What’s the Common Good?

April 14, 2014

Several hundred years ago most villages had at their center a “commons” – an area of public land that served not only as a meeting place (the “public square”) but usually also as grazing land for the villagers’ cows, sheep, and other animals. It was a shared space that offered food and protection for individuals who were members of the community. Ownership of the Commons was shared by everyone who lived in the village.

Now it’s April 15: here in the United States it is tax day – the day many of us mail our checks, at the last minute, to the Internal Revenue Service. And while it always hurts to pay taxes, I view them as our investment in society as a whole – our “dues” for having a healthy, safe environment to live and work in, and for having an infrastructure that provides us with those things (schools, roads, national defense, and so on) we cannot build by ourselves.

Our federal and local governments are the means by which we design, build, and manage our modern-day Commons. All of which makes me think about what kinds of corporate infrastructures are needed today, and where the boundaries lie between public and private support capabilities.

[click to continue…]


Three Special Events

April 14, 2014

There are three important professional events coming up over the next couple of months that you should seriously consider attending. Here’s a quick overview of each of them, with links to where you can find more information and register to attend them.

WorkTech14 - New York City (May 15)

This one-day event sponsored by Unwired is one of about 20 similar gatherings that will take place in major cities all over the world in 2014. Spend the day hearing the latest stories and case studies focused on the intersection of workplace and technology.

Subscribers to The Future of Work Agenda and readers of this blog can get a significant discount to this event by registering using the following link:

Positive Business Conference – Ann Arbor, Michigan (May 15-17)

This is the first national conference being sponsored by the Center for Positive Organizations at the University of Michigan. It will be followed by an informal half-day gathering on May 17 by many of the active champions collaborating to create the Great Work Cultures movement (I am one of the co-founders of Great Work Cultures).

This is a marvelous opportunity to learn more about how organizational cultures and management practice are evolving away from “Command and Control” and towards “Respect and Empower.” Please review the two events at this link, and join us in Ann Arbor May 15-17.

Immediately following the Positive Business Conference, a group of champions, instigators, rabble-rousers, and work revolutionaries (the Great Work Cultures gang) will be gathering to discuss — and take action on — one straightforward question: Where do we go from here? Click here for more information about this free, post-conference open space event.

Workplace Strategy Summit – Wokefield Park, United Kingdom (June 8-10)

On June 8-10 of this year, University College London will host a gathering of the leading thinkers in workplace strategy.

Building on the success of the first Workplace Strategy Summit held at Cornell University, the 2014 summit will feature leading academics and experts in the fields of facility management and real estate speaking about the most innovative concepts to emerge in workplace strategy. Attendees will not only hear from these global innovators, but also be able to engage with the presenters and other attendees from all over the globe in round-table discussions on a range of issues related to work and workplace in the 21st century.

Meet with the best and the brightest FM professionals from Europe and the United States to review the “state of the art” of workplace strategy and help chart the course for future research about the business impact of workplace design. Sponsored by the IFMA Foundation and University College London.


I’m sure you are on the lookout for silly emails and headlines every April 1 – I am reasonably certain that April Fool’s Day is celebrated almost everywhere around the world.

But my message today is deadly serious. The future is going to happen, whether you are ready for it or not.  The only question about the future you have to face (and we all face it every day) is whether you are ready for it.

And that is an important question whether you are focused on mundane things like what appointments are on your calendar tomorrow, or major life-changing experiences like an interview for a new job or whether to invest millions of dollars in a new product.

As we in the United States await next Monday’s NCAA Championship Basketball Game and the end (finally!) of our annual March Madness, it’s worth thinking about what we can learn from sports teams about how to get ready for the future. [click to continue…]

{ 1 comment }

Over that past five years the United States has lived with high unemployment that rivals what this country experienced during the Great Depression. As we all hear in the news almost daily, there are now millions of long-term unemployed, many of whose jobs have disappeared and will most likely never return.

However, the picture in Germany today is very different. As New York Times op-ed contributor Glenn Hutchins observes:

In 2009, Germany suffered a more precipitous drop in gross domestic product than the United States, but it experienced almost no change in unemployment.

(see “Work Like a German,” March 14, 2014)

While unemployment almost doubled in the United States after the Wall Street meltdown, in Germany it hardly budged. Today German unemployment is actually lower than it was before the “Great Recession” and – even more impressively – long-term unemployment is virtually non-existent. How could that be? [click to continue…]


With a bow to Aretha Franklin, our focus this week is on the central role that Respect will play in the future of work.

I have emphasized the importance of Wellness and Wellbeing in the workplace over the last several newsletter issues, largely because my “Talking About Tomorrow” members have been actively exploring the topic in our recent monthly conference calls [links to those articles are here (Part One), and here (Part Two), and here (Part Three)].

Our conversation earlier this month brought that focus to a very personal level as we shared our own tips and techniques for coping with the emergence of what increasingly feels like a 24×7 work week.

We began the March conversation by visiting with Rebecca Scott of Sodexo, who compiled and edited Sodexo’s recent Workplace Trends 2014 report. [click to continue…]

{ 1 comment }

As a self-proclaimed workplace futurist I get asked all the time “What will the future of work really look like?” And it’s an appropriate question to contemplate at the end of the year, which is always filled with both looking back and looking forward.

