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22 October 2018
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ThinkFM 2015: Mobility is key

Adam Smith, BMW, ThinkFM Peter Livingstone
Adam Smith, BMW (Credit: Peter Livingstone)

4 June 2015 | FM World team


Adam Smith, Summit ONE Project Lead, BMW Group 

More than a building project

16:00PM - 16:25PM


BMW’s Adam Smith explained to delegates what the challenges and opportunities surrounding the firm’s recent relocation to Farnborough in Surrey entailed. 


“The building is not just a building to us,” he said. The new site brings together the company’s UK sales and marketing, financial services, leasing and fleet management businesses for the first time. The physical move acted as a catalyst to change company workplace culture. And all of this originally stemmed from BMW’s main board deciding to move BMW Group from being a car manufacturer to the world’s leading provider of premium products and services for individual mobility.


Twenty or 30 years ago the car was seen by many as an object to aspire to own. 


“Today, for an increasing number of people moving into their twenties, driving is not a big deal,” said Smith. 


Not that BMW wants to get out of car production, indeed far from it – but it also wants to be seen more broadly as providing “a premium product to help with mobility”.


Accordingly, says Smith, “we are starting to look at what younger people and younger families want”.


The company no longer just has big cars in mind. Models like the BMW 2 series have been designed to be more compatible for family use, while the i3 is an electric car designed for the city, one which has services within it that link to other ways of getting around and finding car parking.


All of this activity prompted a rethinking of culture during the firm’s recent relocation process, in which BMW Financial Services, mobility firm Alphabet and BMW’s own national sales company all moved onto the same new campus in a process that took three years.


Only by moving into its new space, with collaboration and ‘encounter’ zones, have staff finally ‘got it’. Suddenly, people grasp what flexible working really means – the integration of teams, and collaboration across projects and departments.


Smith explained how BMW had previously been “a very hierarchal organisation”. To counter this, Smith said: “We no longer have a dress code; we say wear what you feel comfortable in, just as long as its not like how you would be dressed going to a nightclub or the gym.”


There was also now a focus on breaking down a ‘control culture’ in the organisation. “We wanted to break some of that and give people space to make their own decisions. Office hours were becoming more and more important.”


Speaking before ThinkFM, Smith explained that “people are still coming to terms with how they can now organise their workflows. Different individuals and different teams are coming at it from different directions – so we’re all gradually changing our mindsets”.


The new building also has two multi-storey car parks – “a critical thing for us as a car organisation. We have a lot of cars… We all drive but we have product and press fleets of cars, so getting a site with a lot of car space was a challenge. Fortunately, this site had that”.


What’s increasingly clear, said Smith, is how the physical environment the company now inhabits plays a key role in supporting change within the organisation.