Controlling Project Changes and Change Orders


Controlling Project Changes and Change Orders

If the proper ground rules are established at the beginning of the project, they should provide a decision-making structure that will discourage changes and limit change orders. There are four major reasons for change orders. Each of these reasons can be dramatically reduced or eliminated if the right guidelines and actions are taken throughout the implementation of the project.

Reason #1: Client-Initiated Changes

Controlling end-user design changes is often fraught with politics. The best way to limit this major reason for changes is to make the end-user initiating the change responsible for all costs relating to the change(s). Creating a formal process of sign-off approvals for every major deliverable helps to support the charge-back of changes to the initiating department. Sign-offs for the programming report, final space plan, finishes, and construction documents are typical deliverables that should be signed-off on from all major departments who have stakeholders involved in the project. The end-users also need to understand that the later in the process they make a change, the exponentially more expensive that change becomes.

Reason #2: Field Conditions

Never assume that “as-built” architectural and engineering are accurate. Architects and engineers must always field verify existing, visible conditions above and below the ceiling in order to know what conditions might influence how the space is designed and to also ensure that the demolition plans are accurate. There are those situations where you might have to perform some exploratory demolition in order to find all hidden conditions. The Tenant will require access to the site and be willing to incur some up-front demolition costs long before a general contractor is selected.

Reason #3: Errors and Omissions in Architectural and Engineering Construction Documents

The third largest reason for change orders is that the architectural and engineering construction documents are inaccurate, incomplete or not well-coordinated. If the architects and engineers are in different locations, it may not be easy for them to effectively communicate and coordinate as often as they need to in order to create a well-coordinated design and a “tight” set of drawings. In my office, we are spoiled by having our engineers only steps away from our architects and designers which makes it easier to have that high level of communication and coordination throughout the entire A&E design and documentation process. An established quality control process for reviewing and revising all deliverables before they go out to the client, the jurisdiction and the contractor is vital to avoiding most errors and omissions. We have a three-step process with the last step being a “fresh eyes” review from an experienced project manager who was not involved in the project.

Reason #4: Regulatory Interpretation and Building Code Compliance

There are a myriad of building codes that must be met in order for a design and set of A&E drawings to go through the permitting process without having the process stopped for non-compliance. It is always a best practice to meet with the fire marshal or a jurisdiction’s plan reviewer to get an initial ruling on any code compliance issues that required interpretation. Even if the jurisdiction charges for the Fire Marshal’s time, it is money well spent to avoid the permit process being delayed or stopped for non-compliance. Even when the drawings sail through the permitting process, that doesn’t guarantee that the jurisdiction’s field inspector might rule on a code compliance issue differently and require you to make a change to the build-out during construction. Common compliance issues include such issues as common path or travel compliance, adequate toilet room fixture counts, and ADA compliance, just to name a few.

Check List to Limit Change Orders:

  1. Is there a system set up for sign-offs of deliverables for all affected departments?
  2. Is there strong project leadership to communicate and enforce charge-backs for any end-user-initiated changes?
  3. Do your architects and engineer teams have a successful history of working effectively together?
  4. Do the architects and engineers have a process in place to review each other’s design and drawings to ensure client design issues have been addressed and that the A&E drawings are well-coordinated?
  5. Has a code compliance review been done prior to submitting the space plan to the client?


Effective Team Communication

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Effective Team Communication

Team Leadership

In my 40 years of working on facilities renovation and relocation projects, I have had the honor to work with a number of effective project team leaders. Many of them were facilities managers representing the interests of their management. They all had something in common. They knew how to establish an atmosphere of trust and how to create a sense of shared purpose and team synergy. They were organized, they established clear project goals and objectives and they knew how to guide their team throughout the project while never losing sight of those critical project success metrics.  Showing respect for the other team members’ expertise and opinion is also critical in creating this atmosphere of trust. Re-considering a long-held belief based on a team member’s expertise and experience goes a long way to illustrating that respect.

Establishing expectations

Another key attribute to effective team leadership is establishing quality standards and communicating those expectations to the other team members. This is easier when you work with the same proven team members from one project to another, but more difficult when you are working with new team members. Quality standards can include everything to meeting deadlines, having complete, coordinated and accurate work submissions. Expectations can also include being proactive in your dealings with other team member, outside vendors and consultants as well as effectively communicating with other team members.

