State-of-the-Art Office Case Studies: Offices Supporting Management

ABeam Consulting Prequel

February 2014

ABeam Consulting

*This article is based on research conducted at an earlier date; some details may differ at the present time.

Relocating to 3,000 tsubo (approx. 9,900m2/106,750ft2) Office in Just Four Months: A Project Producing Many Benefits

ABeam Consulting Ltd. is a leading Japan-based global consulting firm, which has steadily expanded its business since its founding in 1981. In August 2013, it finished integrating five offices in different parts of Tokyo into a single office. For this case study, we spoke to two employees from the general affairs department who were members of the relocation project team.

Koki Tsuda

Koki Tsuda

Manager, General Affairs Department
ABeam Consulting

Mika Kawabata

Mika Kawabata

General Affairs Department
ABeam Consulting

ABeam Consulting

Brief Memo

  1. With five offices in different parts of Tokyo, communication was inconvenient.
  2. The relocation date was set—then the details were decided one by one in light of the chosen date.
  3. General information about the relocation was relayed to employees through an internal e-magazine.
  4. The new office has many features devised to encourage spontaneous communication.
  5. One year on, the relocation has produced many benefits.

Inconvenience of communication felt with five offices in different parts of Tokyo

Koki Tsuda: “Before the move, we had a 3,000 tsubo (approx. 9,900m2/106,750ft2) office that served as our headquarters in a building next to Yurakucho Station. In addition to that, we had separate offices in nearby Hibiya and Kachidoki. While the operations were conducted at each office according to business department, the reality was that communication was inconvenient.”

The separate offices were integrated into a single location, with the expectation that this would lead to improved communication.

Tsuda: “Naturally, since we were integrating our offices, we expected that our floor space would shrink as a result and that our running costs would decrease at the same time, but our biggest expectation for the relocation was that it would lead to faster communication.”

Mika Kawabata: “When there was actually a need to hold a meeting in person, it felt like the time spent going to the meeting location was wasted. If we were meeting with the operations department located in the building in Kachidoki, we had to go there by bus. That was the shortest way by public transport, but it still took some 30 minutes. Similarly, it took about a ten-minute walk to Yurakucho from the Hibiya office.”

Kawabata: “What’s more, in cases where we couldn’t meet in person, we had to communicate by phone or email. And, of course, when you can’t look the listener in the face when you’re talking to them, it changes the way you communicate. No matter how much IT such as remote conferencing systems advances, I don’t think it will ever beat face-to-face communication.”

Relocation date set—then details decided one by one in light of the chosen date

Despite the fact that it was an ambitious relocation plan, the preparations were not done gradually over time. This was a rare case where a detailed relocation schedule was put together only after the new building and relocation date had been decided.

Tsuda: “There was a plan all along to redevelop the area where our old office was located, so we thought we would have to relocate at some point. However, we didn’t consider moving to a different area. We were therefore waiting to find a building where we could obtain a large amount of floor space in the vicinity of our Yurakucho headquarters. Then, we obtained timely information about the completion of a brand-new building and went to visit it right away. Senior management decided that we should begin considering moving to this building in August 2013.”

Kawabata: “This was in December 2012. The relocation could not yet be announced to employees, as well as to people outside the company. Behind the scenes, we were soon calculating relocation expenses, making provisional calculations of running costs, managing assets, and so forth.”

By January 2013, the numbers had been tallied, and in February, a specific plan of action was drawn up through the company’s internal procedures, and members were chosen from each business division to review it. Preparations for relocation got underway at high speed.

Tsuda: “We started for real in March, with the aim of moving at the start of August. We were faced with the situation of completing a major relocation of a 3,000 tsubo (approx. 9,900m2/106,750ft2) office in just a little over four months—and the date couldn’t be pushed back.”

As a first step, they set to work listing what they needed for the office and issues to be addressed. To achieve this, the relocation project members held regular meetings focused on brainstorming. The ideas put forward would then be reported and discussed at follow-up meetings. This process enabled them to gather opinions and ideas from employees of all levels, regardless of rank.

Then, even though some details were still unclear, a proposal was put together that took the employees’ into account.

Tsuda: “Looking over it again, the word ‘communication’ appears a lot. In the case of our company, a lot of work is project-based, which means teamwork is extremely important. For that reason alone, we needed an office structure that would enable everyone to optimally leverage the strength of the team.”

In early April, a request was made to submit a layout plan based on the prepared proposal.

Tsuda: “For this, we had four design companies submit bids. Luckily, each company’s bid was similar in terms of cost, so we were able to judge them based simply on the strength of the design. The general affairs department obtained opinions about each company’s bid from the members involved in reviewing the submissions and provisionally tallied up their preferences. Management then made a final decision. After that, we conducted a detailed review with the chosen company.”

Tsuda: “Since work such as installing automatic doors, the air-conditioning system, and the like would take time, we had to make quick decisions about those. On the other hand, in the case of furniture and fixtures, as long we were sure they would be in stock, we could remain on schedule even if we chose them right before the deadline. The first thing we had to do was clarify the order of priority, since that affected the entire schedule.”

Kawabata: “After deciding on the design company, all the companies involved met for general meetings on a weekly basis. As a rule, all general affairs department members attended. Besides them, close to 30 people all told would gather every week, including representatives of the design company commissioned to manage the project, the construction company, a firm specializing in security, and so on.”

General meetings were held through July, until right before the move. The construction work was then finished on time without any problems.

Basic relocation information relayed to employees through internal e-magazine

Given the scale of the relocation plan, which would consolidate all offices in the Tokyo area, it was necessary for the general affairs department to report to employees about the plan’s progress. This task was performed by Eiraku News, an in-house e-magazine.

Kawabata: “The e-magazine was distributed once a month. The original idea for it came from a colleague’s suggestion. We wrote articles accompanied by lots of photos, about topics such as the new meeting room reservation system we were planning to introduce, the digital signage to be set up in various offices, the expanded library, and so on. What’s more, we devised ways to make it more reader-friendly, such as using informal language for the articles. As a result, it seemed that quite a lot of people enjoyed reading it.”

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