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Baker McKenzie Global Services Manila's Project Convergence: How an office transfer can be an exercise in transformation

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Baker McKenzie is one of the world's top five law firms by revenue and headcount, and B&M Global Services Manila (GSM) is its largest in-sourcing facility. GSM consists of more than 900 people providing a broad range of strategic and support services to 77 Baker McKenzie offices in 47 countries.

Opening in the Philippines in 2000 with a crew of just five document processors for the firm’s 14 offices in Asia Pacific, GSM has grown rapidly in headcount and reputation, creating not only stable support jobs but an increasing number of regional and global-level specialist roles. Growth at such a pace left little time or opportunity for office space planning, however, and by 2014 GSM’s business units occupied several floors in four different buildings in Bonifacio Global City.

In 2015, GSM finally consolidated its presence in a new workspace designed for and by staff and purpose-built for an intended future state as a high value-adding business partner to all of Baker McKenzie.

More than just moving house, the transfer was part of a larger culture change towards trust, collaboration, and transparency. "Project Convergence incorporated various goals we knew GSM could achieve. Our first unified office and our fifteenth year were the ideal milestones for the transformation: A new home for a new GSM," said Gabriel Pardo, GSM's executive director.

But first, the space and the need to innovate this area in concrete and steel. Conversations were initiated, communication lines to the entire GSM community were tapped, and ideas were solicited. Chris Eugenio, GSM director for business development, marketing and operations, said: “We looked at our other offices in the Baker McKenzie network for inspiration, but each time we returned to our goal: to build a place not just to punch the clock, but to perform and innovate and improve.”

Two foundations were laid: the building and the culture. "We built the infrastructure for a trust-based environment of integrity, accountability and collaboration," said Eric Riego de Dios, GSM's human resources director. First, they did away with biometrics as a way to track output — counting results and not minutes. The change represented a choice to trust people to use their time wisely.

Second, they reinvented the in-house leadership and organizational development program, empowering people to direct their own development and track their progress. Third, they reinforced constant feedback as a performance tool, 360-degree reviews were conducted, and the transition to a rating-free system has been completed. It was not just a change of address, it was also a change of mindset.

The new open space ushered in an open invitation to communicate and work as one team.  Seats were configured to accommodate impromptu meetings and secure quick wins for the clients.  There are collaboration areas to encourage exchange of ideas and formulate innovative solutions. To encourage further dialogue, new channels of communication are being put in place. Town halls, newsletterw, leaders' forum, coffee talks, and employee hotlines have now become staple activities and a regular part of every GSM-er's lifestyle. In essence, the new office brought new life to Global Services' values of exceptional service, insightful solution, and one team.

Having transformed their workplace, GSM continues to transform its culture. Project Convergence may be done but the change continues.

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