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Why Semco Became More Agile When It Closed Its Headquarters

Trends have always been around. Some of them go on to become undeniable truths, while others eventually fade into oblivion. However, that’s not the point. The point is, only the vigilant among us learn to spot the trends that are poised to become tomorrow’s realities. The rest of us, continue doing what we’ve been doing, sometimes out of sheer force of habit.

For instance, consider the trends that predict how people will work in the future. Several studies have predicted that we might lose between five to 10 million jobs by 2020, thanks to artificial intelligence and other technological advances. While there’s no denying that people will continue to be essential to organizations, companies of the future are bound to be different. More diverse, global, agile and boundaryless, to be specific.

 

 

Change Is In The Air

Organizations and the work they do will be structured differently; they will have an increasingly on-demand workforce, comprising freelancers, contract employees and remote workers. Technology will make it possible to erase geographical boundaries and enable people to work from any place and across time zones.

Rather than working for one single company at a time, people will begin to form networks of talent that get together on a per-project basis; disband at the end of the project, and regroup into a different network over a different project. And, people will increasingly set their own hours too, prioritizing quality of life.

Most, if not all, of these trends seem capable of becoming future realities. In that case, organizations and leaders need to start thinking about how they fit in within this new digital work landscape and plan for changes that are emerging. It’s hardly the time to focus on building the world’s next fanciest headquarters.

An Organic End To The Semco Headquarters

Between the 90s and early 2000s, Semco entered into a slew of joint ventures and acquisitions. Overtime, the company experienced a natural need to move teams away from the central headquarters and closer to where the action was really taking place. In other words, there was a natural movement of teams closer to the various business units and factories they worked with or supported.

The decentralization meant that the central headquarters became increasingly lean, populated by teams that grew smaller and smaller. And it made much more sense to move the corporate office (or whatever was left of it) into a much smaller office building. The move helped Semco avoid spending large amounts of money on a big, impressive office that no longer had any real reason to exist.

Fancier The Headquarters Bigger Your Burden

A designer office space, in the city centre, has for long been a symbol of corporate success. Organizations tend to assume an ego-centric approach when it comes to building their headquarters. They build to grab eyeballs; design interior spaces to impress employees and clients alike; and invest huge sums of money to simply declare to their competitors they’ve arrived.

But, if you’ve been listening, the buzz is all about agility: Only those organizations that manage to keep themselves lean and nimble can hope to survive the fast-paced changes in today’s marketplace.

Agile organizations are almost nomadic in their mindset - they hold onto exactly what they need and treat everything else as burdens that will hold them back when it’s time to move on. A large, fancy, downtown central office, is literally one of the biggest things that kill agility. Besides draining money, they symbolize traditional power, hierarchy and centralization of work. And that’s too bad, because the world’s moving towards reduced power distances, horizontal leadership and decentralization of resources and people.

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