Over many years this IP law firm had grown in a partnership model, structures as a series of specialised teams covering with areas of expertise such as biotech, engineering and chemistry. Having shifted from a partnership to publicly listed company two years previously, an upcoming move presented a series of powerful opportunities for evolving the operational flexibility and collaborative culture of the organisation. The existing set up consisted of several private offices.
The main focus was focus
A key strategic aspiration was to enable bette cross-team collaboration driven by informal connections and ad-hoc interactions. However, in our leadership workshop and depth interviews with partners it became clear that the ability to focus without interruption was a critical ingredient for the firm's high performance.
Our research was able to benchmark the need for 'deep focus' to between 20% and 40% of time for most of the IP attorneys. In the existing set up, focus was facilitated by enclosed offices, but there was a sense that this was hampering collaboration.
In consultation with leadership we were able to propose a hybrid open plan solution with the specialist teams blocked intentionally and retreat spaces provided in the form of focus rooms and ready-to-activate library space.
As a picture of the perfect balance in the new environment began to form, we mapped out a set of teams to coordinate the office design, major storage reform, staff communications and an internal working group to define new ways of working.
The implementation of the two solutions has supported the backbone of P&F’s cultural change. Whilst cultural transformation is a long-term process, faculty staff now have the confidence and freedom to work flexibly and explore a range of spaces. This new way of working has visibly enhanced connections and collaboration across different divisions, directly improving lines of communication and working relationships. Due to the project’s success, P&F are exploring plans to expand this new way of working to other areas of UQ.
We reviewed the project with Executive GM and HR lead several months after the move. The transition is considered as a clear success, with staff happy and thriving in the new environment. The focus spaces are being used as intended, for depth work and small meetings, often involving mentoring. The open space has a nice 'hum' to it, neither too quiet or noisy, with enhanced collegiality and rapport across staff members and teams.