Defined approval process and sign-offs

Many projects get off track because there is no defined review and approval process that is established between the project leadership and the stakeholders or end-users. The project stakeholders usually have a project completion date in mind, whether it is a wish date or a critical date. It is vitally important for the team leader to communicate with the end-users that in order to achieve that date, that certain key milestone dates need to me met, which includes a specific number of days for their review and sign-off indicating their approval. They also need to understand that if they make any further changes to the project design or deliverables, that the critical completion date won’t be met and that they will have to incur any additional soft costs for revisions to documents or hard costs for demolition and construction.

Working in Virtual Teams

For larger, long term projects where team members may be brought in from remote locations and regular face to face meetings may be too expensive or impractical, creating an effective virtual team work environment supported by the right technology tools will be critical. Put communications on the agenda at the beginning of the project. Agree upfront on the when and how the team should communicate.  Be mindful of time zone differences so that no team members are adversely effected by the planned time of remote project meetings. Kick-off the project with a face to face meeting where team members can get to know each other better and create a personal connection before they have to work remotely with each other. Consider technology tools such as “WebX” for conference calls or “Go to Meeting” where visuals are important. Consider creating a project management web site which can act as a central repository for all project documents. Some of the most popular project management web-based tools that work well for facilities-related projects are Project Center and Basecamp. Microsoft SharePoint is also a good tool but it needs to be customized on a project by project basis for a facilities project type.

Smaller projects can utilize virtual team meetings in order to reduce the cost and time required for face to face meetings. It is not unusual for projects teams to meet virtually every other meeting, especially during the construction phase of a project. The most important thing is to have regular team meetings at predictable intervals so that it gets onto every team member’s schedule. Asking for agenda items from the project team members, sending out an agenda in advance of the meeting and following up with a timely meeting report with assigned action items are also critical tools for effective team communication.

In Closing

Be respectful of your team members’ time. If a team member is not active during certain phases of a project, there is no reason to request their attendance during a meeting where they are inactive. Let them know in advance that team members will cycle in and out of a project depending on their responsibilities and activities over the course of the project so that they don’t take a non-invite to a meeting personally. 

My Communications Check List:

  • All team members know their areas of responsibility and know what is expected of them and their critical milestone dates for deliverables and approvals
  • All project team members understand the goals and objectives of the project as well as the project success metrics
  • Regular team meetings have been set up on specific day and time each week. Invites are sent out for these meetings to all relevant team members
  • All team members understand my preferred methods of communication and the turn-around time that I expect for responses

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Creating a Realistic Project Schedule


Creating a Realistic Project Schedule

Creating a Realistic Project Schedule

One of the basic metrics of a successful project is completing the project on-schedule. This can be even more difficult than bringing the project in on budget since time has a way of slipping away unless it is carefully managed and controlled. Any number of team members can miss a critical path submission date and throw off the entire project schedule and completion date.

Is the Completion Date Critical?

One approach to developing a project schedule is to work backwards from the desired project completion date in order to determine when the project should start. If the quoted project completion date is not realistic, wave the red flag immediately because bad news doesn’t get better. Research the source and reason for the completion date. The first step in creating a project schedule is to ensure that it is realistic in the first place. I prefer to start with the creation of a forward-pass schedule consisting of a work breakdown structure (WBS) list of tasks, that must be completed along the critical path, broken down by project phase.  Assign a realistic duration for each task and link the tasks along the critical path by assigning a predecessor. Always include realistic review, comments and revision turn-around times for each deliverable. Once you have created this forward-pass schedule, along with the predecessor links, you will understand what the realistic duration of the project is. You can then compare this forward pass schedule’s duration with that of the backwards pass approach. If you find that the backwards pass schedule with the fixed completion date is substantially shorter than the forward pass schedule, then you will need to educate the source of the critical completion date. Let them know what the potential cost premium would be to meet that desired completion date and the potential compromise on quality would be if they decide to fast-track the project. 9 times out of 10 you will find that the stated completion date isn’t as critical as you were first told.

Get Input From the Core Team Members to Determine Durations

Gain support from your in-house and outsourced project team members by getting their input on the turnaround time required for their area of responsibility before you present the initial project schedule. The last thing that you want to do is to create any ill will with team members by telling them that they have less time than what they need to address their tasks.

