Time is not your friend – except when it is.

All of us operate under the same macro constraint – limited time. Our time in a role, job, company, and (ultimately) life is limited. We get promoted, we aren’t as sharp, we move on, things change. Time is a vicious master. We have a limited amount that we each have to figure out how to independently maximize.

The concept of work/life balance exists because time is limited. If time was unlimited, balance today wouldn’t matter because we could make it up at some unspecified future date. Because time is limited, we must balance how we use it today. There will not be the opportunity to catch up tomorrow.

Once you factor a limited amount of time into your calculations it can become a tactical advantage. When a meeting is set in stone, everything after the deadline doesn’t matter. You plan for up to that moment and no further. If there is something that doesn’t need to be included, it gets cut early. If something must be included, it’s done first. Time forces you to prioritize.

Similarly, time runs in seasons. Time during the holidays has a different value that time in March and April. During the holidays, you don’t have people’s attention to make big change decisions. What you have is your own time to prioritize as you see fit. Knowing this, prioritize things that need to be presented in March and April decision windows. If you don’t do it then, you may not get the chance.

Knowing the cycles and limits that Time has on you and your work is important to getting things done. A list of 100 actions will not get done in a day but a list of 100 actions may get done in a year if it’s focused on.

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Ability to make good decisions is the single biggest predictor of long-term success.

I don’t have any scientific studies to back up this opinion but I’m going to stand by it anyway:

An ability to make good decisions is the single biggest predictor of long-term success.

There are two operative words in that prediction: 1) good and 2) decisions. Both of these seem like relatively straightforward words with simple definitions. But as with so many things in life, making good decisions is neither straightforward nor simple.

The biggest problem with good decisions is understanding where the judgment of a decision being “good” comes from. Plenty of decisions that I thought were good (even after the fact) were not considered good by others. Doing “right” is often the opposite of making “good decisions.” This is because most of our long-term success will be impacted by how others evaluate our performance. Even if you go into business for yourself, your employees and customers will be evaluating you.

Decisions are everything from the little to the large. Even the decisions you make around what time you start and end your day come into it. In many places, an early start/late end is a good decisions but some organizational cultures weigh work/life balance much more signficantly. Not making waves with coworkers may seem like a good decision but some may look for direct conversations as an indicator of success. Similarly, creativity and independence in decision making is sometimes valued but certainly not always.

Parameters for being successful change moment to moment and situation to situation. You can be in the exact same situation two days in a row and the “good decision” is polar opposite simply due to timing. Often, the ability to navigate these shifting waters is judgment. If you can quickly evaluate and understand the nuanced way that decisions are evaluated you will be positioned to do well.

Flexible is very different from controllable #WorkplaceWednesday

One of the biggest movements in real estate right now is the rise of agile or flexible workplaces. Introducing increasing levels of flexibility into the workplace is directly tied to reduced space requirements and (ideally) increased productivity. The productivity piece is almost impossible to prove or disprove. But the reduced space is a very easy measure.

The biggest complaint about flexible workplaces is that it is all about controlling the employee’s day. Having a sensor at every desk screams “big brother” to employees. Who wants a device that reports on whether they are at a desk?

That’s the opposite of what is actually occurring. Most flexible workplace programs with sensors generate less intrusive data that badge swipes. Unless individuals are required to check into a desk to use it, sensors don’t actually tag data to the individual. All the sensor does is report on whether a space is in use – a simple true/false status. It’s the opposite of control.

Controllable workplaces, those that have named seat assignments or require a check-in, can provide extreme amounts of workplace data. But even with increased data, very little of it can help you do anything more than knowing whether an employee was in the office or not. This level of data (which is most prevalent in traditional offices, not agile workplaces) can get personal quickly without any actual benefit.

Agile workplaces provide flexibility with very little control. In fact, control often goes directly against the concept of flexibility. The more control you have on how space must be used, the more different types of dedicated spaces you must provide.

Own your world and deliver more than expected.

There are two tricks to amazing delivery:

  1. Own your piece of the world. If something lands in it, take the lead and ensure things get done.
  2. Don’t just do the minimum, do what is necessary for a good to great result. If you are going to do a job, do that job well.

When someone is looking for you to deliver something, always give them more than they are expecting. Classic under-promise, over-deliver. But the trick to truly great delivery, is to create an expectation of consistent good delivery. It sounds easy but is very hard.

