Over the past thirty one years, I have had the distinct pleasure of working with, and teaching, thousands of facilities managers. This has given me a unique perspective of what FM qualities are needed to drive change in the workplace. This is not to say that the facility manager stands alone in promoting and managing workplace change, but that the FM is a key team member with influence and someone to act as an change agent.
The Building Blocks of FM as a Change Agent
The influential FM understands their organization’s current strategic plan, business plan and marketing plan. They identify their department’s future initiatives and activities to align with those high level documents. The most effective FMs proactively propose facilities solutions to achieve the organization’s objectives using their deep, personal knowledge base and the knowledge base of their FM network and consultants. Being active with organizations like IFMA (the International Facilities Management Association) and BOMA (Building Owners and Managers Association) will organically and naturally build that valuable network and expose them to new trends and products. Participating in local and national FM associations are an important ingredient to building the FM knowledge base. FMs are aware of the experts in a wide variety of industries and have built a relationship with those key individuals.
The FM as Effective Communicator
The most effective FMs are also excellent communicators. They change their vocabulary and communication style based on who they are speaking to, both up and down the organization chart. They are the boots on the ground that know the staff, understand the organization’s inner politics and the frustrations of the staff. When working with consultants, they become the communication bridge between the staff, the management and the outside consultant. They are well respected by upper management and the board of directors. They are invited to board meetings to present facilities initiatives and build the case for change initiatives.
The FM change manager isn’t afraid to suggest new concepts and ideas to solve the most pressing of facilities issues, even if it means spending more than a conventional solution. When costs might be an issue, they do their homework to create a valid justification for these new ideas in financial terms and benefits to management and staff.
A Case Study
One FM who comes to mind as a prime example of a driver of change, is a client of mine who managed the facilities of a large association on a campus whose occupants experienced a high level of change and churn. He was regularly getting grief from his many end-users for taking too long for renovation projects in occupied space, since he didn’t have any swing space. His organization was planning to build a new 50,000 square foot wing onto their main building. This project became an opportunity to propose new construction standards to dramatically reduce the time it took to accommodate future change and churn.
We suggested that he consider depressing the slab of his new building to accommodate an adjustable, shallow raised floor system with plug and play data, communication and power below the floor, non-adhesive carpet tiles that snap into the raised floor panels, and demountable partitions. Even though this solution would add an additional 35% to the interior construction budget, this brave FM sold the concept to the President, CFO and the board of directors as a way to keep the end-users happy and retain their outside association tenants.
Fifteen years later, the facilities manager has reconfigured about 30% of the partitions over weekends, using only his internal FM crew, to accommodate the on-going change and churn. Space standards were also reduced by 33% by taking what were 10’ x 15’ closed offices and replacing them with 10’ x 10’ closed offices with sliding barn doors with frosted glass inserts, wall hung worksurfaces and storage components. The end users didn’t mind the reductions in the space standards since they received the same amount of worksurface and storage that they had before and they are very happy about the FM department’s responsiveness to making quick changes to their office space. Management now sees FM as the agent of change.
If you would like to learn more about Change Management Best Practices (or insert other key words that people would be searching for), attend the IFMA “Leadership and Strategy Essentials”, two day course, taught by Richard Fanelli, offered by George Mason University in Fairfax, VA on December 9th and 10th, 2016.
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