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Management article
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Reference no. 99312
Published by: Harvard Business Publishing
Originally published in: "Harvard Business Review", 1999
Version: 1 May 1999
Revision date: 30-Jan-2013

Abstract

THIS CASE STUDY INCLUDES BOTH THE CASE AND THE COMMENTARY. FOR TEACHING PURPOSES, THE REPRINT IS ALSO AVAILABLE IN TWO OTHER VERSIONS: CASE STUDY-ONLY AND COMMENTARY-ONLY. Northern Oil is moving offices, and CEO Fritz Schumacher wants to make the most of the move in this fictional case study. He believes that adopting an open-plan work space will reinvent how the company works, not to mention cut costs. Facilities manager Sasha Pasternak also supports the open plan. Her job would be easier, and her budget would stretch further, if Northern had standardized workstations and used partitions, not walls. And she likes the way the new design flattens the organization: everyone has the same amount of space and the same ergonomically sound furniture. The new building would have more conference rooms and just-in-time work spaces for employees who worked mostly off-site. And although she knew that initial meetings between the architects and Northern employees hadn't yielded much support for open space - people were attached to their private offices - she expected that people would warm to the idea. But when the new design was unveiled, employees were less than enthusiastic. They hurled questions like, How will workers concentrate if they can't shut their office doors? How will people have confidential meetings with their boss? And why would people stay at Northern when the competition offers them private offices? There was even talk of circulating a petition refusing to move to the new space. A week later, the architect presented revised plans to the project group. The new options would add costs and reduce the amount of space savings, but offering a choice to employees might make them feel less threatened. What should the project team do? In 99312 and 99312Z, commentators Nick MacPhee, Donald J. Chiofaro, Paul O'Neill, Vivian Loftness, and David Lathrop offer advice.
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Abstract

THIS CASE STUDY INCLUDES BOTH THE CASE AND THE COMMENTARY. FOR TEACHING PURPOSES, THE REPRINT IS ALSO AVAILABLE IN TWO OTHER VERSIONS: CASE STUDY-ONLY AND COMMENTARY-ONLY. Northern Oil is moving offices, and CEO Fritz Schumacher wants to make the most of the move in this fictional case study. He believes that adopting an open-plan work space will reinvent how the company works, not to mention cut costs. Facilities manager Sasha Pasternak also supports the open plan. Her job would be easier, and her budget would stretch further, if Northern had standardized workstations and used partitions, not walls. And she likes the way the new design flattens the organization: everyone has the same amount of space and the same ergonomically sound furniture. The new building would have more conference rooms and just-in-time work spaces for employees who worked mostly off-site. And although she knew that initial meetings between the architects and Northern employees hadn't yielded much support for open space - people were attached to their private offices - she expected that people would warm to the idea. But when the new design was unveiled, employees were less than enthusiastic. They hurled questions like, How will workers concentrate if they can't shut their office doors? How will people have confidential meetings with their boss? And why would people stay at Northern when the competition offers them private offices? There was even talk of circulating a petition refusing to move to the new space. A week later, the architect presented revised plans to the project group. The new options would add costs and reduce the amount of space savings, but offering a choice to employees might make them feel less threatened. What should the project team do? In 99312 and 99312Z, commentators Nick MacPhee, Donald J. Chiofaro, Paul O'Neill, Vivian Loftness, and David Lathrop offer advice.

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