Relocation: a unique strategic opportunity

Bram Gekiere

I recently had the opportunity to visit one of the biggest police forces in the country with a delegation of project workers. The aim of the visit was to view their recently built/renovated police building. After a warm welcome by the corps commander, we were given an extensive tour of the whole complex. We were captured immediately, figuratively speaking. Captured by what he was saying about the building’s architectural value, the European subsidies, the low-energy facilities, etc. When we were waiting for our car in the underground car park after the visit, we spoke to a policeman who used the building. We asked him how he and his colleagues felt about the new housing.

His answer surprised us…

He went on for at least 25 minutes about all the things that were not good. A summary:

“When I get here, I have to go up 1 floor from the car park and walk quite a long way to get changed in one wing. Then I have to go all the way to the other wing for my service weapon. Then I have to go all the way to the other side again for my baton and pepper spray. And then I have to go up 2 floors for the briefing.”

“The cafeteria is hardly used because it is too far away and has almost no facilities.”

“We were never asked to give any input; we were never able to say what our needs were.”

And it just stayed in this vein. On top of that, the man seemed to be full of good ideas, but he had no sounding board.

As a project leader at Möbius, I have supported various (government) organisations and their employees when they relocated over the past years. Support often starts at the first analysis and vision regarding the new development, the development of the needs, and the practical removal preparation. A relocation is a unique, strategic moment for the organisation. The aforementioned anecdote shows what can happen when you do not seize this unique opportunity sufficiently. When putting together a change programme, I always like to apply a number of basic principles, which I will gladly share with you.

1. Start from the operation

It helps if your first step is to map the current operation together with the workers. You can conduct interviews in every department for this. Go into the processes that are carried out today, the workers involved in this, the areas used for this today, the walking lines, what the strengths and the issues are, what the vision of the future is, etc.

Go for process walks too. We really go to the workplace to see how everything works. For instance, we visit the office spaces, the logistics areas, the specific zones such as the cell complex and the interrogation areas, etc.

Later on in the project, you can work out the future way of working during workshops with the workers in question. It is best to look at this functionally: what are the successive process steps, which areas do we need for this, how do these areas relate to each other, how can we make sure the walking distances are as short as possible, etc.

2. Be inspired

A reference visit to an organisation that just completed a similar new development or renovation project is always inspiring. Be sure to consider one or several visits with a group of colleagues. We guarantee that you will be inspired. You learn a lot in the short term and you will take home many good ideas. Moreover, you can learn, free of charge, from the mistakes your hosts/hostesses made and they will gladly share this with you. On top of this, it is a relaxing day away from the day-to-day office environment, which stimulates the team spirit of the project workers. Take it from me: at the end of this (these) day(s), everyone is enthusiastic and ready to make the best of the project. It is not a guarantee for success yet, but it is the best possible start.

3. Embrace change

A relocation is a unique strategic moment. This is why it is a unique lever for change. Take advantage of this to implement a number of optimisations. First of all, map the workers’ work style. Then determine the workers’ user profiles based on this. Then, using these as your basis, determine what type of workplace is most suitable for every profile. Consider innovative concepts such as The New Way of Working, clean desks, workplace sharing, concentration areas, shared desks for managers, informal interview areas, creative brainstorming areas, the digital workplace, etc. Use the momentum to work out a number of optimisations you might have been wanting to tackle for a while already.

4. Involve the workers

Ensure a participative process with a lot of ownership from the very beginning. The managers and workers are in the best position to indicate the needs of the day-to-day practice. And more importantly: they are the ones who will use the new work environment every day after the opening ceremony is finished. This is why you should create as much involvement as possible for as many employees as possible starting in the analysis phase. Communicate regularly, even about small things. Launch a competition for a name for the project and/or the building. Launch a call to everyone and ask who wants to contribute to the project. Put together project groups, let people tell you what they do (process walks), etc. And be sure to celebrate small successes during the project!

A relocation literally and figuratively gets people moving. If you keep these good practices in mind, you will reap the rewards in your new building at a later stage!

Good luck!

Thanks for reading

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