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Motorola meeting facility judged one of nation's best

This room a winner in "Best Presentation Rooms" competition

How does a company that's famous for its defect-free manufacturing approach meeting room planning?

Years of experience tracking and solving meeting problems went into the design"Where other parts of Motorola are worrying about a quality product, we're worrying about a quality experience," says Chris Fields, Manager of Events Systems for the firm's Galvin Center in Schaumburg, Illinois.

Fields and his staff brought the firm's quality-improvement process to the planning and construction of four new meeting rooms in the Galvin Center, the training and education building on Motorola's headquarters campus. The resulting facility and its a/v systems (designed and installed by United Visual) was among the top twenty selected in the 1997 "Best Presentation Rooms" awards, published jointly by Presentations and Training magazines. This is the second year in a row a United Visual customer has been a winner in the Presentations and Training magazine contest.

Measuring and solving meeting-support problems

Motorola is well known for its "six sigma" standard for manufacturing quality. The term refers to controlling a process so carefully that there are less than two defects for every billion pieces produced. Such quality is made possible by meticulously measuring every problem, then analyzing and implementing solutions using a system of employee empowerment and teamwork. Applied to facility planning, the process is one of measuring where problems and mistakes occur, then applying a creative process to finding solutions. "In our quality program," says Fields, "we're currently measuring any kind of negative feedback that we get from our internal customers. We look at that on a weekly and monthly basis. We try to identify why the defects happened, and then go back and address the processes that are used to provide that particular service." For instance, Fields explains that his staff AMX touch panel Sony LCD Projector found, years ago, that permanently installed equipment, though more expensive upfront, cut down drastically on labor costs and also on mistakes in setup. "It's easy to forget to do something in setup because you've done it so many times that maybe you're not paying attention."

But even after the first installs at the Galvin Center, there was a lot of potential for problems. At one time, says Fields "there were seven or eight steps that someone would have to go through to play a videotape. There were three different power buttons. They had to have Video One selected on the projector. If it was one of our rooms with rear screen projection, the front screen had to be up, but in most rooms, the projection screen had to be down. And the right audio level had to be set on the amplifier, because there were different sources going through the amp. So after going to the rooms enough times for these simple problems, we realized that we wanted to design our future rooms differently."

Of course, most of the process changes that Fields and his team consider are smaller and more subtle than this example (which resulted, by the way, in the addition of control systems to the Galvin rooms). "But that's the type of thing," Fields says, " that we're constantly looking at."

Net training room has hookups for 5 laptops used by student visitors Sony LCD ProjectorThe Galvin Center and its East Wing

The Galvin Center, built in 1986, is primarily a training center for employees, customers and suppliers, who might come from local offices or be brought in from anywhere in the world. The Center houses two auditoriums, 19 classrooms, five conference rooms, 38 breakout rooms and a cafeteria with multiple dining areas. It also houses the Motorola Museum of Electronics, to which the firm brings local junior high and high school students for half day tours and problem-solving workshops.

Galvin Center staff have been scheduling management and employee meetings in the training rooms for many years, on an "as available" basis. So when management began to plan an expansion, they decided to include some dedicated meeting space.

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The new space, completed in August of 1996, includes three boardroom-style meeting rooms and a classroom. These are available to anyone in the company, from the factory floor on up to the CEO, though they are used mainly by middle and upper management. The classroom is primarily used for workshops for the students brought to the museum. Each of these new rooms has a permanently installed Sony gifics projector, electric wall screen, VCR, overhead projector, sound system and control system. A/v staff bring slide and audioconferencing equipment in as needed. In addition, the classroom includes a podium with side-by-side overhead projectors, plus hookups for five Macintosh PowerBook computers, used by the instructor and students in their workshops. Typically, each of these hookups are switched to the Sony at the end of the day, so that the students, who work in small groups, can show each other their projects.

The quality program and the new wing

In planning the Galvin Center addition, Fields and United Visual's Rick Nelson worked on two major problems not considered when the training rooms were built, though faced when those rooms were used for other kinds of meetings.

First, the meetings would, for the most part, not be planned as far in advance as training sessions, nor would they have as tight an agenda. Where a trainer would typically test all of his or her visuals in advance, a meeting organizer might not even know what materials the participants would bring.

Second, the presenters, most often, would not be familiar with the rooms, and there would be little or no opportunity to train them in their use. "What it comes down to," says Fields, "is that in the classrooms, the instructors are a little more prepared, they've probably used the systems before, and they know what's going to happen, so if they have questions, they can contact us in advance. Whereas in a meeting, they might decide at the last second to try something new. I didn't want to have a person down there just standing and waiting for them to come up with these creative ideas. So we tried to make it where they could take care of it themselves."

The control systems that Fields and Nelson designed reflect these new requirements. "In my mind," says Fields, "the goal was to make it as simple as possible. When they're ready to play a tape or do a PowerPoint presentation, there should be only one or two buttons they really need to press." Once a presenter chooses video, for instance, the amplifier is always ready, the screen is always in place, and the "play" button is right up front. Though presenters can adjust the lights or overall volume if they want to, they don't have to touch anything to make a very successful presentation. There's definitely no need to remember seven or eight steps to get an item to work.

The results

The control system is only one part of the story, however. The quality process has helped Fields and his staff think of every detail–and, of course, go back and adjust for anything new that might come up as technology or preferences change. "Our mission," says Fields, "is to provide our customers with an environment that's conducive to learning. The whole idea is that they can concentrate on the task at hand. They don't have to worry about whether there are donuts in the pantry, or how do I hook my computer up to the projection system, or am I going to have to hunt down a VCR. We do whatever we can to make it where they can come in, find their room, and off they go. We even try to serve healthy, light meals for lunch, so they won't have a tendency to go back and want to take a nap in the afternoon."

To walk through the facility is to see what Motorola has accomplished. "We've done what we can," says Fields very modestly. "If you're in a meeting or in a class, and the presenter can do his or her job and the technology doesn't appear to take a lot of effort, then we've done our job well."