Quality and Productivity Database

Descriptive Title of Proposal: Planning a major infrastructure using a pilot project approach
Year Submitted 2019
Awarded National prize - Space Management
Person(s) Responsible for the Idea
Name / Nom Title / Titre
Loretta Cianci Director, Campus Development Department
Name of Institution HEC Montréal
Office Address 3000, Chemin de la Côte-Sainte-Catherine
Montréal, Quebec H3T 2A7
Map It
Telephone: 514-340-7144
Email Address: Email hidden; Javascript is required.
Name (Senior Administrative Office of the Institution) Loretta Cianci
Title (Senior Administrative Office of the Institution) Director, Campus Development Department
Office Address 3000, Chemin de la Côte-Sainte-Catherine
Montréal, Quebec H3T 2A7
Map It
Telephone: 514-340-7144
Email Address: Email hidden; Javascript is required.

HEC Montréal is planning to erect a new building in downtown Montréal for the fall of 2021. For this project, it has decided on a new work environment based on an open plan concept, among other details. Given the more traditional layout of the existing facilities, this will be a significant change for the school’s staff. To validate the new environment, the working processes, as well as the staff’s conduct and acceptance, a pilot project approach was proposed and implemented.

In 2016, a 525 m2 prototype was set up in one of the existing buildings on the campus. It consisted of different spaces, including a multipurpose room, meeting rooms, open spaces, collaborative spaces, new workspace layouts and innovative technologies planned for the new building.

From September 2016 to December 2018, more than 200 employees and students took turns testing the new environment. The participants were either assigned a workplace or did “hoteling” (unassigned seating). They were encouraged to share their thoughts, concerns and worries about the space.

Benefits of the pilot project

Hundreds of ideas were gathered and statistics were compiled thanks to a post-experience survey given to each participant. The information helped validate and improve the new building’s layout during the plans and specifications stage, namely to:

  • validate the new space standards – reduced surface area of the work stations, number and size of the meeting rooms, etc.;
  • draw up a list of the different spaces required to meet the staff’s various needs;
  • identify concerns and remedy irritants experienced by the participants (noise, new technologies, flexible furniture, etc.);
  • experiment with the open spaces, fostering collaboration between the participants and quicker adaptation without requiring costly renovations;
  • review the processes and working conditions based on the new work environment’s impacts.

We are pleased to share how we set up this pilot project, which was an important innovation for the successful planning of a major infrastructure project.

An English presentation can be provided for the conference if needed.

Criteria Please submit one paragraph describing how the proposal fulfills each of the evaluation criteria.

A pilot project approach with accompaniment during the experiment can be applied to any change a university intends to make, including a major infrastructure project. It allows different solutions to be tested and validated, and their impacts on the institution and its staff to be assessed. The necessary adjustments can therefore be planned in advance, for more efficient project realization.

A change management team and a technical support team accompanied the participants during the course of the project to establish a welcome and follow-up procedure:

  • The school met with the managers beforehand, to inform them of their role during the experiment and to let them know of certain change management decisions.
  • The employees were invited to an information session, which included a tour of the facilities, and were trained to use the new technologies. The change management and technical support teams also met with them once a week to gather their comments and address any difficulties encountered.
  • Each group of participants was asked to fill out a survey at the end of the experiment to measure all the different parameters (e.g. space configuration, furniture, technologies and adaptation to the changes).

In short, the teams took charge of the participants, welcoming them, training them and meeting their needs throughout the experiment, a model that can easily be replicated in other institutions.

Quality Impact

The participants stated that the new environment offered advantages and improved the quality of their work environment. Here are a few of the survey results:

  • 84.5% feel capable of adapting to this new environment (139 out of 164 people answered “mostly agree” or “completely agree”);
  • 46.3% (76/164) had the impression that they collaborated “more than before” or “much more than before” with colleagues from their unit, while 45.7% (75/164) said they collaborated “as much as before”;
  • 53% (87/164) had the impression that they collaborated “more than before” with people from other units, while 39.6% (65/164) said they collaborated “as much as before”;
  • 74% (91/123) were of the opinion that the spaces to which they had access were well-suited to their type of work.

The pilot project clearly helped the participants commit to the working environment the HEC is planning for its new building and will ensure a better transition during the move. Further, we gathered an impressive number of comments and were able to improve the new building by integrating the participants’ considerations in its design, plans and specifications. It is more efficient to make adjustments during the planning stage than during construction or in the first few months of occupancy.

In short, we now have an improved, fine-tuned project with an incubator for collaborative project emergence, at lesser cost for the institution.

Productivity Impact

In conclusion, adding a pilot project to the planning phase of a major infrastructure project helps users experiment and determine the space’s impacts on their different work processes in advance.

This allows changes to be made to the processes ahead of time for better integration when the new space is ready. When possible, adjustments can be made immediately, to avoid having to make changes in the new environment. The adaptation period in the new building will be shorter, which will mean a significant gain in productivity for the school and its staff.

Supporting Documents:



Typically, construction projects begin with a functional and technical program submitted to professionals, to develop the concept and produce the plans and specifications. Employees contribute little to this process, especially when the project involves an existing layout model.

For major infrastructures, adding a pilot project to the planning phase lets you test different solutions in the actual environment before its large-scale construction. It lets you optimize the space standards, improve the quality of the environment and get the staff’s commitment. This is an innovative element in planning a major construction project, one that offers several benefits to the university’s staff and clientele, which will facilitate their support and participation when the project is complete.