Friends, partners and colleagues,
As we usher in a new year filled with possibilities, I’m optimistic! If we’ve learned anything from the last three years, it’s that despite all things, business must endure. With signs pointing to a steady year ahead, our businesses will continue to grow if we focus on the right things for our people.
But it seems harder than ever to separate the right things from those that are just distractions.
Everything has become infinitely more complex, and we’re fatigued from the high rate of change we’re experiencing. However, I firmly believe we can learn from the obstacles we encounter because there’s opportunity in every struggle. The difficulties of the past few years have in fact given us the tools we’ll need to make the right decisions.
Personally, the challenges I’ve been encountering as a leader led me on a dogged pursuit to reclaim simplicity. In that pursuit, the same three questions kept popping up. What is our current state? Where are we trying to go? How do we get there? As leaders, to answer these questions, we need to get back to basics and focus solely on the reason behind our decisions—our Vision.
Don’t Gamble with Stakes this High
Let’s not have vision be this decade’s greatest sacrifice. It’s our greatest need.
The chaos surrounding leaders today has given us tunnel vision. We’ve become hyper-focused on the rush to solutions as opposed to being intentional about first establishing a vision. Our vision should guide our decision-making, as it sets our ideal future state, and the impact and outcomes of that state. This is particularly important when it relates to one of our three most expensive investments—our real estate, as it can have such a profound impact on our people.
This crucial starting point serves as our foundation and helps point our strategy in the right direction. But it’s the step I see leaders willing to circumvent to save time. Time is money, time is speed to market, and time is securing the right talent. However, the pressure to bypass setting a vision to avoid complexity increases our chances of wasting time and resources while also increasing our risk of misunderstanding what people want from your space. And none of us can afford lengthy project delays, adding costs, or providing subpar experiences to those using our spaces. By moving ahead without an idea of our goal, we’re gambling. And the stakes are too high.
Our space is the physical manifestation of our business, and we need our vision to guide that manifestation to ensure it is intentional. Developing a vision allows for the narrowing of our seemingly limitless possibilities. It reduces our boundless choices and allows us to expedite decision-making—ultimately creating simplicity. Beginning any real estate project without a vision means you are taking a risk with each decision you make.
Essentials + Advantages
A vision isn’t just about narrowing focus. It’s about understanding what should be prioritized to elevate your place’s experience by giving you a clearer sense of two guiding principles, Essential + Advantages.
Think of Essentials as your non-negotiables. They are the minimum expectations of those using your space and also allow your people to be and do their very best. When leveraged properly they guarantee your space is helping to foster connections, enhance relationships, accelerate learning, and inspire insights.
Equally as important, your Advantages are what give your space a competitive edge. Every company is in pursuit of its competitive advantage because it’s what makes employees, clients, patients, or visitors continue to choose you time and again. Your space’s Advantages raise the bar on your experience taking it from the expected to the extraordinary—ultimately turning your people from users to advocates.
Understanding your organization’s unique Essentials + Advantages is particularly crucial in an era where the lines between them continue to blur. The list of Essentials seems to be growing, and the Advantages are harder to attain. Connecting the dots between your vision, Essentials + Advantages, and your space ensures your investment achieves its ROI, while providing a competitive advantage.
A Tale of Two Projects
Think through the projects your organization is currently undertaking, whether relating to real estate or otherwise. Did you begin with a deep exploration of vision, outline your Essentials + Advantages, and use them to guide your choices? If not, you may be involved in a bigger gamble than you realize.
We’ve witnessed the outcomes a vision can have on real estate projects. Take two recent projects we’ve been involved in. The first lacked a core vision while the second leveraged one to serve as a decision checkpoint from initiation to completion. And both yielded unexpected outcomes.
We were recently asked to join a project team after the client experienced multiple delays and a 30 percent increase in unexpected project expenses. Their issues stemmed from a lack of a vision exploration, which their design partner didn’t prioritize. The design solution proposed included the basic Essentials, checking the functional boxes, but failed to provide a competitive advantage and set the tone for an exceptional experience. The design didn’t hit the mark. The lack of vision also meant the client was making arbitrary decisions based on the project team’s subjectivity, leaving them in a constant do-over loop. They needed to start back at square one, further exasperating the project delays and budget overages.
The entire project needed to be reframed around a vision that would better elicit the experience desired. Utilizing our Visioning Process, we worked alongside the original design team to reestablish the design objectives, support the vision through Essentials add the needed elements to give the client a competitive Advantage. The result is a design solution poised to resonate with their constituents.
Conversely, consider the case of one of our confidential clients. From day one, we guided them in establishing their vision, strategy, and non-negotiables. This provided the parameters that simplified their decision-making, gave them confidence in their solutions, and provided them a competitive advantage through their space.
To do this, we began by uncovering their primary vision—to foster employee connections and to have an agile space that could change in the future. To achieve this, we increased common areas and implemented a modular plan that supported better flexibility. These shifts enabled them to reduce two entire floors of their expected office footprint, saving them an estimated $30 million in cost. The result was steeped in cost savings, yet still created the desired space to support the organization’s goals and deliver stellar employee experiences.
Enough About Us, Let’s Talk About You
Hope is not a strategy. It’s time you ask yourself these questions.
Do you have a solid vision guiding your decision-making?
Does your space give you a competitive advantage?
Are you creating an exceptional experience for your people?
If you’re working with partners who aren’t challenging you to think through these elements or asking you these hard questions, you may need new partners. This should be the selection criteria used when assembling your project teams, especially when it comes to real estate. Vision is a crucial facet of risk mitigation and an indispensable step in any real estate investment. If you take the time to get it right you’ll save both money and time, while gaining confidence your solutions will deliver value. It’s not enough to hope you’re making the right choices. Hope is a gamble.
We are now at a turning point. We need to get back to the basics and strive for simplicity by honing in on our vision. This will ensure our solutions (real estate-related or otherwise) make what matters most to our organization—people, business, ideas, and decisions—better.
Here’s to a year of simplicity!
Lauri Goodman Lampson
President + CEO