Call an armistice in the battle for space on campus

Including stakeholders in the planning stages is a good place to start

When reallocating space on campus, working out logistics is only half the battle. 

A successful transition also means investing in the people who work in that space, Apryl Motley and Michael Chapman write in an article for Business Officer Magazine. They recommend four ways to build relationships with the (occasionally stubborn) stakeholders in your next space reallocation project.

1. Show them the numbers

"Obtaining reliable data is a critical first step in calculating space efficiencies," write the authors. Sherri Newcomb, the senior vice president and chief operating officer at Queensborough Community College, adds that "without data, you hear anecdotally that every space is fully utilized and nothing can change."

The right data can help you find opportunities to use space more efficiently—and show these opportunities to your stakeholders. For example, a classroom believed to be "fully utilized" might actually stand empty for hours each day.

Space management software can be useful for this step, Newcomb says, since "a picture paints a thousand words," and these programs often present data with visual floorplans and patterns. 

Collect the data you need—and start using it to make decisions

2. Bring in an expert

With a legitimate space-management expert, like a professional consultant, stakeholders might be more likely to listen to—and to accept—reallocation plans.

Many schools have "limited bandwidth for doing this type of analysis in-house," adds Carla Ho-a, assistant vice chancellor for budget and fiscal planning at the University of Colorado.

If the cost of hiring an external consultant seems daunting, Ho-a recommends thinking about the cost relative to the amount you'll save when you better utilize your space. "The return on investment would be very high," she notes.

Offices are the fastest-growing space on campus. Here's how to make room for everyone

3. Give stakeholders a say

In order to "socialize the [space] issue and help others understand the problem," Newcomb recommends creating space-planning committees.

These committees should not only include the experts, but also the stakeholders who have a more critical attitude, says Ho-a. This will help you win their buy-in from the beginning—plus the diversity of perspectives will lead to better solutions.

"The importance of communication can't be overemphasized," she says. 

3 ways to improve space management communication

4. Outline your goals

What are you trying to accomplish with your space-management project? Are you trying to fit more students? Repurpose unused square footage? Make room for more state-of-the-art facilities?

Be transparent. Your stakeholders won't respond well to vague threats to convert their offices into cubicles—but they might be more sympathetic to clearly articulated objectives (Chapman/Motley, Business Officer Magazine, December 2016). 

Yes, corporate-style open offices can work in higher ed


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