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CIO Unplugged 3/15/09

March 15, 2009 Ed Marx No Comments

The views and opinions expressed in this blog are mine personally, and are not necessarily representative of Texas Health Resources or its subsidiaries.

The Borderless Office
By Ed Marx

One year ago, I posted Culturally Relevant Leadership. Not a key performance indicator, but a lifestyle. I was so proud of my new office furniture that I posted pics on FaceBook and even bragged, “Look! No room for paper or pen.”

Now I believe even this is passé.

Then I smugly considered myself advanced as an executive who worked at home two days per week. Whoa, what a concept. Lately I’ve wondered why do I have an office in the first place?

I asked the same question of peers and staff and received many reasons why we couldn’t possibly liberate ourselves from the box. I have yet to hear one reason that I couldn’t logically counter. I’m all about forcing myself to learn new ways of operating and leading. I’m also into adopting and leveraging emerging technologies. But now I must commit to expanding self-imposed boundaries. Pushing the organizational culture. Releasing myself—and my staff—from unjustified fears.

A healthy leader spends little time boxed in an office. We’re out visiting our customers and our people. If you’re worried about losing contact with your staff, read Staying Tethered to a Disconnected World. At home or, anywhere outside the box, I get more done in less time. That leaves margin to network with staff, round more with customers, and focus.

Let’s ignore for a minute the actual cost of building out space and look at the operational budget impact. Average office space costs might range from $20-$40 per square foot per year. Assuming your office is 200 square feet, that is $4,000 – $8,000 per year. In the 24x7x365 world we live in, what is your percent occupancy time? It should be tiny, probably under 5%. Now expand this analysis for your staff and your entire office footprint. The amount of waste is self-evident.

On March 31, I’m turning my rhetoric to action and entering a month-long trial with my courageous Chief Medical Information Officer. We will shutter his office and share the space formerly known as the CIO Office. We’ve already eliminated office phones. For the times we do need physical space—or so we rationalize—we will have one. Otherwise, we’ll conduct our business from our “virtual offices.” Armed with mobile devices, we carry with us everything we need. Our office is us. Not some physical space with borders.

Presuming a successful trial, this will become our method of conducting business. I’ll expect my direct reports to follow, and we’ll go from 5 offices to 1. I envision a cascading effect throughout my division. We will save close to a half-million dollars for each floor we clear. Employee satisfaction, productivity, and retention will climb.

You can’t reach a specific benchmark, get the tattoo to prove it, and then stop evolving without losing relevance. If you don’t believe it, reread Tradition.


Ed Marx is senior vice president and CIO at Texas Health Resources in Dallas-Fort Worth, TX. Ed encourages your interaction through this blog. (Use the “add a comment” function at the bottom of each post.) You can also connect with him directly through his profile pages on social networking sites LinkedIn and Facebook, and you can follow him via Twitter – User Name “marxists.”

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