For Big Unknowns Beyond Your Control-Do Your Homework

One of the critical tasks that is in most facilities project schedules, that is beyond your control, is the permit review and approval time. All jurisdictions have a slightly different rules and regulations for their permit process as well as options for fast-tracking the permit process. My recommendation is to speak to a permit expeditor that specializes in that jurisdiction to find out the probable turn-around times based on the size of your project, the time of year it will be submitted for permit and what the options and costs would be for a standard filed permits vs fast-tracking the permit. Many jurisdictions will let you do a demo and framing permit while the filed permit drawings are in for review. Peer review is also an option with many jurisdictions, which can shave several weeks off the permit process for an additional fee.

What Can I Do If the Schedule Slips Along the Critical Path?

Just because a task is on the critical path doesn’t mean that other linked tasks can’t be adjusted to make up for the prior task that took longer than what was scheduled. Many times these other linked tasks can be shortened if the team member(s) responsible for the later task(s) feel that they can compress their tasks that are coming up. People tend to be conservative when they initially quote a turn-around time for their areas of responsibility.

What Else Might Affect the Project Schedule?

As the project scope and specifications become better defined, you could run into a situation where a long lead-time item has been specified that won’t fit into the project schedule. That can be accounted for in the initial project schedule timeline by one of two options:

  • Re-specify an alternate specification with a shorter lead-time
  • Fast track the ordering of the long lead time item by not waiting for the drawings and specifications to be finalized. This can be done by the project Owner or by the general contractor if they are brought in early in the project, usually as a negotiated bid

The following items are commonly missed in the preparation of preliminary project schedules. Check your schedule against these issues:

  • Review and approval times of deliverables before proceeding to the next step in the project
  • Realistic turn-around times for working on and revising the deliverables
  • Including the turn-around time for a minor consultant whose work will affect the completion of a major consultant (i.e. a structural engineering study before the architect can finalize their design)
  • Flood control review in the permitting process if your building is located in a floor plain
  • Health review in the permitting process if you plan to have a food preparation facility where cooking is required
  • Getting the audio/video (AV) consultant involved early in the design process so that revisions won’t have to be made to the architectural and engineering construction documents due to the AV design


Creating a Realistic Project Budget


Creating a Realistic Project Budget

Two of the most critical metrics to any successful project is bringing it in on budget and on schedule. You don’t achieve these two major goals by accident. They are planned for from the beginning of any project. It starts with a general framework based on the project manager’s experience doing similar types of projects of a similar size and scope. Project costs, at the early stages of project planning, should be kept as a range of numbers, rather than a specific number or cost per square foot. Any specific number that is quoted early on in the planning phase of the project will be remembered and cast in stone (most likely that number will come back to haunt you).  As I tell my students at George Mason University and IFMA: keep a database of project costs to refer to for future projects (taking into consideration inflation and geographic factors).

Cost per (Useable) Square Foot or Cost per Person:

This can be based on projects of a similar size and similar scope of work based on your database. If you don’t have a database to refer to, ask trusted professionals in your network and take an average of those numbers.  Influential criteria that will influence your conceptual budget include: 

  • Project size
  • Project schedule (reasonable vs fast track)
  • Project scope and level of build-out, upgrades (Building standard vs high-end)
  • Project phases (1 phase vs multiple phases)
  • Location of the project (Downtown vs suburbs)
  • Union vs Non-Union labor requirements
  • Building infrastructure upgrades needed (if any)
  • Non-construction-related costs identified (i.e. furniture, equipment, AV, cabling, signage, artwork, plants, moving expenses, soft costs for A&E services and project management services)

Once a realistic, conceptual project budget range has been established, include it in a project scope statement that defines the project scope, the project goals and objectives, the internal and outsourced project team members needed, along with a conceptual project schedule (to be addressed in the next blog article). Submit this document to the project champion (executive who will be responsible for the project) so that the document can be formally approved by management.

