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Could a workplace redesign lead to better collaboration?

When Michael McKiernan, vice president of business technology at Citrix Systems Inc., was tasked with helping his IT team better collaborate, he started by looking at the business problem.

"We had silos within the IT function -- never mind how IT got on with marketing or engineering," he said during his presentation at the recent Fusion CEO-CIO Symposium in Madison, Wis. "People were defining themselves by the size of their team and their proximity to a window or the type of furniture they had."

One reason for the silos? Space utilization. Teams could be scattered across Citrix's 60 locations globally -- and even scattered across a single campus.

When McKiernan stepped into his role as the head of application delivery and enterprise architecture for Citrix IT, he had to place new hires in different buildings because he didn't have enough cubicles to go around. "I get these silos by location or even by floor if I don't make people mobile, if I anchor them and say, 'You're going to be at this space,'" he said.

The situation convinced McKiernan to take risks with a workplace redesign, such as doing away with assigned cubicles altogether. "The only reason I did it was because I had a worse problem than failure -- collaboration was even worse," he said.

McKiernan sat down with SearchCIO's senior news writer, Nicole Laskowski, at the Fusion conference to talk about the five-step workplace redesign framework he used to break down silos and transition his team of "lousy" collaborators into enablers.

What are the key elements of a workplace redesign?

Michael McKiernan: There are five steps of the framework that Citrix followed when we went to a workplace redesign.

  • First, define the problem you're attempting to solve. Because in lots of different situations, we're addressing different problems, and [I] want to know what problem I'm attempting to solve.
  • Then the first element to bring to that is real estate. How am I going to use design of traffic, people? How do people integrate into this?
  • The third step with that is technology. Which technologies do I need to integrate? What am I going to use? What's going to make a difference? And of course, that depends on what the problem is.
  • The fourth step is people. How do I get people to change the way they work, the way they behave, when [they may believe] the way they worked previously ... was the best? That is, by far, the hardest element of this.
  • The final step is then to measure it. Actually make it stick and measure those business outcomes. Did I get the results I anticipated or do I need to iterate and do things differently and get a different outcome?

Let us know what you think of the story; email Nicole Laskowski, senior news writer, or find her on Twitter @TT_Nicole.

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