Managing Uncertainty

view full PDF

Three fundamental corporate realities have emerged from our workplace research centered around new ways of working:

– individuals work in multiple settings within the office building;

– they regularly communicate and collaborate with others located on different floors and buildings and at sites that may be a few miles or a continent away;

– precisely where and when an organization will need space or an individual will need or want to work is difficult to predict.

One significant outcome of such work patterns is that managing uncertainty has become a major business challenge. That challenge has been further intensified by virtue of the increasing use of mergers and acquisitions to quickly acquire new expertise and knowledge, use of technology, and market presence. Making long-term workplace decisions, about whether to renovate or build or acquire space, for instance, are made increasingly difficult by the uncertainty of whether such facilities will be needed at all, and in what location and for what purpose, even 3-5 years forward.

– A large multinational bank is opening up new markets and creating a visible presence in cities around the country and world. It wants to do this immediately, but it cannot predict with much confidence whether the initial locations selected will be the right ones, or whether and/or how fast these may need to be grown over the next three years.

– A retail conglomerate with several companies in its overall corporate portfolio spins off one division whose headquarters were part of a large central campus. It has no immediate need for the space this company occupied.

– New executive leadership decides that corporate service functions should be located closer to those divisions they serve nationally and globally. They want to downsize the HQ complex and explore the financial and organizational benefits of a more distributed approach to managing their business.

– Two companies merge and in doing so determine that a one hundred and fifty thousand square foot facility in a Midwest city is no longer needed. However, additional office space is needed immediately about 200 miles away.

The IWSP works to better understand how a combination of conventional and unconventional workplace approaches (e.g., engineered modular and tensile buildings, leasing fully-serviced space or excess space from competitors, creating centralized overflow space, long-term usage policies) can help organizations better manage uncertainty.