As the project is developed and defined, a pricing benchmark can be established through the preparation of preliminary A&E pricing plans:

  • Preliminary Pricing Plans: Based on a final space plan with descriptive notes referencing specific, proposed upgrades. A preliminary power/communications plan, reflected ceiling/lighting plan and schematic mechanical plan can be included in the preliminary pricing plans. The more information, the better the pricing accuracy. This package is sometimes referred to as a schematic drawing package or 30% drawings. Value engineering to the project scope can be done after the preliminary pricing is completed without major revisions to the A&E drawings.
  • Pricing check at 60% and 90% of drawing completion: Budget and scope fine-tuning can occur as the drawings become better defined. If pricing is checked at 60% and 90% then the construction costs shouldn’t be a surprise when 100% A&E drawings are bid or priced out. Note: a great resource for incremental pricing checks are General contractors who have been pre-qualified to bid the project as either a negotiated bid by one general contractor or multiple general contractors for a competitive bid.

Project Budget Reality Check:

  1. Has the project budget been established by management as an arbitrary, not to exceed figure based on a defined scope, certain expectations and level of quality or is the figure somewhat flexible based on your conceptual budget pricing exercise?
  2. Is there a project champion (executive) who is experienced in heading up similar types of projects that will represent you and your team’s interests?
  3. Are there sufficient resources to implement and complete this project? (i.e. internal staff dedicated to the project and financial resources to hire qualified consultants and cover all other hard and soft costs including a contingency to cover the costs of any potential change orders?)
  4. Does management have a process in place to get input and feedback from the end users and to control end-user change requests so that project change orders can be controlled?


Creating the Foundation for a Successful Renovation or Relocation Project


Creating the Foundation for a Successful Renovation or Relocation Project

Understand the Decision-Making Structure

All in-sourced and outsourced team members need to understand the politics of the organization and how major and minor decisions will be made. Understanding this structure will help the team members to understand the project goals, objectives and priorities. It will also give the team members an idea on who must be pleased with the final results and what those results should be. It creates a “filter” that affects decision-making from the start to the completion of the project.

Effective Information Gathering Techniques

A project charter, or a project objectives statement, should be prepared that describes the project, the justification for the project, the project goals and objectives and addresses the conceptual budget and schedule. Once management, or the board of directors, has blessed the project, it is time to start the top-down programming process.

With larger, more complex projects, it always helps to hold a “visioning” session with the key organizational decision-makers. The facilitator will walk the participants through a number of key, open-ended questions which should elicit a description of the ideal outcomes and project success metrics. Many times, this session includes a mind-mapping exercise that produces a free-flowing graphic depiction of what project success looks like.

Also with larger projects, conducting a kick-off meeting with the selected internal team members, who will be representing all the functional group stakeholders, will give you an opportunity to introduce the internal and external team members and review the project goals and objectives as well as orient the team members to the programming, or information gathering, process that they will be a part of. Distributing and reviewing a “Pre-programming Questionnaire” will make the programming interviews much more productive.

When conducting the interviews, it is important for the manager to attend all the sessions to help screen the information being received for validity and adherence to acceptable standards. The interviewer should use open-ended (who, what, why, where and how) questions to gather the richest information. Make sure that current, or future, space standards have been updated and validated before starting the interviews. The unit per usable square feet standards will be used in conjunction with the headcount by level and by department in order to arrive at the assignable and usable square footage figures.

Checklist for Project Start-Ups:

  • My CEO or President has signed off on a project charter or project objectives statement
  • A realistic, conceptual budget and schedule has been developed and approved by upper management
  • I have the right mix and number of internal management team members and qualified outsourced consultants on the team
  • I have developed updated space standards and have gotten management approval for the new space standards
  • If we are incorporating a telework strategy, we have determined the ratio of staff to dedicated office space, shared office space and hoteling space is needed to meet our telework objectives


Making Project Success Predictable

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Making Project Success Predictable

The theme for my blog series in 2017 is “Making Project Success Predictable”. It doesn’t matter if you are the facilities manager, representing the best interests of the Owner, the real estate broker trying to get the best lease deal for the owner, the general contractor building out the space for the owner or the architect and engineer, designing the space for the owner; all of the best practices that I will be covering will apply to you. They are based on my 40 years of experience and knowledge working on and managing commercial interiors projects. 

Project Outcome Goals

Project success equals:

  • On or under budget
  • Completed on or ahead of schedule
  • Meets or exceeds standards of quality expected
  • Project team still likes each other and is seen by the Owner’s management as being heroes

If certain team dynamics are in place and critical quality control guidelines are followed, the probability of successful project completion becomes highly likely.

