Adrienne Rowe: Crossing the workplace rubicon, practice purposeful presence | Work 20XX #07

Jeff Frick
September 21, 2022
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Workplace professionals have worked with corporate real estate and facilities to build productivity and people-centric improvements in the office and work environment for decades. But resistance was usually high and progress measured, frustrating many who saw opportunities to do so much better and move beyond historical habits that continued to dictate so much of our work routines.

As we come into Fall 2022 in the northern hemisphere, summer ends, and the kids go back to school, While some companies go fully remote or fully on-site, it appears that most companies are going to offer their people some type of hybrid working plan. The bad news is no one really knows what that means generally, and more specifically for their team.

The Good News, there are workplace professionals who have the knowledge, experience, and tools to help. Welcome to Work20XX, a show focused on work, and the future of work, where we bring you the professionals to provide insight, direction, and specifics actions leaders, line managers, and individual contributors can use to navigate these sometimes choppy waters.

Adrienne Rowe is Head of Workplace Strategy at Raytheon Technologies. Adrienne’s college summer internship sweeping the streets of Disney World turned into a 20+ year career with Disney, where she developed many of the foundational values that continue to surface today, starting with the connected threesome of the customer, the product or experience, and the employee.  Purposeful attention to detail centered on the customer’s experience defines the perception of the company in the customer’s mind.

In Workplace, Adrienne works in partnership with other departments like real estate, facilities, communications, technology, human resources, and others, to create a collection of work environments that are not just a place for calls and meetings, but where people can do the best work of their lives.

Adrienne and I discuss a number of strategies and methods organizations can use to increase the chances of hybrid work success moving forward. Starting with the reality that we don’t have all the answers, and must be willing to try some things, and learn, knowing that not all the experiments will work. It’s a dynamic and changing world of work, and we’re entering new territory. As Beth Comstockreminds us, get comfortable being uncomfortable.

As we dive into the vocabulary and priorities of the hybrid workplace, most importantly, Adrienne reminded me, that we have to think and frame the conversation not in the words of the experts, but in the words of people learning new behaviors, new management techniques, new 1:1 strategies, and more; many for the first time.

I’m thrilled to share this interview with one of the leaders in workplace strategy.

Without further delay, a conversation with Adrienne Rowe.

Episode Transcript

Adrienne Rowe: Crossing the workplace rubicon, practice purposeful presence - English Transcript 

Jeff >  00:00:05    Hey, welcome back everybody. Jeff, Fick here coming to you from the home studio for another episode of Work, 20XX on work in the future of work. And I'm so excited for this next episode. You know, we've been on this journey for a while and we've talked to a lot of people in remote work and, and systems and real estate, but we haven't really talked to anyone. Who's got workplace in their title yet. So I'm super psyched for our next guest, cuz she's been doing it for a long time. So joining us through the magic of the internet and the  

Jeff >     00:00:31    Magic of WebEx, she's Adrian Rowe, she's the head of workplace strategy, her Raytheon, Adrian. Great to see you this morning.  

Adrienne >     00:00:37    It's great to be here. Thank you,  

Jeff >     00:00:38    Absolutely. And happy Friday. Hi you. Yay.  

Adrienne >     00:00:41    Happy Friday.  

Jeff >     00:00:43    So I know we, uh, we wanna get a little disclaimer out before we get going. So why don't I go ahead and let you, uh, we'll cover all of our legal bases and make sure we're good.  

Adrienne >     00:00:51    Yes. So just to, uh, clarify all of the comments I'm about to make are mine and mine alone, and don't represent necessarily the viewpoint of my employer, Raytheon technologies.  

Jeff >     00:01:03    All right. And mine, uh, are my opinions as well. So, uh, a lot of opinion, but hopefully good stuff that people can use. So let's jump into it. You've been in the workplace space for a really long time and you started early days in, uh, outta your, outta your college in Disney and, and getting ready for this. I've listened to you on a number of podcasts and you talk about some of that early, you know, kind of foundational development that happened, you know, kind of in the magic kingdom. So I wonder if you can take us back to those early career days, uh, not necessarily workplace per se, but some of those foundational principles that kind of help guide you and make you, uh, who you are today.  

Adrienne >     00:01:39    Sure. And I think all of us in our early jobs, they're so formative and have such an impact in mind. Um, I actually started on the college program and my role was as a custodial hostess in magic kingdom. And, um, so I learned a lot, many lessons, but the biggest thing I took away from my career with Disney, which was, uh, over 20 years, I think, um, was to really value the importance of the connection between employee and product and the customer. So, uh, that's been with me really from the very beginning,  

Jeff >     00:02:19    Right. And it's really, it's, it's, uh, it's that point of engagement with the customer that actually happens a lot of times with the most junior people on the team. It is the sweeper, uh, you know, that's sweeping up the garbage that runs into the people in line and has an opportunity, you know, to make a small impact with a smile versus a frown. And, and I think, you know, those little details and the other thing, uh, I think you've mentioned in your Disney, uh, background is the attention to detail, uh, and, and, and the little details that make such a difference in the experience. Um, uh, and, and not just kind of glossing over those types of things.  

Adrienne >     00:02:53    Absolutely. Um, I think the, the lesson is really a user oriented design approach. And I have had the opportunity to spend some time with the Imagineers who really have figured this out. And it boils down to putting yourself in the shoes of your end user and really understanding what they're experiencing step by step anticipating where they may run into problems, where you have opportunities to surprise and delight them. And, you know, I, I say this all the time that as long as we start with the end user perspective, we can't go very wrong.  