But rather than pretend that I can tell you anything definitive about the future of work, instead I  want to offer some observations about why predictions of any kind are difficult, and could even be dangerous.

Life isn't about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.

At home my wife and I have a “simplistic” refrigerator magnet that keeps us on our toes:

Think about it; each of us creates the future one moment at a time, one day at a time, every day.

The future unfolds as a global group exercise in decision-making, learning, and responding to other people and external events. Each day and every event comes into being as a complex combination of natural occurrences, millions of
individual choices, and secondary responses to
what has just happened.

Of course there are many recurring patterns and experiences that we can anticipate reasonably well even 10 or 20 years in advance. The American humorist Mark Twain reportedly once said “History may not repeat itself, but it rhymes.” [click to continue…]

{ 1 comment }

Several years ago at one of our private client network gatherings Ed Nolan, then a senior real estate executive with Hewlett Packard, commented on how different (and difficult) space planning had become since he started his career many years ago.

His point was simple, but profound: when everyone had an assigned workplace, and was there everyday, space planning was a really simple exercise in arithmetic: the number of people in the building times the square feet per person plus conference rooms and other common space.

Now, it's almost  a crap shoot (my words, not Ed's!). You never know from one day (or hour) to the next how many people will be in the building. Clearly, there is a science to estimating utilization and needs, but it's more about Big Data, statistical analysis, and learning by doing.

Anyway, I recently reconnected via Skype with Ed (he's now Head of Global Enterprise Development for LiquidSpace) , and I asked him to reflect on the evolution of space planning and its impact on CRE and FM practitioners. Here's a brief excerpt from his comments:

You can also view this video on YouTube at:

What's your experience? Let me know what you think it takes to do effective space planning today.


That's what a business colleague said a few weeks ago in a conversation we were having about setting up our home offices - and finding the right desk and chair. We were both concerned about the health aspects of sitting all day; he very rightly advised me to be sure to get up and walk around on a regular basis.

I've had some back and neck pain in the past, and have even had some physical therapy sessions that have helped me work on my posture. More recently I've worked with a trainer and am lifting weights (light ones!) to strengthen my back, neck, shoulders. I'm doing much better - and am much more aware of the need for both good posture and frequent getting up and moving around.

[click to continue…]

{ 1 comment }

Note: I am just back from a very full week at IFMA's World Workplace 2013, in Philadelphia., where I reconnected with lots of long-time friends and made many new ones. Look for a series of reports and reflections over the next several days/weeks.

We were particularly pleased to spend time at World Workplace with Steven Sonsino, the co-author (with Jacqueline Moore) of Leadership FM, a new book calling for completely rethinking the role of facilities and facilities management (FM) in organizations (by the way, Steven's view is very similar to my own, as reported in 2012 in the RICS white paper, "Raising the Bar: Enhancing the Strategic Role of FM" - free registration required to download the report).

Steven interviewed several of us during the conference and produced this short video compilation featuring yours truly, Kate Lister of Global Workplace Analytics, Chris Hood of CBRE, Ross Liebowitz of Manhattan Software, Erik Jaspers of Planon Software, and Gaylene Domer of National Equity Fund:

By the way, those red berets signify the wearers as proud member of the Workplace Evolutionaries community, launched this year out of the Corporate Real Estate Council of IFMA (full disclosure: I am the current President of CREC, and the owner of a red beret - I just took mine off for the interview).

So - what do you think of the comments from these workplace gurus? Do you agree with them? Have your employees left your buildings? Does your C-Suite understand just how strategic your workplace is?

Any and all comments welcome.


Be on the lookout for Sodexo's annual report on workplace trends; it's due out this Thursday, January 24.

An online summary of the report identifying its 12 key trends for 2013 is already available online at this link:

And from there you will be able to access the full report once it's published.

I am pleased to tell you that Trend 8 was prepared by yours truly and Paul Carder, my colleague and fellow director/co-founder at Occupiers Journal Limited.

"Our" trend is based on the comprehensive global research project we completed last year for RICS: "Raising the Bar:  Enhancing the Strategic Role of Facilities Management."

Here's the text of the Sodexo summary of the trend we contributed:

There have been many assertions, over many years, that facilities management (FM) should be more strategic. Recent research provides evidence that FM can have a strategic impact, and should play a strategic role in the enterprise, but whether it will achieve that level of influence in any particular organization depends entirely on the actions taken by senior FM executives.

A survey of almost 400 professionals across six continents was conducted in order to review the current “state of the practice” of FM. The research focused specifically on how FM is currently organized, governed, and measured, as well as on how FM professionals interact with their peers in other infrastructure disciplines. Our insights were enriched by direct conversations with a selection of senior FM and corporate real estate (CRE) executives, as well as with thought leaders from academia and international professional associations.

To be effective, FM leaders must change their behaviors, and indeed their very identity. FM is not about managing facilities per se; rather, it is about enabling the workforce to be productive and engaged, and to produce value for the organization. In our view, and in the view of leading FM executives, the workplace is nothing more (or less) than a tool for supporting work, for shaping the experiences of the workforce, and for producing competitive advantage.

We are convinced that the evolution of FM into a much more strategic resource is not only inevitable but already well underway.

What do you think? Is FM truly strategic today? If not, why not? What has to change for FM to become more widely recognized as a strategic resource, and include in corporate strategy conversations?