Facility Managers do a lot of things and sometimes those things get in the way of what they should be doing. They get re-directed by the latest trends and concepts and neglect to focus on the fundamental things that drive results and improve what we do.
Instead of spending so much effort always responding immediately to the latest facility work order or email you receive or being distracted by BIM, the Internet of Things, Big Data, Sustainability and the most recent trend, here are three things that should always be at the top of your list to focus attention on and get done, no matter what else is happening. These 3 things are the foundation you use to build success in other areas.
“Without data, you’re just another person with an opinion.” – W. Edwards Deming
Listening is about gathering information and data.
It includes hearing from senior executives about organizational objectives and goals, reading reports, receiving and analyzing facilities data from your systems, talking to other experts and colleagues, attending conferences and training, and talking with (and listening to) your staff and contractors who are experts in what they do and can advise you on what should be improved, changed, etc.
While one of the recent trends is about Big Data, you simply need to have data, even ‘little data’ to have a material impact in your responsibilities. It isn’t acceptable to use intuition, ‘gut feel’ and anecdotal evidence to lead and manage your facilities department – you need facts you can analyze and act on to increase services, manage costs, and be more efficient in dealing with facilities issues.
The IFMA Benchmark Report #34 indicated that only 53% of FM’s have a computerized system to manage their responsibilities (79% have space system, 45% have a move management system and only 35% have a maintenance management system). While the overall trend shows increasing adoption of facilities software, these software systems are a fundamental tool to manage the processes efficiently and provide data for management, analysis and decision making that every FM should have. It is worth noting that even if FM’s have a system, they don’t always go to the next step and use the data to analyze and inform their decision making.
Listening takes time, not only to collect information and data but also to do something with it – to analyze it and turn it into decisions and actionable changes that improve results.
“People and their managers are working so hard to be sure things are done right, that they hardly have time to decide if they are doing the right things” – Steven Covey
Planning is about looking forward, whether tomorrow or next year – and importantly, taking a more strategic approach to that planning. Since a lot of the basic facilities role is reacting to occupant needs and solving them, Facility Managers seldom take as much time to plan strategically as they should.
This problem isn’t limited to your overall facilities portfolio for the next 5 years, it includes a lack of strategy for dealing with common issues, for the meeting you are having tomorrow, for improving how you procure services or how to get the resources and staff you need.
You aren’t just paid to get things done, you are also paid to think, which sometimes looks like unproductive time – something most Facility Managers believe they can’t afford. Yet sitting at your desk with your feet up thinking or planning something is more valuable in the long term than spending your time on the 3rd floor or on the phone resolving issues. If you are spending most of your time putting out fires, you will never be able to prevent them in the first place.
Planning takes focus and time but it also takes courage. Courage to delegate someone else to do some of the things you do and courage to put the long term objectives in front of some short term tasks and change from managing the urgent items to managing the important ones.
“Good management is the art of making problems so interesting and their solutions so constructive that everyone wants to get to work and deal with them” – Paul Hawken
Promoting is about ensuring your organization and your senior management understands the importance of your department and provides support when you present proposals for staff, resources, changes or strategic plans.
It is about getting what you need to make improvements, increase efficiency and add value. Remember that you are competing with your colleagues within other department for attention and resources. You can’t just go to management, tell them what you need and expect they will hand it to you. You need to promote and sell your department’s interests, And you need to have a plan and data to prove what you need.
This doesn’t come naturally to most facility managers since many of us are used to simply doing what we do behind the scenes. Instead provide evidence of your impact and success and communicate successes as well as failures, including what you did about the problem to reduce or eliminate the impact to the company. Hiding failures is a good way for management to assume everything is fine and you don’t need any more resources or staff. Highlighting them helps to demonstrate what you need, such as capital replacement money, staff, training, tools or contractors who aren’t the lowest cost.
Learn the language of the executives, including legal, finance and operations so you know what they care about and how to communicate what you do in terms they understand.
Promoting takes time and a shift from being in the background to being out front. It requires a change in approach, including self-promotion (of the department) and marketing what you do and why it matters to the organization. Success in promoting your department makes it easier for you to get support and make a difference.