Jeff >     00:03:29    Right. Right. The other piece that you tie directly that I think is getting more pub now is the, is this, uh, employee experience, you know, ties directly to the customer experience. There's been a lot of talk about customer experience, but you gotta talk about employee experience. And then now why it's becoming so strategic in this, uh, you know, big labor shortage, which is not going away any time soon is now employee experience ties the retention <laugh> and it, and, and then now you can actually keep your people there, which is a whole different piece of, of, you know, trying to hire enough people. How about spending a little bit more time and attention on the people you have and focusing on that explore big employee experience and, oh, by the way, guess what it translates pretty well to a better customer experience at the end of the day,  

Adrienne >     00:04:11    A hundred percent. And I've worked for big old companies who, which tend to have some highly tenured employees. So yes, I'm very concerned about making a good impression on their prospective employees and attracting people and giving them reasons to stay. But I'm also really concerned with the experience of the people who are here and have been here because we wanna create the right set of circumstances for them to do really their best work. Um, and there's a big range of type of levels of work that you can contribute. We've all had better days and worse days. And we wanna create more of those better days for more people.  

Jeff >     00:04:54    Right. So talk about the workplace, um, uh, profession, because it's probably, you're probably getting a lot more exposure now than you used to. At least my, my buddy Ryan Anderson at Miller nor said he spent more time talking to HR people in the last two years, uh, than he ever has. So I, you know, workplace has as a, has an importance has almost as kind of tied together between all these things that used to be maybe SGNA, if you weren't paying attention, but, you know, facilities and HR and it, but now it's coming together around a different type of priority set, which is what you're managing. How, how does workplace work? Um, not so structurally, but kind of organizationally, how do you execute these great things that you know, how to do and want to do, uh, through the other departments that maybe have more direct connection to, you know, the assets that you need to work through, whether that be a building, whether that be a space, whether that be, you know, some type of a technology implementation  

Adrienne >     00:05:47    For starters, I don't spend a ton of time worrying about what work fits in what box. I think those types of taxonomies are really conveniences that we use, but they don't really reflect the way work gets done. And workplace is a great example. And one of the reasons I love the field I need to, in order to get anything done, interact very closely with not only HR communications is a huge partner technology. I'm on the phone with them several times a day, because you can't separate the physical experience from the digital experience, um, security, uh, I mean, you name it. If there's a function that touches the employee experience, I'm probably interacting with them.  

Jeff >     00:06:32    Right, right.  

Adrienne >     00:06:33    The way, um, you know, I typically approach that, uh, is through lots of matrixed structures where projects and initiatives are being done. You have to have some structure. And so by putting those in place, you know, I always have a person in each business unit who represents that function, who I can tap into. And so those are the relationships that I focus on and the people that I lean on.  

Jeff >     00:06:57    Right. Right. And then, and then are you just able to insert kind of a, a different rank order of priorities based on, you know, kind of a workplace priority versus some other priorities that they weren't necessarily aware of, whether it's an implementation of a new, uh, some new application set or, you know, we're thinking about doing some new, you know, maybe around employee communications to drive, you know, more engagement. So, um, it's really kinda working within them to help them reprioritize the tools, uh, and their activities.  

Adrienne >     00:07:25    Absolutely. And this is where the communications group can be really helpful. Because again, if you start with the end user's point of view, nobody wants to get, you know, in, uh, emails on six different initiatives on the same day, or be invited to three surveys, we wanna pace it out and give things to employees in the amounts that they can digest. So our comms group does a great job of keeping all of us on task with, Hey, you may not wanna roll that out in October because we've got this application that's rolling out. November's a much better time, or maybe hold your survey until December, because we've got these other big surveys happening just before. So, uh, that's really helpful.  

Jeff >     00:08:03    Right. Right. So I wanna shift gears a little bit and talk about some of the vocabulary because you know, well, a lot of people it's new and as funny as talking to a friend of mine and I just put together, you know, kind of a lot of the words that have come together over this process and it's, I think it's four pages long. Um, and the one that jumps up off the top right. Is flexibility, is getting a lot of, of, of action in the news now. And the value of flexibility to employers, which I think, or employees, which employees are figuring out intentionality, uh, was one that Darren MERF started talking about early. Just, you know, being much more intentional on what we do and what we expect to happen versus, you know, kind of throwing stuff in, I know agency is one of your favorites neighborhoods. So what are the, when you talk to people that are new to the field and what are the, you know, kind of top two or three ones that they really need to lock in that, that kind of define this new attitude about how we look at the, the workplace.  

Adrienne >     00:08:57    I really don't in terms of here's the, you know, an introduction to the, the language of workplace. I focus more on, um, putting the experience into terms that are familiar. Um, but in terms of those words, when we do need to use them agency is my preference over flexibility. Cuz that's what it really comes down to employees. Wanna have some say they wanna be more in control and there's a trust associated with that. So that's a word I use an awful lot. Uh, you mentioned neighborhoods that those are coming up quite a bit and neighborhoods are a great solution for that problem of I showed up in the office and I couldn't find my team so creating a home base for people, but I always boil it back to what is the need that everybody can understand. So, you know, I might describe it as you show up to the office and you know, you, you can't interact with anybody because you can't find them. How do we solve that? Um, and then, you know, the lexicon kind of comes out of that, but I, I try to avoid a lot of the buzzwords as much as I can.  

