link)
  3. Four layers over the workplace – Our perception that the workplace can learn from gaming. Think about the catalysts for four actions: Check in, Meet up, Join in, Move up. (Link)
  4. Plazas and warrens – the lexicon of the old and new workplace – open versus closed, for example – is too charged and evokes solutions before purpose. Spatial metaphors can hel break out of conventional solutions.
  5. The new suburbanization – the trending desire in the 'burbs to do an urban makeover, essential to the way that work is being done now.

Let us know if you'd like to have us speak at your event.

Happy Labor Day

Wow! I had thought that there would be a lot posted on these pages since the beginning of Spring and our move through the Summer. Perhaps it's just that there has been too much going on!

What's been keeping us busy?

We've been working for close to a year on a portfolio of more than 100 buildings making up close to 20 million square feet of very diverse uses. Along with partnering consultants, we've done a deep dive into organizational purpose, emerging and future organizational and operational concepts, the evolution of corporate culture, and alternative concepts for a workplace positioned for an anticipated future in which all of this changes. We expect to start soon on making this all concrete through the first moves in a projected 10-year plan.

In that project and in others, we've developed ideas around what we call The New Technical Workplace. We've become deeply interested in the way that people come together to develop products. We now believe that the legacy spaces and places where creative and technical work have been done no longer have relevance and contribute to the erosion of competitive position of American companies. The New Technical Workplace comprehends a new way of working with new tools and techniques and erases the boundaries and impediments to innovative acceleration that have been generally taken for granted. After almost two years of study, we are now beginning to design one of the more radical shifts in workplace character that we have seen anywhere.

This focus on the ways that people work has also taken us through a number of smaller commissions in health care related companies, technology companies, manufacturing companies, financial and legal services companies and others. In each, we have searched for the defining characteristics of the industries or professions our clients are in, uncovered and understood each company's differentiating DNA, and designed settings to advance competitive performance in their domains of operation. We'll write about theses engagements and processes in our main blog this Fall.

In the midst of all of this we've also redesigned our own workplace. We've occupied half of the space so far and expect that the rest of the move will take place in the next month. The change is extraordinary, and we are thrilled. We've made a place to inspire clients and engage our staff. This has already become a very successful illustration of what we believe in and what our clients are seeking for themselves.

We have a big agenda for the Fall, as well, and hope that we'll find the windows of time to write about the things that matter to our clients and you.

Weeknotes 2/1/14 – Looking back

I had thought that it would be easier, with  bit of declared intention backing me up, to post a weekly reflection on “stuff.” I have not been very successful.

If I gave myself an excuse, it would be that the past few weeks have been very busy. We have had the opportunity to propose on, interview for, kick off, and develop several projects that have grabbed our full attention and interest.

Beyond the specific scope and focus of each of them, I’ve noticed that we are increasingly expanding the span of our intention. That is, each of the projects or opportunities we have been working on recently seem to have engaged us well beyond the program or brief. We have been exploring our client’s problem with a wide sweep through history, society, business, culture, economy, purpose, values and future. We are finding our clients becoming more interested in approaches and insights that reframe the functional program we’ve been given and enrich their projects with greater value. Our mutual immersion makes us lose track of time. The conventional cadences of the week, including these weeknotes, have disappeared.

The ability to stop and reflect, to gain a bit of distance, to shift perspective still seems to have significant value, at least in promise. A new resolution and dedication is in the works.  

Weeknotes 1/4/14 – Parsing RFP's

Almost all of the team's energies this week were spent on developing a proposal for a new project. The opportunity is a big one, both in the scale of the project and in the potential impact it can have on both client and community.

Our first reaction is to carefully read the RFP to discern what the project is all about and why our client is doing it. Our purpose, of course, is to develop a an approach, a process, a scope of services, and an explanation of capabilities and capacities that will be most appropriate to deliver differential value in the accomplishment of the client's goals.

As in many cases, the request for the proposal came in through an agent of the end client. I laugh a bit over our typical, next, reaction to these. We tend to almost immediately reject the underlying premise of the RFP, believing that the role of the agent is to prove their own value and not to legitimately comprehend and communicate the intentions and values of their client. The signals of this are usually in the type of agent the client has engaged, and certainly in the matrix the agent generates into which the fees for the services proposed must be entered. That is, transaction-oriented agents seem to care mostly about acquiring professional services for their clients through least cost selection rather than best value delivered. We'll then spend a considerable amount of time grousing, developing should-have-been approaches, and admiring our cleverness and commitment. Once this is out of or systems, we then reread and carefully parse the RFP, seeking the way to deliver (usually disappointingly) just what the client is asking.

What was unusual in this case, however, is the nature of the request. Typically, in order to get reasonably comparative fee proposals, the agent will carefully describe the scope of the project and, if nothing else, the expected "deliverables." In this case, however, the RFP explained the context for the project but then rather than defining the services requested said, instead, "We don't now what to ask." Setting aside our concern that the typical approach to commercial terms is still embedded in the RFP, we were very pleased with the candidness of the client's agent saying, in effect, "Here's a problem we have and a desire to something quite different to solve it. We don't know what the scope of the effort should be, nor the services we'll need to achieve our aims. You tell us how you'll go about understanding the problem and proposing an innovative way to solve it."

Pleased, mostly, with the nature of the request, we've assembled a great national consulting team and spent the week putting together what we think is a compelling approach. More later.