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Thinking iInside-i the Box--or Cube

November 9, 2007
Related Topics: Behavioral Training, Career Development, Employee Career Development, Featured Article
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Cubicles usually are the butt of jokes about life in the corporate world, as anyone who reads Dilbert knows.

    But Trane remodeled its Parsippany, New Jersey, office in 2005 to institute a cubicle culture for the approximately 120 employees who work there. And the company is proud of it.

    "We're all in cubes," says Rich Halley, district manager for Trane New York/New Jersey.

    Just as Halley completes his sentence, John Conover, president of Trane Americas, pipes up.

    "So am I," he says.

    The corporate leaders have embraced cubism, so to speak, because they believe that it increases communication among employees and fosters collaboration. Both are key elements in the heating and air conditioning company's efforts to move from transactional sales to strategic customer relations.

    Building deeper connections to customers to find opportunities beyond installing their next HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) unit requires such cooperation.

    In Trane offices, four people sit together in a large cubicle. There's a desk and computer in each corner. In the middle is a file cabinet that supports a large tabletop on which building designs can be unfurled and studied.

    In addition to putting an end to closed office doors, which block communication, the new design eliminates interior walls and allows natural light to permeate working areas—a refreshing change from the previous dark, drab atmosphere.

    The benefits of the redesign began accruing even while remodeling was in progress. At one point, the entire sales force was relocated to a conference room while their section of the office was overhauled. They achieved a record month.

    "It was an immersion in teaming," Conover says.

    Now such teamwork can occur daily. "Communication is the key," Halley says. "The open atmosphere really works for us."

Workforce Management, November 5, 2007, p. 36 -- Subscribe Now!

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