Jeff >     00:10:03    <laugh> well, I'm, I'm, I'm, I'm out there trying to evangelize. I'm trying to help people figure out, especially the neighborhood thing. Well, the neighborhood thing is so interesting cuz we keep hearing the feedback from people that are starting to go back to the office and they, it, it just doesn't time up well, and as you said, the people, they want to see whether serendipitously or in their team aren't necessarily on the same program. And so I thought it was pretty interesting. This concept where, you know, the logical unit of organization is around this group that you provide this thing called the neighborhood where they have a space, but, but mainly some clarity around, you know, where the norm should be defined about when you go in and how often you go in and what do you go in for not to dictate it from on high. And the thing that strikes me spending a little time in data, it's just like we're measuring two different variables. The, the return to office is based on this thing called the day, uh, where our actual day, our actual lives are dictated by minutes and clumps of minutes and 15 minutes, half hour or hour blocked. And it, it, it seems so disco congruent that, uh, in, in kind of a quest for easy management, this unit is this old unit that's really not a valid unit anymore. I don't think,  

Adrienne >     00:11:15    Well, there's a lot of con constructs that we're still managing that have probably outlived their usefulness. And we have to remember that many, if not, most of the individuals who are in those decision making roles have worked in a very specific way, have lived their lives in a specific way for decades. And so their, their frame of reference is not aligned with a lot of the circumstances that we're seeing right now. So it is a change. I think that we're in, um, a time of transition neighborhoods, for example, are a very useful concept right now, but I think we're gonna outgrow them at some point, um, because it's not just about having a place where people know they can meet up with, with one another, what are the other ways we need to be organizing our work, such that we're choreographing those meetings and then it's not, you know, I don't have to figure out where the sign that says my department is, I know I'm, you know, Fridays, Jeff's gonna be in the office and we're gonna have coffee at 10. Um, what are the other tools? Are there technology tools that might help, but it's, it's neighborhoods are one piece of it. There's so much more right that, um, needs to be done. And we're just starting to learn what those things are.  

Jeff >     00:12:28    Right. We touched on something I wanna follow up on and that's, and that's, um, you know, kind of the managers that have been running things for a long, long time, didn't grow up in this world. And, and a lot of, I think the, the pushback, uh, is as much discomfort, uh, of the unknown and not being able to manage in this thing as anything else. So, um, when you think about helping, you know, kind of HR trained managers, what are some of the things that are the, you know, kind of the, the low hanging fruit to help them transition and to think about managing people differently in the world in which they find themselves?  

Adrienne >     00:13:00    Yeah, it's a great question. And, uh, I should start out by saying that, you know, I don't have a lock on this and all of my peers that I interact with are grappling with many of the same things and we're all in the same place, but it depends on the level of manager for starters. So from a leadership standpoint, senior leadership, I think there's, uh, a certain amount of influence that we can bring to the table based on all the stuff that we've seen happen elsewhere. But there's also an element of trial and error that we need to go through. So people can experience for themselves how different things pan out for people, managers that are more on the front lines. We talk a lot about purposeful presence, and I know that sounds a little buzzy, but really, um, when you are, um, congregating your team, what is the reason what's the motivation behind bringing people together, um, in the office and, um, you know, how do you make those decisions?  

Adrienne >     00:14:00    So we've spent a lot of time on that. We, um, I've spent time on, um, helping leaders think about, um, what flexibility means to different individuals and also the importance of, you know, maybe we don't have to find a solution that we're gonna ink on paper until the end of time. Maybe we try something for three weeks and let's do that. <laugh> and assess and see what's worked and what we may wanna change and, and giving themselves the freedom to experiment and also to make a couple of mistakes, you know, and to get the buy in from their teams that, Hey, we're gonna try this. If it doesn't work, we'll try something else. Um, but having that permission is really important. And so we talk about that as well,  

Jeff >     00:14:45    Right? And it's funny SHA Harmon from stop meeting like this, the way she likes to talk about seeing an async, which is another we're we talk about is kind of, you know, work alone, work in turns and then work together. And, you know, async, is that beautiful thing in the middle, which is the, which is the skill. I don't think a lot of people have, have developed yet and we way over index on getting together for meetings. But, um, you know, it's, it's, it's so interesting. And I think a, another big piece of it is just knowing how work is getting done, measuring if, if work is getting done, which again, you can't do it if, if you are used to walking around and looking at it and, and, and overindexing that time that you're together to actually do meaningful stuff, like culture, building, getting to know the person versus sitting and listen to everybody sitting around room and give, uh, a, uh, a status report. I mean, there, there's, there's so much kind of fat, if you will, that could be trimmed of inefficiency that we've just kind of suffered through because we've just kind of suffered through ironically, her favorite to forgiving people, time back is cancel your weekly update meeting. <laugh> like tomorrow, like cancel it so that, you know, there's a lot of, there's a lot of things that, uh, that we've carried over that, you know, maybe this is goodness that we're finally, um, going to not carry them over quite so far anymore.  

Adrienne >     00:15:57    Yeah. I think that's, that's right. There's I think meetings are largely a habit and a tough habit to break, but you're exactly right. And, you know, look at academia, they've been mastering asynchronous collaboration for decades. I mean, you have, um, professors in completely different countries collaborating on hugely complicated studies and papers that they co-author. So, you know, it, it can be done and it should be done. Um, so we need to be taking lessons from things like that and not always reverting to what we've always done. Um, you know, in terms of meetings and the other, you know, sort of routine events of work,  

Jeff >     00:16:40    Right? The other piece I wanna get your take on, on the leadership side, both kind of at midline managers, as well as the senior managers is, is the shifts from managing tasks to really becoming to you triggered it by the communications statement, much more communication leaders, much more setting division, much more getting people excited about the journey, much more bringing in your ecosystem. And then, and then, you know, turning 'em loose and you know, this idea of servant leadership or some people prefer the term service leadership where you're no longer managing tasks. You're saying, how can I help you? How can I use my power, my resources, my money, my, my authority to help you get, get done, what you need to get done. And it's such a very different way to think about leveraging the power and kind of who's in control and, and, and really we're more of a team. So you got skills, I got skills, I have resources. How can, how can I help you, you know, accomplish this, this mission. So it's a very different way to managing than this just monotonous task clicking, uh, thing that we, that we had before we had all, some of these other tools that, that automated those things.  

Adrienne >     00:17:42    Yeah, you're right. It's very different. Not only is it very different, but it's hard. And I think it's harder, especially since we're not in the habit of doing it, but it's a lot of work to lead in a way that doesn't necessarily get you individual credit, but enables your team to produce the re results. So I think we have work to do there, and we need to be a little bit patient with ourselves as we develop those muscles.  

