January 4, 2006

Benchmark Your Parking Lot

The concept of a corporate culture isn't something new. It's been around even before our parents got their first pay cheques (or check if you are a non-Canadian reader). Businesses protect their culture and track all aspects of it using tools and technology. Somethings being missed. I think that the company parking lot should be tracked as a barometer of an organization's health and personality.

No, don't go out and benchmark the lot for number of spots, square footage, or even for quality of lighting. But finding out the times of day it's full and empty will tell you alot.

For example - I noted as I left my client this evening that their parking lot was full at 6PM, and recalled that it was empty at 9:30AM. Actually there were no open parking spots during the lunch hours. Hmmm....I think this company qualifies as "night person." You know "night people" they do their best work late at night and wouldn't get caught attending a 9AM meeting...in fact they try to book meetings with you at 5:30PM and roll into work sometime after mid day. They say they get all their work done when it's quiet and no one's around.

The opposite corporate culture is the equivalent to the "morning person". This is usually personified by the individual that makes it to the 9AM meeting well ahead of time. In fact they've already been in the office since 6AM and most of their work for the day is done. They also get things done when its empty.

So which is the healthier corporate culture? The morning or night culture? I don't think it matters as long as things get done. But if you're new to an organization or wanting to partner with it, you'll want to figure out which one you're a member of by stalking the parking lot.

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  1. A few comments on hours:

    Manufacturing companies tend to keep early morning hours: works best with 3 shift plant operation.

    Midwest Companies: If many weekend farmers, tend to be early morning to deal facilitate afternoon harvests.

    West Coast Companies: Early morning if lots of work with east coast.

    Companies spawned near campuses: Tend to me later in day since it naturally fits with student labor.

    Companies working with India: Early morning on east coast to facilitate end of day conference calls.

  2. back in the day I contracted at Microsft, working monster hours to get device drivers working for a DirectX release.

    As such, I arrived at 6 am and left around 9 for about a month.

    Now, MS would serve dinner at 6 pm to people working late. As a result of this incentive, workers would show up at 11-11:30, eat lunch for an hour, then go to work and work until 8 or so. By beig there late, they gave the appearance of heroic effort. Managers either didn't care or didn't notice the actual hours worked, and the early morning workers were not rewarded for the extra effort.

    Be careful what behavior you reward...


  3. Another comment concerning demographic data: a quick survey of the number of low-, mid-range, and high-cost cars in the employee section of the parking lot might provide insight, too.

    "Kicking Over My Traces"