A while back, when I was managing a large telecommunications portfolio, I got a call from a very irate customer – a senior manager in the company.
It seems there was a large puddle of dried paint on the walkway leading to the front door of the building he worked in. That’s bad enough. But it had been there for months, supposedly. He stopped assuming we would get around to scraping it off, and decided to call.
Neither my technicians nor my Facility Manager had dealt with it. In a way, I’m glad it’s because they didn’t know it was there, since if they had known, it would have been very negligent to not deal with it right away.
As it turns out, they simply didn’t know it was there. That’s the real problem.
How is that possible? The tech visits frequently, since it was a major operations hub with critical equipment. The Facility Manager visits every now and then to deal with contractors, issues and sometimes, manages to talk to the customer.
After going to the facility myself and walking around, then talking to the technician, I found out why. He drives in the side driveway, parks at the back of the building and enters through the back entrance. Seems he hardly ever walks around the building. Same with the Facility Manager.
This prompted a new approach – doing rounds both outside the building and within the building. I had a large, geographically dispersed team, and some did this by habit, others hardly ever.
Eventually, a new process was also introduced – Walk of the VIP.
What I found is that even when managers and technicians walked the building, they didn’t always go through the most important routes – where the main customers or even external customers walked. Also, and perhaps more importantly, they stopped seeing gradual degradation as time went by, and even filtered things out automatically – such as too expensive, has been like that forever, nobody’s complained, and a whole range of excuses.
It’s sort of like your kitchen knife gradually getting dull and you not noticing it until it’s really dull. Sure, you’d see the puddle of paint, but sometimes miss other things that your customer won’t miss.
So, the Walk of the VIP meant inviting someone else who wasn’t involved in the facility (a colleague or even a customer) to walk the building, taking particular notice of the key routes. They would document everything, no matter how small. Then the Facility Manager would have to prioritize and start dealing with things. They were categorized into no-cost, low-cost and project level fixes.
The process is simple; the results will be worth it.
Here is the process in a nutshell:
Walk of the VIP
After a while, you stop noticing details and don’t even see the deterioration in your building happening over time.
The ‘Walk of the VIP’ is designed to get another pair of eyes to take a fresh and critical look from your Customer’s perspective.
Step 1 : Choose a VIP
This person assumes the role of a Very Important Person, preferably either an occupant or colleague who is not involved in your building.
Step 2 : Visit the Building
The VIP visits the building, taking at least 2 paths most traveled into the building by the occupants and visiting the most frequently used areas as well as office spaces and meeting spaces.
Step 3 : Look, List, Plan, Do
Look – The VIP uses a critical eye and identifies observations (dirty floors, untidy lobbies, peeling paint, poor lighting, squeaky doors, leaky pipes, uncomfortable temperatures…) no matter how small or insignificant they seem.
List – The VIP writes down everything they see.
Plan – The Facility Manager creates an action plan to address each of the items on the List as follows:
A. Immediate Quick Fix – You or your contractor does them right away.
B. Do-able in time with low to no new cost – Make plans for them to be done soon.
C. Do-able in time with additional cost – Assess funding and priorities.
Do – Implement all items in Category A and B and build all Category C items into your future budget.