Jeff >     00:18:06    Right. And to your point and, and, and be okay with experimenting and be okay with some experiments that don't go well. I mean, Scott, Cook's greatest line, right? Build your company on low cost experiments, which kind of goes back to this, this, this, uh, psychological safety and risk taking. So we haven't talked about psychological safety and belonging, but that's coming up a lot in, you know, I think a lot of people might say, ah, that sounds kind of squishy. Um, but, but, but the evidence is pretty clear that since I can't, uh, see if you're being successful in your job, I need to create a space that you feel comfortable saying I need help, or this isn't working, or I don't understand, or, you know, can you help me with this? Um, and if the response to that is good, then that person will take risks. And to your point, a lot of them won't pay off, but, you know, if you can get more of your people taking risks, a better low cost, uh, low, low, uh, kind of risk, if you will, that drives innovation. Um, so there's a real direct connection between psychological safety and managing these new ways to really driving increased innovation. This is it's actually, as we often find, not only is it the right thing to do, but there's a business benefit as well.  

Adrienne >     00:19:21    Absolutely. Um, and there are many ways we can do this. You know, we, we're working on a presentation deck, maybe let's focus on the content and the outcome of the discussion more than the font size and the format of the slide. And that happens a lot, you know? Um, but I think if we focus on the content, you're gonna get more out of your people. That's what you're paying them for is to really be thinkers. So maybe we need to get a little less precious about the presentation materials and the, the tools of, of progress. I'm not talking about customer facing output, obviously that needs to be buttoned up a hundred percent polished with a bow on it, but internal conversations, why can't they be a little messier, um, right. Will probably get better output.  

Jeff >     00:20:08    Right. Right. So then let's shift gears a little bit that goes into that. And that's into the, the DEI discussion, um, that ties directly back to flexibility, uh, because we're finding in a lot of the studies that are coming back, right, is that the, the flexibility, um, for time, not days is really where it's at. And, and a lot of it goes back to caregiving. A lot of the, the, the reason that people need the flexibility for drop offs or pickups, or taking, taking parents to the doctors or whoever to the doctors are doing whatever we have to do, right. Life maintenance is what I used to call that stuff. And it's funny, one person said that the change now is you used to have to, you have to stay home and wait for the cable guy to arrive. Now you're gonna be home now, that's your norm. And you're gonna go to the office when we're all meeting, because we're having a really important get together around a topic or culture building. So it's, it's, it's an important, uh, DEI discussion. And we're finding it's a really tremendous flex, uh, benefit just in terms of we've tasted it. Uh, we don't want to go back. So this connection between flexibility and DEI is really, really strong.  

Adrienne >     00:21:09    Yeah. And I think this is not just an opportunity for us to succeed, but it's also an opportunity for us to get this wrong. So we need to tread carefully here because we know from all the studies that yes, flexibility is important to every group in every context, whether you're a current employee perspective employee, whether you're thinking about, you know, your next role, everybody wants flexibility, but the people who have access to it are, uh, not necessarily the ones who need it the most. So the importance of flexibility rises with marginalization of a group. Um, you know, and it's, it's logical when you think about it, it's caregivers, just people who don't live in the right zip code and people who, upon whom other people depend, um, who really benefit from that flexibility. But I think it goes beyond that. And I was, um, a little story.  

Adrienne >     00:22:02    I was driving home from an appointment yesterday and it happened to be around school bus time, you know, so it was a long drive <laugh>. But, um, so I'm looking at all these stops and there were a lot of dads out there with kids or waiting for kids. And I think that's something that we wanna hold onto, you know, not just because it's flexibility, but there's a cascade effect. Right? I mean, think about the benefit when I was growing up, dad, a dad was someone you saw, you know, after five or up to six, um, to have, you know, different people involved in pick up and drop off and, and activities. Obviously it helps the kid, obviously it's good for the, the dad, but it helps the mom too. So there are so many implications. And I think if we, if we get flexibility wrong and we make it, you know, sort of, okay, well, this population gets flexibility, but everybody else, you know, um, goes down this traditional path, we will move backwards in terms of D E and I, because all of those people who benefit from it will either peel out of the workforce, they'll go elsewhere.  

Adrienne >     00:23:11    They won't progress as fast. So I think we have an opportunity here. It really is a moment where we need to pay attention and make sure that the decisions that we're making are not just for productivity, but for the long term and all of our goals.  

Jeff >     00:23:28    Right. Well, you know, in that vein, let's talk about, um, you know, kind of stages of life in the different, the different types of, of, of people that are kind of going through the workforce now. Uh, and specifically the younger folks who now, you know, now are digital natives, right? They're, they're coming up. And these are kids that have, have always grown up with technology. You know, they've always grown up with the answer to any question is a quick, a quick tap on, on their phone. So their, their, um, engagement with technology is different. But what, what I think is the most amazing thing that it's happened is that our expectation of the experience and the technology that we engage with is now defined by the best stuff on our phone. It's not defined by the best work apps from the place that we worked before.  

Jeff >     00:24:07    

And so, uh, you know, the resistance to crap, uh, applications is, is huge. And people just won't put up with 'em and they're good at working around. So, um, when you kinda look at the technology and then you look at the kids and, and, and the digital natives, and now, you know, kind of finally the, the promise of really fast, um, wireless is here with really powerful devices. And now cloud makes everything kind of available wherever that's changed the game quite a bit. So how do you look at kind of these new, these new kids coming in and kinda what's possible because of both their attitudes, as well as the technology?  