The Foundation for Project Success

Setting a good foundation for the project starts with selecting the right team members. Whether they are internal to your organization or outsourced, there are some basic qualities that must be met.  They are:

On the Owner’s Side:

  • The ability to trust in the experience and judgement of the professionals that you have hired (and follow their advice)
  • Providing project leadership so that you are always advancing the project (not revisiting previous steps that weren’t handled properly)
  • Communicating effectively with your project team, the end-users who will be affected by the project, gaining the trust of management and ability to be empowered by your management to make critical decisions.
  • Feeling confident to educate management and not being afraid to promote opposing points of view to management.
  • Being realistic about budget and schedule issues.
  • Having enough experience doing similar projects where you have a frame of reference.
  • Having enough time in your day to day schedule to take on a new project.

On the Project Team Member Side:

  • The ability to deeply listen to the client, understand their vision and goals for the project. Understanding their specific needs and respond with appropriate problem-solving solutions. (Ability to put your ego aside for the best interests of the Owner)
  • Deep experience with similar projects and enough confidence to guide the Owner in a different direction if they feel that the Owner is trying to head the project in the wrong direction.
  • Good communications skills. (verbal and written)
  • Having a cohesive support team who has a track record of having worked together for a while, that have the proper, constructive attitude and technical experience/skills.
  • Sub-contractors that have a track record of successfully working together with the prime contractor.
  • Institutionalized quality control standards that, if followed and applied to the Owner’s project, will guarantee project success

Project Team Test:

The following questions can be used when following up on references for prospective, new team members. Answer the following questions on a scale of 1 to 5 (one being low and 5 being high):

  1. Does <the proposed project team member(s)> have the following:
  • A track record for listening and responding with appropriate solutions: ____
  • The ability to provide services that align with the project schedule and budget constraints: _____
  • Quality control processes in place that ensure that their services meet or exceed their industry’s standard of care:  ______
  • Are they easy to work with when it comes to personalities and effective communication: ______
  • Do their sub-contractors perform effectively and provide services with the expected level of quality and meet their deadlines?  _____
  • Does the proposed team member(s) have the proper bench strength and track record with similar project types and similar project sizes?  _____
  • Is the proposed project team member available when you need them to effectively handle your project?  _____
  •  Did the prospective team member(s) that you met with actually perform the work? ____

When you add up the score and divide by 8, the score should be four or five for you to seriously consider hiring this consultant.

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Workplace Dilemma

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Workplace Dilemma

Workplace Dilemma: What to Do About Under-Utilized Office Space While Creating Responsive Change Management?

By Richard Fanelli, AIA, CFM, IFMA Fellow


In this day and age of shrinking commercial real estate footprints, we still have many organizations that have the dilemma of how to improve their utilization of real estate. Recent surveys have shown that 60% of the time workstations are empty, 70% of the time private offices are empty and 67% of the time conference rooms are unoccupied. How can these numbers be improved?

It Starts with In-Depth Programming, Staff Surveys, Observation & Technology Tools:

As stated in my previous blog on staff surveys, an awful lot of useful information can be found through asking the right questions and backing up the staff survey data with observation and technology tools that measure occupancy utilization (Herman Miller Space Utilization Services). The staff survey will reveal the workplace preferences and work patterns of the end-users, observation will validate that information and the technology tool will provide real-time data on the percentage of how often the offices, workstations and conference rooms are occupied. Once all this data is gathered and analyzed, you can create a realistic ratio of staff to dedicated and non-dedicated spaces and the number and size of conference rooms by work groups or departments.

Strive for Simplification and Modularity in Space Standards:

If staff is truly in their offices only 30% of the time, then office space can, in many cases, be smaller than the existing space standard and still be functional. If closed offices can double as small conference rooms then a module of 12’ by 12’ may be worth considering. (10’ in width is too narrow for a functional conference room) Larger conference rooms can become 12’ by 18’ or 12’ by 24’. Clusters of open workstations can also be designed within these modules. If demountable partitions are used for those organizations with a high “churn” rate, then demolition and construction can be minimized when modifications are made to an area using modular space standards. Consider using two colors or patterns of carpet tile to delineate dedicated circulation paths from office, workstation and conference room areas.

Modularity in Furniture Standards:

The design trend in closed office furniture and open area systems furniture is creating a modular “kit of parts” that can easily be modified and reconfigured by the end user to meet their ever-changing needs. The same modular furniture standards can be used for both inside closed offices and open office areas with possibly some minor modifications to parts and components as well as upgraded finishes and accessories.


