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A testing ground for a new work culture
Project work is the pioneering work mode for the new work culture. Instead of confronting employees with a completely new work environment, individual task areas can be used as testing grounds. New ways of working can be tried out and developed further through project work. But this will only succeed if the team members can organize themselves.
of work time in German companies is spent on project work. This proportion increases with the size of the company.
Source: IBA/bso study, 2012
A challenge for managers
To be successful, project work needs a clear framework and lots of leeway so that the participants can develop individual initiative, a sense of individual responsibility, creative ways of seeking solutions and entrepreneurial behaviour. The task of the managers is not so much to define (detailed) goals as to support the teams — for example, by providing them with the resources they need.
Leadership thus becomes the structuring of change. For many companies, this is a painful learning process, because this structuring task requires skills that they do not have in sufficient amounts.
Prof. Heiko Roehl, co-publisher and editor of the magazine for organizational development, Zeitschrift für Organisationsentwicklung (ZOE), and Managing Partner of Kessel und Kessel GmbH, quote from New Work Order — Organisations in Transition, 2014.
A study conducted by the internationally operating McKinsey corporate consulting company concluded that companies could save between 20% and 25% of their working time by making their internal and external communication systems more efficient. According to the study, too much time is spent on reading and writing e-mails, searching for information and similar activities. More efficient work would be possible if companies made more use of (micro-)blogs, corporate wikis and social software for their internal communication. The New Work Order basic study offers a whole series of examples of how companies are successfully using such technologies.
When applied to project work, these tools enable colleagues to share ideas across departmental and company boundaries. They also help to document projects and make it easier to integrate external experts into the work process.
Project work can’t be done without personal encounters. Face-to-face contact cannot (yet) be replaced by digital meetings. Spaces where people can get together must be provided. Traditional meeting and conference rooms are not really fit for this purpose.
Project rooms require flexible equipment, enough space to move around, and tools for presenting and visualizing ideas. If a company does not have such project rooms on its own premises, it can reserve spaces in a co-working centre, for example.
The project room
- should not be too perfectly designed; that is, its uses should not be predefined
- could resemble a workshop that encourages experimentation and the creation of new structures
- should not have a predefined seating arrangement but should encourage people to move around
- can be equipped with standing tables and counter stools as well as informal seating groups
- should be equipped with tools for experimentation and visualization
- can offer tools and devices for prototyping (ranging from modelling clay to Lego pieces and 3D printers)
- should be easily accessible and should be subjected to the “clean desk policy” only after the project has been completed
Restructuring of existing spaces
- 1 / 8 The areas of the meeting room, a single office and a team office shall be redesigned.
- 2 / 8 The individual and the team office were joined together. The meeting room was relocated and downsized.
- 3 / 8 The newly created, larger space can be used for workshops and project work.
- 4 / 8 The flexible furnishing allows easy adaptation to different forms of project work.
- 5 / 8 Large-scale whiteboards and pin boards were installed.
- 6 / 8 Existing communication zones outside the project space can be included in the work process if required.
- 7 / 8 This also applies to the lounge area in the kitchenette.
- 8 / 8 Thanks to its large screen and projection surface, the project room is also suitable for presentations or training courses.
- 1 / 4 Two working rooms and a meeting room are redesigned.
- 2 / 4 The new, larger room is used as a project room or temporary team work space.
- 3 / 4 The furniture is fixed. Different furnishing areas, writable walls and open spaces form the basis for different forms of teamwork.
- 4 / 4 In this case, good shading has to be ensured so that the sunlight does not cause glare. If the room is to be used as a workspace, external monitors and input devices must be provided in addition to the laptops.
In both examples, the creation of a project room means giving up smaller workrooms. In this case, the possibility of non-territorial work could be considered. In general, employees don’t especially like to give up their individual workplaces. However, this attitude changes if the areas that are opened up are used to set up communication zones, relaxation areas or project rooms. A total of 21% of employees would be happy to give up their own workplaces in that case.
Source: IBA/bso study, 2015