Adrienne >     00:24:42    Yeah. Well, first I wanna give a shout out to all the technology, people who work on those apps, because employee facing applications are way more complicated and harder to do than straight consumer facing applications. You know, we've got all kinds of requirements and they work really hard. So thank you to all of them. Um, in terms of, uh, younger workers, this is something that we hear about a lot. Um, and it's often used in sort of justification of bringing everybody back physically to, uh, the work site. We assume that new entrants into the workforce are learning and growing in the same way that we did, but they're not. I mean, they spent two years learning, you know, via zoom and their networks are all on Instagram and TikTok, and they have other ways of making relationships. And yet we have this, we're, we're bringing our mindset, you know, into their experience.  

Adrienne >     00:25:43    So I'll give you an example. And I know I'm a focus group of one, but, um, my daughter is 20 and she is doing an internship from the beginning. It was it's paid internship. And then from the beginning, it was work from home. You can go into the office couple days a week, you know, if you want to, but it's not expected. She's in the office across the hall from me. So she's my new coworker, you know, and it's just fine. And she's learning and building relationships because her, um, her experience and what she's good at in terms of making relationships and learning is virtual, right? So maybe instead of spending so much time worrying about is everybody in the same building we should be worrying about, you know, do we have the right social networking tools for our people? Do they have the right permission to use them? Um, do you know, and let's get like, get people together that way, because that's how they do it.  

Jeff >     00:26:40    Right. Right. And I mean, you look no further than online dating, which, you know, when you and I were probably going through the process, that wasn't really a thing, right? You met, you met your potential spouse, either at work or through a friend of a friend or whatever. It just, wasn't a thing. And now it is a thing. And there's a lot of companies that a lot of people have met, met people online. So as you said, you know, it's just a different behavior pattern. And we have to be careful not to think of the way that we, the way that we think is the way it is cuz it's just not. 

Adrienne >     00:27:07    Absolutely. And it's hard because it's so alien to us, you know? Right. Um, it's just so different from our experience, but that's the job of a leader is to step out of your own experience and put yourself into the shoes of the person that you're working with. Right. Maybe had, may have very, very different experiences and priorities than you,  

Jeff >     00:27:25    Right. And be open to the new data, um, and be open to the new data. I just posted like yesterday, you know, a great line from Andy jazzy data, AWS, great leaders are not afraid to change your mind with new data. I mean, if you have new data and we've done it this way, that's not the right answer anymore. Right. Listen to the data, don't be afraid of mistake and, and have a change. Um,  

Adrienne >     00:27:43    Well I think the skill of changing one's mind is something that I'm gonna, you know, be a little bit political here, um, is something that we've gotten away from as a nation. You know, we tend to get very polarized and, and then look for information that reinforces what we already think. And it's seen as a sign of weakness or waffling if you change your mind about something, but that's how science works, right? I mean, you, you have a set of data, it leads you to a certain conclusion, but with the minute you get information that invalidates that point of view, you gotta move over. Right. You know? Right. That's, that's the way science works. So I think we, we need to  

Jeff >     00:28:22    Continue. It's interesting. I had an interview with, um, somebody at center talking about the way the world has changed is, is that as a business and you know, right on your big company, you make big, complicated things, right? You find something that works and then you work on efficiently, you know, reducing your cost. And then you work on your revenue side selling more of them. But the world that we have today doesn't work that way because you're not necessarily optimizing for efficiency on a long tail where you're gonna be in your fortune 500 position for 50 years. Now it's about flexibility because tomorrow that market may not exist. Well, how do you move, right.  

Adrienne >     00:28:55    Yeah, I think it's both. And, um, that's the, you know, kind of the, the trap of thinking in future terms is we tend to paint a picture of the future. That's very homogeneous and it's all gonna be this way, and this is the trend and that's it. But I think what the future does is it really stretches out the present where not only do we have exactly what you were just describing, but we also have a need to build a product, get it right. Make it efficient, you know, increase the rev revenue. So what we have is a much more complicated landscape and you know, there it's, it's like, you know, technology in the workplace, um, just because there's this brand new AV module out there doesn't mean we don't have to maintain the 9,000, 10 year old ones that we still have. They're still out there. Right. Right. And we we've gotta, um, maintain them. So it just makes our life more complicated. Um, I don't necessarily think that it creates an either or  

Jeff >     00:29:48    Right. No. And I think either ORs are bad to your point it's you gotta be, you gotta be on your game and it's really dynamic, right. Things are changing quickly. Let's talk about the office though on the exciting part, because there's a really lot of exciting, uh, things that are happening in office for the people that are a little bit progressive in taking risks. There was a really nice piece done by the wall street journal that came out a little while ago on the brand new LinkedIn headquarters. I think it's called LinkedIn office one where they ripped out 50% of the workstations and put it in. And the numbers were like, whatever, 1500. And they ripped out 700, but of those things, they, they, they put in not 75 seats, but 75 different types of seating configurations. And then this whole concept where some people are talking about restaurant, I think is a really great metaphor, right.  

Jeff >     00:30:31    Cuz why do you go to a restaurant you can cook at home cuz the experience. So, you know, think like a restaurant tour, coffee shops are in the front. Um, some people is so far as to say it should be a club. Um, so there's really a lot of exciting things. If, if you kind of get out of the, you know, kind of the, the sea of beige desks, like, like at R and B horrible cubicles that I worked out for a very short period of time to, wow, we have this space. If we step back and think kind of activity based and why do people want to come in? And they wanna see their friends and they wanna collaborate, oh, there's so much, there's so much potential. And now people are really starting to push the bound of experimentation.  

Adrienne >     00:31:10    Yeah, for sure. I mean, if it was possible to go short on desks, I would do that because in two years I think they're gonna be super cheap. We're gonna have way too many of them. Um, we actually have too many of them now and we have for a long time. Right. Um, so that's why, you know, measuring what's happening within the workplace is so important, but that type of shift to the, the model you're talking about requires us to give up the concept of ownership of space and shift to a subscription model, which is real different. You know, I don't have a place with my name on it anymore, but I have the run of the floor. And in my experience, people have a really hard time letting go of that. And in general we have a hard time. It's, it's easier for us to get, uh, scared about what we're gonna give up than it is for us to get excited and imagining what what's on the other side. Right. But if you can get people over that hump what's on the other side is, you know, really phenomenal. And I agree with you. I think that's where all of this is going.  