If these suggestions are followed, it can result in the right balance of dedicated vs shared office and workstation ratios and create a flexible office space that can easily and inexpensively be modified as workplace needs change over time. Many furniture manufacturers can provide examples of these furniture concepts in their show rooms.

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Workspaces That Support Productivity and Innovation


Workspaces That Support Productivity and Innovation


There is no one-size-fits-all approach to designing the “ideal” office space for your organization. It is a methodical process that takes a combination of design knowledge, intuition and science. As much as most organizations would like to create new office design and space standards that would optimize every employee’s performance, it just doesn’t happen with one static standard. It’s how your space and design standards are applied and how they can be easily modified that allows for optimum productivity.

Supporting Productivity through Personality Testing

What makes one person productive might be an impediment to productivity for another person.  Each person needs to be evaluated to see where and how they work best.  In my previous blog article on staff surveys, I addressed the analysis of job descriptions.  You need to take it one step further and do a quick analysis of staff personality types to see what work settings will make the staff member most productive. The Meyers Briggs Type Indicator test (MBTI) is a good starting point. The underlying assumption of the MBTI is that we all have specific preferences in the way we construe our experiences, and these preferences underlie our interests, needs, values and motivation. Likewise, the MBTI can also indicate the work settings that are compatible for the worker’s dominant workplace tasks.  According to Freddi Donner, a Certified Executive and Team Coach Consultant, “If your organization is made up of highly intelligent people, they will more likely be introverts. Introverts are more productive, typically, in a closed office environment where there is less visual and acoustical distractions. On the opposite end of the personality spectrum, extroverts, who tend to be more vocal about their work-setting needs, get energy from interacting with others, and will tend to thrive in a more open work environment.”

Space Standards Start with Core Values

When asked about this subject, Lauren LeMunyan, a certified executive coach, stated; “Workplace design and space standards need to be in alignment with the organization’s core values that speak to the organization’s brand. If organizations hire talent that is in alignment with those core values and the organization’s mission, then it’s a matter of designing space that reflects the employee’s core activities. It is important to ask employees for their input at the inception of the project. By getting their buy-in to the project, morale will go through the roof.”

Dedicated Space vs Shared Space

Having a range of office space standards, ranging from heads-down private work space to a variety of collaborative work spaces is vital for any organization that wants to encourage innovation. The proportion of those areas will depend upon an in-depth programming effort which should include both the functional activities of the end-users as well as a personality profile. The issue of dedicated space vs just in time or reserved, shared space is an issue that many companies are struggling with. A hybrid approach seems to work well with companies that aren’t ready to make the plunge into all non-dedicated space. This approach can include a smaller than normal closed office or open work station that acts as the home base for the worker. For organizations that promote collaboration, the space savings of reduced, dedicated work space is offset by increasing the amount of space dedicated to a variety of informal and formal collaborative spaces. When space standards are designed with modular dimensions and flexible construction standards, it is relatively easy and cost effective to make minor changes to the workspace to increase or decrease the ratio of closed offices to open collaborative workspace. This allows an organization to make those needed changes quickly as the needs of the staff and work groups change.


Freddi Donner, ACC:

Lauren Lemunyan, CPC:


The Role of the Facility Manager in Driving Change


The Role of the Facility Manager in Driving Change

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.

Learn More

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.

Additional Change Management Blog Posts


Change Management Best Practices


Change Management Best Practices

Let’s start off with a good definition of “Change Management” so we can better understand its somewhat ambiguous meaning.  Change Management is a systematic approach to dealing with change both from the perspective of an organization and the individual. Change management has several different aspects, including:

  • Identifying needed change
  • Controlling the change process
  • Adapting to change
  • Effecting long-lasting change

Leadership and Vision

Most organizations are change-adverse and delay making needed changes to their organizational structure and work environment until it’s too late and they find that their organization is no longer competitive in their industry.  It takes strong leadership and vision to both identify needed change, initiate the process of change and to drive the implementation of change. Change management consultant, Cheryl Duvall, author of the change management fable book “Change is on the Wind”, stated that “Executives must lead the way from resistance to change to the embracing of change”.

What has Changed?

