New Building, New Rules.
After 50 years in the same building, we decided to celebrate our anniversary by moving to a new space. The move isn't a big one, we are literally moving right next door, but the opportunity to change how we do things because of this move is enormous. Every time we decide to make a change, we cite "New Building, New Rules".
When I was a kid, seatbelts were pretty much optional, but when I turned 14, there was a lot of education about the importance of seatbelts and a big push for people to wear them. I still remember my family getting a new minivan that year and my mom laying down the law – with this new car, we are all going to wear our seatbelts. The new car gave her an excuse to make a positive change to how we did things. New car, new rules.
Getting the new space ready over the past 4 months has forced us to look at how we do EVERYTHING. Currently, we work in cubicles and offices on three different floors, in the new building we have a mix of open floor plan and offices with only two floors. We’ve been shifting our culture from each individual doing their own thing to more of a collaborative/team approach, and we realized the separation of our team members by floor or by cubicle wall was keeping us from getting over that hurdle.
In our current building, many of the rooms are defined by whose office they used to be. Even if it has a new specific function, it is still referred to as so-and-so's office. In our new building, the rooms are designated by the activity that will take place there. The accounting room, the marketing room, the conference room. Each area has it's purpose, it's own feel and mojo. The marketing room has an entire white board wall on one side and big abstract paintings on the other. Both are meant to spark creative thinking and conversation, We haven't even moved in yet, but we have had some of the best brainstorming sessions in that room already. You've heard the phrase, "A place for everything and everything in it's place". It is the mantra of the organized. While I believe its intent was to keep your "stuff" organized, we are looking at it as a way to keep our processes organized, to define what happens where and to get our folks away from their desks and into a new environment. The act of getting up and moving to a new space to work on something not only makes you healthier, it helps you focus on that task versus being distracted by what you need to do on your desk.
It's can be hard for a business to change it's culture – especially a 50 year old business. We started the process about 3 years ago when we took over the firm. New ownership, new rules. We spent A LOT of time looking inward to figure out what we personally DIDN'T want our culture to be. We started eliminating words from our vocabulary – no longer was "Because that is how we've always done it" a valid reason for doing anything. With all of the changes in our industry, and within our own firm, we hunkered down and let nature take it's course with the development of our culture.
A culture develops whether you are focusing on it or not – like a child that you let run wild. It's important to clearly define your core values. Look inward and outward – ask yourself what do you want your culture to be and what do your clients want your culture to be? Make sure they mesh. Then communicate it, live it and reinforce it everyday with your team. Nip issues that go against your culture when they happen, don't let them fester. Every so often, reevaluate. Look at your culture from another perspective. Recently, I was looking at a painting in an art gallery. From a distance it was a gorgeous grouping of trees, and I loved it. When I got up close, it totally fell apart – it was reduced to blobs of color and the trees were unrecognizable. Changing your perspective, looking at your culture from a distance and up close, asking others within your organization to do the same, can help you make sure you are staying on track and moving in the right direction.
If you don't have an excuse like a new building, to make new rules, use the new year, a new month, new employee, new shirt, whatever it takes.