Building great spaces instead of great managers

by Jamie Flinchbaugh on January 30, 2012 · 1 comment

Why do organizations build great workspaces? Get prime real estate with a great zip code? Buy the fanciest office furniture and features? We do it in an effort to be an employer of choice. We do it to recruit, and retain, the top talent. But is there a problem in this strategy?

On fistful of talent, the article FACE IT: We Build Cool Space Because We Don’t Know How to Build Great Managers does a great job articulating the problem.

If we build great spaces, we don’t need to build great managers, right? We don’t need managers who develop their people, invest in them, talk with them? The great space makes up for that. This is a common issue: we solve the problem before we define it.

I was recently talking with a manager who was planning on having more team events in order to help team morale. Will this work? Only if the problem is that people don’t feel a connection to the people they are working with. Then perhaps events will help solve that problem. If the problem with low morale is that people don’t have what they need to do their job, or they don’t understand their purpose, then this will likely make matters worse.

Before you throw money and resources at something that isn’t good enough, first understand the cause. Many of the solutions to your tough organizational problems are free. They aren’t easy; in fact, they are very hard. But they are free.

Reflection question: Where have you tried to solve problems with money before you understood it? And what were the consequences?

1 Mark R Hamel January 31, 2012 at 11:09 am


Right on! Workspaces, artifacts, IT systems and choreographed activities are easier to create/buy/implement than to truly grasp the situation, solve problems, modify behaviors, etc. Form over substance, unfortunately. In the absence of leadership, it’s the “safest” alternative.

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