The biggest question any professional can ask is ‘How can I succeed and thrive in my field?’ To answer it, we’ll have to define what ‘success’ means for you, and then examine the best ways to achieve that success.
What does success look like in Facilities Management?
Facilities management is about coordinating structure, infrastructure, non-core functions, employees or users and a facility’s overall organisation. There are two ways to judge ‘success’ in this context. The first is in terms of performance. Good performance in facilities management can be measured by how well your facility achieves its stated and unstated goals.
Dropping all the jargon, you will be put in place as a facility manager to make sure things run smoothly. Indicators of your success will generally include happy customers, happy employees and improved output, flow through or other metrics.Essentially, things should be better because you are there doing your job.
As we all know, nothing counts anymore unless you can hang a pound sign or some other number on it. You’ll have to set benchmarks for all the important processes, and get good, reliable measurements and descriptive models in place before you change anything. You need to have figures in place of how things were before you started making changes, to prove that there have been improvements. Next, use predictive modelling or other techniques to identify how to improve one or more of the facility’s most important functions or processes, without crippling any other processes. Document your process extensively, and make sure that you can answer the question ‘How do we know this improvement would not have occurred without, or even despite your changes?’
What does it mean to get to the top in facilities management?
The fact is that there is more to getting to the top than consistent good performance (though it may not be possible without it). Politics and interpersonal relations, especially with the levels of organisation immediately above and below you, are vital to actually ‘getting to the top’.
Remember that you were brought in to change things for the better. ‘Change’ is difficult. It is messy, it costs a lot of money and time, and people fear it deeply, as a threat to their livelihood, life and family. Change will always make people scared, uncomfortable and worried. It can be minimised or mitigated, but it can never be eliminated.
A facilities manager on his or her way to the top will be able to do three things with this fear:
- They will make employees and management understand and accept (those are two very different things) that change is going to happen. Today. Right now.
- They will make employees believe that everyone will benefit by the end of the project. Cynicism can kill a project. Try to make the cynics part of the process, so they will feel some of the success is theirs.
- Redirect that fear to the status quo. Make them understand that the current system is not good enough, and has already failed.
So how do you get there?
Before you can make the big changes, you have to be seen to succeed on the small scale. Build your skills and confidence on the basics first:
- Get to know your building systems. The electrical, security, safety and environmental systems are the vital organs of the facility. Get to know the maintenance procedures, and any alternate ways it could be achieved
- Get to know the ins and outs of your facility’s lease. Keep a constant eye on whether the terms are better or worse than new leases on the market today.
- Get to know the first-level managers. They will have a great deal of detailed insight into what could be done better. Your job is to filer and balance all the opposing views.
- Get to know your existing and past service contracts, and the people who fulfil them. Look for unsatisfactory performance, unnecessary services or options, and keep an eye on prevailing rates in the industry.
- Make sure your data on the facility is up to date and accurate. Get drawings of the original construction, and all changes and repairs. Be prepared to contact the architects and builders who did the work.
- Make sure you understand the overall budget, and how often it is reviewed. Look at every expense with an eye towards efficiency.
- Grade the facility for safety, effective function, and cleanliness. Prioritise the unacceptable results.
- Rate the status, grade and potential life of all equipment and furniture. Have a plan in place for early replacement if it becomes necessary.