Many people don’t want to own their world. It’s far easier to be an advisor or strategist than to be the person that gets the job done and stamps their name publicly to the work. You usually get more praise and recognition by being the “high-level” person. But true value comes from doing work.

6 top posts from the year so far – catching up on some history.

I like to think that I don’t write here for anyone more than myself. But it’s nice to think that there may be people out there just finding me for the first time. And for those lurking around, you may have missed these as well. Over the past 12 months, these are my most read posts.

An effective CRE strategy includes location, workforce, workplace, technology, culture, and (above all else) patience

It’s easy for those in the industry to fall into over-simplifying what corporate (or commercial) real estate is. This world we have chosen is extremely broad. It covers every industry that exists or used to exist. It covers retail, office, warehouse, and manufacturing. It covers big enterprise and mom and pop businesses. The business world happens because of CRE. If you don’t have a place to operate from, your business isn’t going to go far.

An effective CRE strategy (corporate or commercial) involves understanding what is important to you at both the time you are making any given decision and the times after that decision when you are stuck with it. Just because you are signing a 3-year lease doesn’t mean you aren’t making a 10+-year decision. It takes overcoming a lot of friction to pick up and move an existing site. Importantly, the things you worry about today often aren’t the things you will be worrying about tomorrow.

Now, tie in the fact that the decision has more than just a time-based impact. Your CRE decision making impacts how the on-going business will recruit, hire, find customers, and generally operate. The decision also dictates a large degree of the intra-office culture that will exist (offices in the ‘burbs have a different vibe than offices in a downtown). Get the decision wrong and you could negatively be impacting operational profitability.

Let’s step back from any given location decision. Managing a real estate portfolio, even one as small as just 30 locations, because a time consuming and complicated activity. If you miss one lease event, you could easily cost your company a lot of money and operational flexibility. If you aren’t familiar with your negotiated lease clauses, you could be spending money on something that is actually the landlord’s responsibility. Don’t keep your data up-to-date and it becomes surprisingly easy to forget about a location that you have somewhere.

It’s no surprise that CRE teams often roll-up to the finance organization. Understanding lease accounting rules and the impact of a lease on your cash versus GAAP reporting is complicated. That lease you are signing is essentially a financial instrument; if you don’t understand it’s financial qualities, you don’t understand the document at all. But at the same time, if you treat the decision as purely a financial one, you will quickly find yourself with a real estate portfolio that does not reflect or support your operational reality. Rolling up your CRE teams to HR or Operations doesn’t solve anything, it just leads to similar problems.

None of this even starts to address the problems with CRE technology. Let’s start with the fact that there is no equivalent to SAP for real estate. Sure, IBM Tririga and other platforms make a claim to being enterprise capable. But the reality is that operationally, these systems rarely live up to the hype. It’s no wonder why either. Real estate is the owner of no data except for leases (location, clauses, lease costs) and building plans (seats, space). They get data on headcount  (new hires, work-from-home, leavers, etc.) from HR. They get data on many of the financial aspects from Finance (non-lease costs including taxes, facilities operations, utilities, insurance). Getting all of that data to connect and talk correctly can be a significant ordeal.

I mentioned the changing decision environment above but it comes back here because on-going changes to business operations impact the overall management of the real estate portfolio. If you are shifting to more work-from-home, you need less space. Suddenly decide to bring all those people back in, you need to have somewhere to put them. Consolidating back-office locations is a great idea but can increase operational risk. Move back-office support back into multiple hubs puts you in a position of mixing types of space all over again.

CRE is often like the tides. Everything changes on approximately 3-year cycles. Expand, contract. Risk mitigation, operational aggression. Focus on the culture, focus on cost. Up economy, down economy. Something is always changing and CRE is always at the front of it for execution but rarely in terms of really understanding what the business is trying to do.

I got nothing….

Over the past two weeks, I’ve struggled to come up with something worth writing about. It’s not traditional writer’s block as there were plenty of things I could write about. More, it’s the fact that everything that I wanted to write about was too close to home.

I’ve been getting into a new role again. It’s a move back into a technology-specific focus. With the change, there are a million things I want to do and write about. But the immediate things are the same ones I’m looking to work on. I don’t like to write about the things I’m working on today as you never know how things could be interpreted.

Expect to see more coming again soon. It’s exciting times.