Jeff >     00:32:06    And even all those people know, right. There's never enough conference rooms. There's never been enough conference rooms in corporate America forever. Right. It's always a struggle. We can't get a conference room to conference room reservation systems or crap where, you know, the data's coming back from, from this insert data that, you know, the desks have been like 40% empty for a while. Cuz people are working from home, they're on a trip, they're working at the coffee shop, they're at a customer meeting, you know, whatever.  

Adrienne >     00:32:31    Yeah. They're really like six by six storage units or eight by eight, depending on how old your cubes are. But that's what they are. They're storage unit for personal stuff that people don't really use.  

Jeff >     00:32:39    So let's shift gears a little bit and talk about data and, and kind of the new data that's available to you. Um, as a professional, um, you know, there's a lot of talk about in NPS scores, which is like my least favorite thing to ever talk about because it's got one or a five and you know, our Uber scores try, you know, taught us if you give the guy a four it'll punch you out because you know, he is gonna lose his license. So, but, but now we have data, you got a lot of data, you got behavioral data in all these workplace applications, uh, which unfortunately sometimes gets used in the wrong way, but you've got all that data. You've got, um, all the sensor data in the offices, you've got badge data. So you've got a lot more data than you used to have. What does that get you excited about? What does that scare you about when you look at kind of the, kind of this new asset that you have, um, to work with?  

Adrienne >     00:33:26    Yeah, I think it, there, it's an exercise in curating and editing more than, you know, taking advantage of every data point that's out there because real estate decisions are made in increments of, you know, three, five years in a floor or a building or a campus at a time. We're not, you know, making these very granular decisions. So we don't need to get to the decimal place of utilization. I need to be plus or minus 15%. And I, what's more important to me than the absolute numbers are the trends and patterns. Cause everything we measure is an estimate, right. So I constantly tell people not to get hung up on the absolutes, but to, um, really focus on the trends and patterns. So that's what I'm looking at. Um, I think the tried and true metrics, the fundamentals are always gonna be important. You know, what is the density? Um, what is utilization in terms of, you know, just the efficiency of the space and how well we're managing the asset, but for individuals, um, we're gonna have to get a lot more sophisticated about understanding their individual experiences and how well their individual environment is supporting what they need to be doing and what they wanna be doing. Um, so that requires some, some new tactics. Um, I'm excited about those.  

Jeff >     00:34:39    Do you think the mind versus the shared is really, uh, more of a kind of generational thing. And, and again, I go back to Uber just cuz that that's such a foreign concept, right? When, when I turned 16, you know, a car was freedom, um, because you could, you could drive it and go places, but also you didn't have the phone right today. I think the phone represents freedom. So it was a very different type of thing. And so ownership of that thing and the, and what it represented in terms of who you were, this that was different today, kids, you know, they're, they don't get their driver's license. A lot of 'em right away, certainly not the burning priority. You know, getting that first car for a lot of kids is not the burning priority. So this, this acceptance of kind of sharedness, you know, Airbnbs exist that, you know, that is a concept didn't exist before.  

Jeff >     00:35:23    So do you think that will be less of an issue hopefully going forward where there's, you know, there's more kind of an acceptance and the other thing too, right, is that all the crap that we used to have around on the inside of our cubicle is now inside of our phone, right? The calendars inside our phone, the pictures are inside the phone. So even the function of there's the file cabinet is now on the cloud. So even the, the, the function before you settled in with your plants and everything of that space to make it yours, a lot of those, those things aren't even at your file cabinet with your important stuff, it's not there anymore.  

Adrienne >     00:35:53    Right. But you can't, you know, you can't download your favorite coffee mug or your golf trophy from 1992 and you know, that that sort of touch key culture. Um, so to answer your question about, um, whether where we kind of passed a turning point, first of all, I would say that all of us in our youth are used to sharing cause we're poor <laugh>, you know, until you're at a stage in your career, when you can have stuff that is yours and yours alone, you know, you're sharing a dorm room in a classroom, in a library. Um, but I do believe that there is more of a mentality of shared resources now than, I mean, our, um, younger kids and younger adults are much more in tune with issues of sustainability and sensitive to, I only really wanna have what I need. I don't wanna be over consuming.  

Adrienne >     00:36:41    Um, and I, so I think that's a, a positive step. Um, the ownership and the is kind of a, a function of the individualism of America, you know, right wrong or indifferent. We are a country of me and mine. And so, uh, apart from places like Western Europe or, or Asia where, um, shared work environments have taken off much more quickly, I think we have that challenge to overcome, to really help people, um, acclimate to an environment where, you know, you don't have that mind space, but what you have outweighs all of that, you know? Um, and the other thing we can do is, um, have spaces that are personalized for teams in a way that's curated, that aligns with the design of the building. You know, I mean, maybe it's not like your six by six, uh, photo gallery, but maybe there's a rotating display of family pictures on the digital sign right outside of your neighborhood, you know, that provides some of that. Right. So we gotta keep working that balance.  

Jeff >     00:37:46    Right. But the other thing is if you're not there 60 hours a week, um, because you're flex, you know, again, I think, I, I think, you know, we're used to having the picture because we would get there at seven in the morning or six in the morning and go home at six or seven at night. I mean, and even now, you know, your relationship with that space, even if yours, your space, if, if you actually measure it, you're probably not there that long. Cuz the, I used to joke, you know, all these people with a ton of money and giant planes and all this great stuff to, uh, enjoy it. They don't enjoy it cuz they're hard working people they work on  

Adrienne >     00:38:16    And you can only be in one place at a time. So it doesn't matter if you have 12 houses, you can only sleep in one at a time. Right. Right. So it, it really just makes a lot of sense to go to more of a subscription model. And you know, that picture that you're attached to let's if we're honest with ourselves after the first week it was up there, you stopped seeing it. Right. You know, you're not looking at that every day, it's gathering dust and you're just afraid to get rid of  

Jeff >     00:38:36    It. Right. Sorry. I  

Adrienne >     00:38:37    Said so.  

