Who Moved My Spreadsheet, Cubicle – or Whatever?

Date: August 22, 2017


Three weeks ago, like many of my colleagues, I downsized from an office into a cubicle. It was a big move.  And it’s gotten me thinking a lot about change and how people react differently to it.

There’s a lot of change and transformation in our industry. I have been working in this industry for 11 years now. In that time, the need to automate the back office has gotten a lot of lip service. But little action. Until now. At Confluence, we are seeing that regulatory fatigue is unleashing a pent-up demand to automate. Bye, bye spreadsheets. Hello speed, efficiency and control. It’s a big deal with huge upside.  But, in the short-term anyway, the cultural shift is a bit scary and the growing pains can be quite uncomfortable for some.

At Confluence, we’ve been experiencing growing pains too, albeit on a different dimension and scale.  But I can vividly see the parallels to the change process that is happening across our client base.

We recently moved our corporate headquarters to a new location in Pittsburgh. The commercial property we now call home is part of a multi-million dollar renovation project deemed Pittsburgh’s rising innovation center. The space is gorgeous. We have floor-to-ceiling windows and a 360-degree view of Pittsburgh’s historic neighborhoods, sports arenas and downtown. The interior of the space was gutted and the new layout is optimized for team collaboration and to inspire innovation. There’s underground parking for all and a 10,000 square foot fitness center. Probably coolest of all, the food trucks pull up to the plaza every Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

We are part of a community now, sharing amenities with other innovative companies.

Who could ask for more? Life is good. But, wait, it wasn’t for everyone – at first. (Did I mention that I moved from an office into a cubicle?)

When change happens and disrupts our daily routines, its human nature for some to stress out and complain, preferring to cling on to old, familiar ways. I can imagine our asset management and service providers are experiencing a similar change management phenomenon: Why disrupt my world with a new technology? Why force me to learn new things? I love my spreadsheets, or at the very least, I understand them. After all, we are meeting deadlines, controlling errors just fine, right?

Whether it’s a physical change like moving offices or a process change like introducing automation, I think we could all take a few lessons from Spencer Johnson’s best seller “Who Moved My Cheese?” It’s a business fable about how two mice and two little people dealt with change. In the book, Cheese is a metaphor for the things which you want in your life and make you happy. Financial success. A job. Freedom. Recognition. A game of golf. A familiar spreadsheet. Etc. Etc.

In our old building we had lots of Cheese – and different Cheese for different folks. The athletes loved having their own lockers. My management peers liked their private offices and speaker phones. We were just steps away from the riverfront running trail. The developers liked the foosball table. We all relished access to an onsite massage therapist.

But aha, now we have new Cheese! Permanent lockers are being replaced with daily lockers – and a membership to the new state-of-art fitness center. The office walls are gone — replaced with the new Cheese of a workspace designed for collaboration. Conferences rooms sport the very latest video conferencing technology. Privacy pods and many conference rooms give everyone equal access to a private space that only managers had in the past.

The fitness mindset is stronger than ever. Some of us are arriving at work early for the fitness center’s 6:45 a.m. yoga and spinning classes or hitting the weight machines at lunchtime.

The panoramic views of the Pittsburgh cityscape, sports complexes and city neighborhoods from anywhere in our offices are exhilarating.

Perhaps the best new Cheese – the clutter is gone. No more walls of paper filing cabinets; it’s all been scanned and organized electronically. It’s quite cleansing and refreshing.

The new Cheese is far better than the old Cheese.

Moving out of the comfort zone isn’t easy, but it’s necessary. Life is constantly changing–and without change, we can’t progress and move forward.

Let’s look across the industry and ask – what’s my Cheese today? Can I imagine new Cheese tomorrow?

So instead of fighting change, let’s take a lesson from Spencer Johnson when he said in the book “Move with the cheese.”