I have been reading a piece of work written by Robert Propst, the designer of Herman Miller’s Action Office. I wanted to share some of the insightful thinking expounded in his book, “The office, A facility based on change” As you read this, remember that this was written in 1968.
Social climate Social psychology studies show that many of the fears, antagonisms and forms of negative behavior in organizations stem from not knowing what others are doing. Moreover, we all have a fear of being lost from view, forgotten, by-passed and left out. On the other hand, when we have a chance to know what is happening, to be an assured part of things, to see goals and objectives, we become hopeful and positive. Every office has a climate of social expression that can either be destructive or constructive and, to a large degree, this is effected by the physical expression we give it. One of the great assets of a more frankly interactive and open office expression is the improved social structure it offers. At the very minimum, it has the opportunity for more accurate and subtle expression of an organization’s nature. From this base, it can proceed with useable tools to become an organic community of individuals working with a tangible sense of belonging and useful contribution.
Converting to new office forms Changing over an office concept confronts a facility management with a number of important decisions. How much change can the organization absorb at one time? How far can we go and how fast should we move? Who makes the decision and how should it be expressed to the organization? The first thing to remember is that change initiation is never a consensus act of the majority. It is essentially initiated by a change agent minority who are then followed by the majority, The majority will rigorously stay as it is until it sees a demonstration of change by those they respect. For this reason, change imposed by leadership on others without signs of acceptance by themselves is doomed to failure. The degree of change and the rate at which it can be implemented is 90% dependent on adoption rate by those established as the change agents. The organization can stand as much as the leadership can. In choosing initial change installations, it is wise to choose groups who see their role as pioneering.
Traffic Recognizing traffic action as a communication event gives the facility manager opportunities for enlarging its purpose. Since motion between areas provides a highly random but interactive communication circumstance, its design should be fortuitous. The first consideration is to give functionally interactive groups direct traffic access to each other. By the same token. individuals or groups who would be diversionary to each other should be be traffic insulated. Pause or byway areas for brief conference interchange can be a highly functional part of traffic design. This is particularly useful if it also is utilized as a general display center focusing on matters that help keep goals and objectives on a current awareness basis. Lounge areas with coffee facilities provide ideal social links between groups . . . light but positive. Traffic, of course, can be highly disruptive to task performance. For this reason, screening from traffic is important, particularly near elevator areas.