Treasury’s journey from iconic heritage to new ways of working

 “The best kind of change journey is where its planned in collaboration with the people who will be directly impacted by the change”
Envisioning workshop participant.

2021 recap: COVID-19 derailed the divestment of Hobart’s Treasury Building Complex in May 2020. The landmark precinct includes the oldest buildings in Tasmania which have had continuous use by the government, politicians and judiciary. The current residents are the Department of Treasury and Finance – the agency responsible for the development of the Salamanca Building behind Hobart’s Parliament House.  In 2019 plans were underway for this group to move to new premises. The two sites were an eight minute walk apart – but this journey also spans 200 years of office work.

ProjectGovernment office accommodation 2008 – 2019
ClientTasmanian Department of Finance and Treasury
TeamsAllan Wood, Alex Barber, Tania Bosworth, Annie Abbott (Treasury)

Over the past decade Sue has supported the Tasmanian Government’s Hobart office accommodation for range of agencies through the client department of Finance and Treasury.

DEGW’s track record with both the UK’s Office for Government Commerce and the GSA in the United States meant that the 2010 workplace brief developed by Steve Coster and Antoinette Trimble for the new Salamanca building drew on deep public sector experience. The UK government had documented learnings from the first shift from private offices to open plan in Working without Walls in 2004. By 2008 there were a further tranche of case studies on the accelerated adoption of distributed work in Working beyond Walls.

Treasury and Finance was the Principal of the development of the new $150 million 5 star Green star building that now provides 14,000sqm of new parliamentary support facilities and ministerial offices, and commercial office space for Tasmanian Government Agencies. Opened in 2017 the Salamanca Building is the first stage in the mixed-use redevelopment of the Parliamentary precinct in the civic heart of Hobart.

Sue’s role in the delivery of this project included the fitout design brief development with Citta’s architect fjmt, independent design verification and change support for the agencies relocating to the new building to support the realisation of the project’s workplace innovation. The Tasmanian agencies moving into the Salamanca Building in 2017 were shifting from dated fitouts to contemporary open plan. Change teams in State Development, Liquor and Gaming paid particular attention to the opportunities for a transition that would position all staff for a more flexible and collaborative way of working.

When Treasury was planning its own relocation to new space in Battery Point, the parliament square workspace was the stepping stone to a new model of flexible office accommodation. How could the new Treasury offices extend the precedent of the Salamanca building? And what would that mean for people used to working in fragmented pockets of grandeur across the eight different buildings that make up the Franklin Square complex? Moving from department to department meant a winding path through creaking corridors and an empty courtroom. Doors are mostly closed – because its freezing.

Moving to any kind of open plan, let alone contemporary activity-based workspace was more than a relocation; it was time travelling. The Soft Build brought staff together in a workshop to understand the aspirations, opportunities and risks around the move. Transplanting Franklin Square mindsets and work practices to Kirksway Place would mean:

  • A drop in personal productivity because open plan workspace is too noisy;
  • Limited team connectedness because open plan workspace is too quiet;
  • Wasting project budget and area on shared work settings that are underutilised; and
  • Continuing an inflexible property model which means changes in group/project size and structure cannot be easily absorbed.

The property project needed to be seen as organisational renewal that integrates physical space, digital work processes and individual mindsets. The change framework plotted the implementation of three strategies to integrate the different change work streams of people, process and place:

  • Time travelling – how to tell a story about this journey that will inspire people to change how and where they work;
  •  Planning to start – how to engage the whole department in an organisational renewal process to support the property project; and 
  • From my space to our space – how people who are used to shutting a door can be productive in contemporary work settings.

The transition framework resets Treasury’s aspirations to get the best results out of its property relocation for broader business objectives.

The Soft Build is a strategy consultancy that helps people use buildings as a scaffold for organisational change.

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