Structural Dynamics

Seeing and Using the Big Picture

Vistico Case




Vistico provides connectivity solutions for personal computers such as mice, key boards, and various wireless components.  Its sales, marketing, R&D, and administrative offices are located in a single US urban area.  Its manufacturing operations, in several locations throughout the US, are owned; the company also out-sources some manufacturing abroad.  Vistico has over $2B in revenue from sales.  It grew rapidly from its founding in a garage 25 years ago and now has over 7,000 employees.  Its sales are now growing at a more moderate pace.

The company’s office facilities were acquired on a space-available basis during the period of rapid growth.  The company now wants to consolidate and reconfigure these facilities, which include a metropolitan headquarters, suburban offices and scattered smaller facilities taking a more planful approach.  The Corporate Real Estate department is negotiating for space in a recently constructed office tower in the city’s central business district.  They are sizing the new space requirements based on current headcount plus a15% factor for growth and debating how to accommodate remote workers when they come into the office.  The work areas will be configured by function and interspersed with collaborative spaces such as conference rooms and cafeteria. 

For the past several years, Vistico employees have been able to work from home periodically, at their managers’ discretion.  Since many jobs don’t have to be performed on-site, Human Resources is now promoting a new remote work policy, providing a stipend for employees to set up home offices and training programs for both employees and their managers. Offering this option seems like a great way to cut real estate and energy costs (and reduce the firm’s carbon footprint) while increasing productivity and meeting the employees’ desire for more control over their schedules. 

Information Services is configuring standard desktops for remote communication and strengthening firewalls.  They are considering ways to limit the use of company equipment (and time) for personal use by monitoring Internet usage and restricting access to inappropriate sites.  All support services are currently available only at corporate facilities; the idea of supporting employees in their homes has raised privacy and liability concerns.   Vistico’s current policy states that laptops, blackberries, cell phones, iPhones, etc. will be provided only to those who can demonstrate a legitimate business need.  Determination of what gets approved is made on a case-by-case basis.

Some employees enjoy working in their current locations, and they worry about longer commutes to the new facility.  More than a few candidates for home offices are reluctant to sign on to the new remote work policy; they wonder what will happen to their sense of being part of a team, about face-time with managers, inclusion in key projects and the possibility of being overlooked for career advancement.  They aren’t certain whether they’ll have their own place in the new facility.

Other employees, however, love the idea of working from home.  It enables them to meet personal commitments, and demonstrates Vistico’s trust in them.  It provides quiet time for long periods of focused attention, which is hard to achieve at the office.  Plus, it means they can avoid lengthy rush hour commutes that are particularly stressful in bad weather.  Vistico expects them to devote half the time saved to work but the other half is their own.  They are also glad to be making a small contribution to reducing carbon emissions.

As part of the planning process for the new facility, the senior leadership team was asked how they are thinking about Vistico’s workforce, workplaces and work polices.  Here are some of their comments:

“Things have been great for us.  But, to assure continued growth, we need rapid and continuous innovation.  Our new facility should reflect our culture, our roots, our values.  It should also inspire us to new levels of achievement and accommodate new horizons and possibilities.”

 

“Our customers and suppliers are now global, and our workforce is experiencing tremendous diversity as well.   While the majority of our staff is still predominately white and male, that’s changing. We’re increasingly hiring women, Latinos, Blacks, Asians, and other minorities. Their presence in our managerial ranks is growing steadily.” 

 

“Our employees range in age from recent grads to many of retirement age.  We encourage these baby-boomers to stay with us rather than lose their knowledge and experience. They want flexible hours, ergonomic furniture & equipment and lots of autonomy.” 

 

“We’re facing a real challenge in recruiting young professionals to work here.  They are attracted to companies that offer the very latest in technologies and personal freedom.  A lot of them want to start at noon and work till midnight; traditionally, we’ve held team meetings at 8AM.  Are we losing our “cool” factor?  We need to carefully consider how we can make Vistico more attractive to this highly sought-after, critical source of talent as we plan our new facility.”

 

“Are we consciously addressing these shifts in our workforce?  Maybe we should be encouraging bilingualism, cross-cultural awareness and diversity training.  How will teams work across all these differences and still get things done?  How will the new work environment support the various cultural factors?   Should we provide daycare, eldercare, fitness facilities, etc. on-site?”

 

“I’m concerned about the impact of those working in the new facility vs. those working at home.  What affect will it have on their identification with Vistico and the quality of teamwork?”

NOTE:  Shortly after the interviews, a major tunnel that many Vistico employees use to commute to the firm’s existing downtown location failed inspection.  Traffic will be tied up by construction and repair for at least a year.

 

Thinking about the Case

Obviously, Vistico’s has a lot at stake in the emphasis that it is placing on remote work while simultaneously moving employees into a new, collocated facility..  Are they making good choices? Our job is to help them sort out the key considerations and possible impacts of their strategic decisions.

What events, factors, or conditions might Vistico face in the next ten years that would significantly impact their workplace planning? 

These forces may be highlighted in the case information or they may be things that the VISTICO team hasn’t considered yet.

Here’s a framework for identifying the factors that could affect VISTICO:

Societal:  demographics, social movements, ethnic & cultural groups, social changes, etc.

Technological:  types (nano, info, bio, eco, etc.), pace of innovation, rate of adoption, ease of use, moral/ethical issues, obsolescence, etc.

Economic:  wealth and poverty, business cycles, finance, production process methods, growth, and/or decline, etc.

Educational: standards, linkage to industry, rates of attendance, literacy, attainment levels, etc.

Environmental: climate change, pollution, sustainability, health, food security, water safety, conservation, peer standards, carbon footprint, etc.

Political: wars, terrorism, immigration policy, tariffs, international tensions, government regulation and oversight, legislation, non-governmental organizations, etc.

  Aesthetics: style & tastes, popular culture, haute couture, fads, design impact, media figures, etc.



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