Jeff >     00:38:38    So let's shift gears one more time and talk about kind of your philosophy and how you execute, which is, which is really more designed versus instruction. And, and you've talked about something, you know, your workplace design guide. I wonder if you can share, you know, kind of philosophically, you know, how do you, how do you help people kind of get in the right space? What are some of the, the top level kind of design concepts and guidelines that, that are, you know, general and then you get into the specifics for the, you know, whatever your specific uh, application is.  

Adrienne >     00:39:06    Yeah. So, um, first of all, I'm not a designer by training. Um, so if I get any terminology wrong, know that, that's why I'm  

Jeff >     00:39:14    Not either I won't call you out. Yeah.  

Adrienne >     00:39:16    <laugh> but uh,  

Adrienne >     00:39:19    I think moving forward, we need to be a little bit less precious about aesthetic aesthetics, which kills me cuz you know, I love stuff to look good and for designed to be really pleasing to the eye. But I think we need to get a little less precious about that and really focus on modularity and flexibility. So let's build our floor plans with, uh, modules that are the same size. So you can swap them out. Let's look at furniture solutions versus building a lot of hard walls in weird funky shapes that we're gonna have to live with for the next 20 years. Cause that's how often we fit out our spaces. Um, so that's really kind of where my head is at. Um, the other thing, and this came from a, a conference a year or two ago, um, I think it was Brett hot talk who used to be with LinkedIn who presented this.  

Adrienne >     00:40:05    But when you're, uh, when you're working with a firm to create a design for your space, have them do three different versions of it. Okay. This is your today version. If you increase head count, this is what you do. You know, if you are patterns shift to more collaboration, here's an option for that. And so, you know, like for our workplace design guide, we will put out for a particular room, here's multiple ways to, to lay it out. We're giving you that upfront so that you have options. Cause I think that's really, what's going to be most valuable is the ability to change quickly without having a project that takes six months to get approved three months to get off the ground and then 12 more months to get executed if you can, you know, get ahead of the lead times, which are nine to 12 months right now.  

Jeff >     00:40:49    Right. Right. But, but to your point, just make more of the elements, flexible elements and fewer of the elements, permanent elements. There was something I was listening to getting ready for one of these, they talked about, you know, minimizing the hard decisions or pushing 'em out for as long as you possibly could, may it might have been one of yours where, you know, let people come in and try the space and let them move some things around or let them have a couple options. But just, you know, it's almost like agile software development, you know, just keep pushing, just keep pushing off the final as far as you can so that you can incorporate more and more feedback and to your point, and then it should be able to change any way for, for particular get together or pull some chairs together or, you know, at some frequency less than when the, the lease gets renewed in many, many year.  

Adrienne >     00:41:35    Yeah, for sure. And I think there's, you know, there's two roles in that activity of making changes. So definitely we wanna give people, um, opportunities to move things around and create new paths and see what works. However, um, we also want to introduce some new ways of working that may not be familiar. Um, so you know, if I've only ever been used to working by myself, what I might do when you give me, um, uh, my new space and the freedom to do what I want with it, I might take those rolling whiteboard and turn them into walls. Um, you know, and that's not really the intent where, you know, maybe we can sort of guide that individual to say, okay, well, what you're telling me is you need more focus. Let's figure out how you can do that within this space. Right,  

Jeff >     00:42:27    Right. Maybe you should go to the library on the third floor. Yeah,  

Adrienne >     00:42:30    Exactly. Or that's a great activity. If you have the flexibility to do it, to do from home, you know, you don't have to do that particular work here, but you know, let's find a solution that works for you. So I think everybody kind of has to experiment and also get used to being a little bit uncomfortable cuz change can't happen if you're in a comfort zone. Right.  

Jeff >     00:42:51    Right. Well, Adrian, we're getting to the end of our time. And, and there's one concept that I want to close with that you've mentioned a few times, not a lot of people do and that's a standard, uh, that I think is really a great standard. And, and what I wanna highlight, which is, you know, create a place for people to do their best work, not a place for people to work, not a place for people to come to work, but a place for people to do their best work as, as evidenced by the stuff that they, they brag about to the family, as evidenced by the stuff that gets bragged about by the family for years and generations. Um, and I think if you come at this, this, from that approach, that's so different. Um, and, and so as creates so much space for improvement, if that's the bar in which you're trying to achieve, where's that come from? And <laugh> how successful when you, when you share that with people, you know, do they get it? Are they excited about it? Do they not get it? Are they scared about it? Is it too much? I mean, I, I think that's such a great standard, uh, and such a high bar to set for, for everything that you do.  

Adrienne >     00:43:55    Yeah. So people generally respond well, cause it sounds like a good idea. Sure. We want people to do their best work. I would alter this statement a little bit to, or I would expand the statement to say, create an ecosystem of places where people can do their best work because we know that different activities happen better in different places. Um, but I think it can be scary because, and going back to that same issue, cuz workplace doesn't create management challenges, it reveals them. If you didn't know how to measure the quality of work before the new workplace, isn't going to help you do that, it might just make it really important that you do. And how do you define best work? Right. You have to be able to define it in order to know that this workspace is, is providing that. Um, you know, so as a, as a shortcut, we can ask employees to give us their sentiment and that's always helpful, but wouldn't it be great if we could actually demonstrate that here's, here's the, the set of environments that really produces the optimal output for us.  

