Sprint’s CEO trades executive suite for cubicle

Karen Famuliner, executive assistant for the vice president of digital, was still getting settled in Monday.
Karen Famuliner, executive assistant for the vice president of digital, was still getting settled in Monday. Kansas City Star

Over by the green section of wall, in the corner, with no window. That’s where you’ll find the CEO’s new cubicle at Sprint.

Marcelo Claure and his leadership team said goodbye over the weekend to individual offices, polished wood decor and the privacy that doors provide.

In all, about 100 people moved at the company’s Overland Park headquarters campus, counting Claure and his six-member support team, as well as the heads of finance, network, human resources, legal, procurement, strategy and other executives and their support teams.

They arrived for work Monday bound for cubicles and open spaces. No more phoning over. Just pop up like a ground hog and see whether the chief marketing officer is in.

For Claure, who joined Sprint last August, the move means giving up the 337-square-foot office that predecessors Dan Hesse, Gary Forsee and Bill Esrey each occupied. His new digs are a 10-by-17 workstation with low panel walls.

The old CEO suite also came with a 734-square-foot conference room and an additional adjacent 383-square-foot conference room. And a private bathroom. That’s more than 1,400 square feet specifically identified as the CEO’s.

In contrast, Claure’s cubicle is near one of many conference rooms in the new executive wing. Behind him lies an open sitting area, but it’s not tied to his station at all.

“It’s what a lot of tech companies have been doing for years,” said Scott Woodrome, manager of Sprint’s commercial real estate portfolio. “Now we have a leader that matches that.”

Claure was not available for an interview, but the Sprint chief executive gave employees a heads up about the move in an email last week.

He and his team were moving out of Sprint’s executive suite, with its “wood paneling and closed doors that make me think of a place where a bunch of lawyers work,” Claure wrote, adding that the new open and collaborative spaces were designed “to look and feel a lot more like we are leading a high-tech company that is shaping the future.”

Sprint's entire executive team including CEO Marcelo Claure moved into considerably less lavish workspaces than they're used to. (Video by Mark Davis, The Kansas City Star, May 4, 2015)

Open executive spaces are becoming the norm, according to Alissa Wehmueller, a principal at Helix Architecture + Design Inc. in Kansas City.

Young technology companies, particularly in California, have less traditional leaders and ideas about work spaces, Wehmueller said. It’s having an influence as companies compete for the same technological talent.

“For Sprint,” she said, “if they want the people working there to think they’re at this really innovative, really forward thinking technology company, it should feel like that, and it should feel like what they’re seeing at the places they’re comparing it to.”

An open office strikes against a sense of hierarchy, with executives working in similar circumstances to employees, and makes the top brass more approachable.

The executive team at Scott Rice Office Works occupies cubicles that measure 6 feet by 6 feet, said Christy Steinbrueck, with the Lenexa-based company. Their workstations collectively work as a showroom for clients, too. So does the setting of Scott Rice’s chief executive, who still has an enclosed office and door for those private calls.

Sprint’s new executive wing includes private phone rooms, and each business unit has a designated conference room.

But other open spaces on the vast floor beckon for collaboration sessions. It fits Claure’s plan.

“The thing that was exciting for him is that people are no longer behind doors,” said Cheryl Entzminger, Sprint’s workplace experience manager.

Besides, Entzminger said, Claure likely won’t be in his cubicle much. He moved around a lot in the Sprint executive suites.

And now there’s the Social Media Listening Wall to check on, too.

It’s essentially a wide walkway between the cubicles on one side of the new executive area and the cubicles on the other. Along one wall are 10 flatscreens, each about 58 inches on the diagonal. Here, executives will be monitoring the network, customer care and feedback on Twitter, Facebook and other social media.

Sprint hasn’t decided what to do with the old executive suite.

To reach Mark Davis, call 816-234-4372. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter @mdkcstar.

Sprint Corp. is scheduled to release its quarterly earnings and subscriber counts for the first three months of this year at 6:30 Tuesday morning. The results also will cover the 12 months that ended March 31.

Related stories from Kansas City Star