Jeff >     00:44:59    Right. Are, and are you measuring Delta's and sentiment through like work workplace platforms or, or beha, I guess, is it a proxy for sentiment? I'm sure there must be behaviors in a workplace platform that are proxies for sentiment.  

Adrienne >     00:45:13    Yeah, we, we, yes. So, um, the Raytheon technologies is actually a pretty new organization as of a couple of years ago because we're the product of the merger between Raytheon and United technologies. So we're, uh, we're doing a lot of sort of foundational work in terms of harmonizing and, and things like that. But, um, again, it's the trends and relative differences that I'm interested in, not the absolute values, but there are lots of tools that we can use. Um, you know, if you're doing an engagement survey and the first thing that comes up is flexibility. Even though it's not a workplace survey, that's great data for us to use. So we're, I'm absolutely paying attention to that. My colleagues are, we're putting the tools in place for us to be able to measure that and see if we're able to move the needle, um, over time.  

Jeff >     00:46:03    Right. Okay. All lied. I have one more question. Okay. Um, uh, you know, Darren, Darren, MERF said you, the beginning of 2020, you know, he's remote a hundred percent remote guy, so he's very focused, but what's interesting is he said, you know, there's been 5, 10, 15 years of movement in this space, um, of which he's at the extreme, fully remote, but of which, you know, hybrid and everything else in between is part of, you know, in the last two years. So I'm just curious from, from kind of a workplace professional perspective, having this accelerant called COVID that for all the negative things that happened, which were significant and major, but it, what it did do is just, you know, kind of goose all these, um, initiatives in the workplace space, pretty exciting opportunity. You must be thrilled about the pace of change and, and, you know, kind what's now normalized or opened up that, you know, was probably banging your head against the wall, uh, in 19 or excuse me, 2019.  

Adrienne >     00:46:59    Yeah. I mean, I feel like I've been waiting for this conversation for 20 years, so it is exciting to have a legit conversation, not as a, you know, sort of a fringe arrangement, but as a strategy for, um, for workplace. Um, so yes, I'm very excited about that. It's, I'm impatient though, you know, and I just want us to get there and, you know, you can't rush this. I mean, because as much as employees are there and technologies are there, all the leaders aren't there, there, you know, a lot of them are still, you know, when you've seen all the articles that came out last week and last month about the post labor day return to office, that's been driven by a lot of leaders who have been looking out the window, counting cars in the parking lot and being anxious because they've been waiting for things to go back to normal. Right. Um, and they, you know, they gotta go through the journey and see how this thing evolves. Um, so a little bit of patience for me and my colleagues I think is gonna be required. But ultimately I do think that the horses left the barn and, um, and I'm super excited about it because I think it presents a lot of opportunities, not just for the organization and for the individual, but for, you know, the family unit and the community. I, I, I just think there's a lot of goodness here.  

Jeff >     00:48:14    Right. I, I agree. It's kinda, it's kinda like biking, you know, there there's, there's a lot of benefits that come from biking beyond just the immediate impact of, of that particular trip from health and environment and  

Adrienne >     00:48:25    Yeah. Well, great example is, um, you know, so I, I live in Massachusetts, near Boston and the orange line is shut down, which is a big deal. Cause a lot of people depend on it for commuting, but, um, use of the rental bikes, actually, they're not rental right now because they've been made available to commuters for a period of time for free, but it's gone way up. And a lot of people are saying, ah, I didn't know how easy and quick and convenient it is to do this. They just never tried it before. Right. Right. So maybe post orange line construction, we've got a few more bikers and we have bike lanes. Right,  

Jeff >     00:48:59    Right, right. Awesome. Well, Adrian, thank you. Uh, so much, I'm sure you're chomping at the bit, now that you've got, got this, all this movement to, uh, to do all these things you've been working on for so long. So really appreciate the time. Really appreciate the insight. And, and more importantly, really what you're doing, you know, to change, to change the workplace out there. Not only for the, the people that have you inside their four walls, but the people that you're sharing the information with through this kind of podcast and everything else that you need, you speak a lot and you share a lot. And, uh, it's really great information. So thank you.  

Adrienne >     00:49:29    Well, thank you for having me. It's been a lot of fun, my pleasure. 

Jeff >     00:49:31    Fun. All right. So she's Adrian. I'm Jeff. You're watching work 20 XX. We'll see you next time. Thanks for watching and listening on the podcast. That's a wrap. 

Links and References

Adrienne Rowe, Head of Workplace Strategy, Raytheon Technologies

LinkedIn Profile


Selection of Adrienne’s Media Appearances 

Episode 3: Rethinking the concept of workplace with Adrienne Rowe, Looking Forward Podcast, by MillerKnoll, Hosted by Ryan Anderson, Sept 2021

Apple Podcast -

Adrienne Rowe on extending the definition of workspaces, The Workplace Leader Podcast, by Locatee, Hosted by Sabine Ehm, 2021 

Apple Podcast - 


Other Links and Resources 

Inside LinkedIn’s New Hybrid Office With More Than 75 Seating Types | Open Office | WSJ, Wall Street Journal YouTube, Jul 2022 - 

Conan Visits Intel's Headquarters | Late Night with Conan O’Brien, Conan Classics YouTube, Original air Date - May 2007 -  


Disclaimers and Disclosures 

Jeff Frick - I know we want to get a little disclaimer out before we get going. So why don’t I I go ahead and let you cover all of our legal bases and make sure we're good.

Adrienne Rowe - To clarify all of the comments, I'm about to make our mine and mine alone and don't represent necessarily the viewpoint of my employer, Raytheon Technologies.


Disclaimer and Discloser 

This Episode of ‘Work 20XX’ was brought to you by Webex by Cisco 

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Jeff Frick
Founder and Principal,
Menlo Creek Media

Jeff Frick has helped literally tens of thousands of executives share their stories. In his latest show, Work 20XX, Jeff is sharpening the focus on the future of work, and all that it entails.