Two major forces were combined over the past eight years which have exponentially driven change in most industries. The last great recession has forced most industries to become “lean and mean” by reducing their overhead through reducing their real estate footprint while at the same time reducing staff through automation and new technologies. A new generation of Millennials has also entered the workforce who want a greater degree of work-life balance. Qualified millennials are in high demand as more and more baby boomers retire. Many companies have had to make major changes to their office space to attract and retain these young professionals. In some cases they are moving the location of their facilities to more attractive locations that are easily accessible to rail or within walking distance to millennial residential hubs.

What Changes are We Seeing?

There are numerous changes that many organizations are making to reduce their overhead while attracting and retaining talent to their organization. Many of these changes that we are all seeing are:

  • Reducing the closed office and increasing the open work environment ratio while still maintaining some semblance of acoustical and visual privacy through the use of digital sound masking and creative systems furniture planning
  • Smaller space standards for both open and closed spaces
  • Simplifying furniture inventories by using the same furniture standards in closed and open offices
  • Creating a more open and light-filled work environment through the use of glass and visual access to exterior window walls
  • Implementation of telework programs in conjunction with unassigned closed and open work spaces, using either a web-based reservation system or just-in-time/no reservation system
  • More small, informal collaborative work areas (ie huddle rooms) with AV capabilities
  • Heads down privacy rooms with frosted glass fronts where up to 2 people can work without interruption for short periods of time
  • More end-user control over their lighting and temperature
  • Centralized large collaborative areas, such as a large pantry/cafeteria and large flexible conference rooms which encourage staff from multiple departments to interface with Healthy office initiatives such as sit-stand desks for all staff, small exercise areas throughout the facility and free healthy snack stations
  • Secure bike storage and showers at ground level
  • The use of color, texture, organic shapes and creative lighting to create a visually stimulating work environment

The Approach to Successful Change Management

John P. Kotter, author of the book “The Eight Steps to Creating Change” stated that there were eight steps in the change management process to make it successful. They are:

  • Establish a sense of urgency (ie, why must change occur now?)
  • Create a guiding coalition (ie, put together your core team or influencers that are committed to the proposed changes)
  • Develop a vision and strategy (ie, get your ducks in a row and have an action plan, conceptual budget and schedule)
  • Communicate your Change vision (ie, communicate the upcoming changes at all levels and get buy-in at all levels)
  • Empower broad-based action (ie, get everyone involved in the change process so that it is an inclusive)
  • Generate short-term wins (ie, have one of your departments as your initial pilot project)
  • Consolidate and build on gains (ie, measure the positive benefits of the change)
  • Anchor new approaches (ie, institutionalize the changes. Train the staff how to use their new environment. Have policies in place that support the effective use of the new workplace. Make them stick)

In Conclusion

Change management is nothing new. Change is just happening at a faster pace as all industries try to keep a firm foothold in their competitive industries. In upcoming blog articles, I will get into more detail about the various aspects of change management and some case studies in a variety of industries.  If you have a great example or case study of a change management best practice that your organization has implemented please send them to me so that I can share them with our readers.


The Power of the Staff Survey


The Power of the Staff Survey

The Power of the Staff Survey

By: Richard Fanelli 

When an organization is planning a major relocation or renovation that will result in changes to existing space standards and work patterns, it is important to get staff buy-in and support. That starts with the staff feeling that they are being heard by management. Preparing, implementing and analyzing a staff survey is an effective tool towards that end. A staff survey will also be a reality check against assumptions that might be made by management on what the new space standards and work patterns should be. After the results of the survey are analyzed, it is really up to management to consider the majority responses and adjust their approach or ignore the responses and deal with the consequences. Either way, just by going through the survey process, the staff will feel that they have had a part in the process.

The major categories of a workplace strategy survey will include the following:

  • Work Patterns: To determine tolerances to distance and modes of transportation from home to work and opinions on telework as an option
  • Typical Tasks: Analysis of percentage of time spentin “heads down” work in the office, phone calls both in and out of the office, collaborative work in the office in both small and large meetings, and meetings outside the office
  • Communication: Preferences on communications modes with others, both inside and outside the office
  • Storage: Types and quantities of personal storage required at all times
  • Environment: Preferences on air temperature, aesthetics, tolerance level for visual and audible distractions, preferences for light levels, level of control for temperature and light levels
  • Critical Adjacencies: Adjacencies to other staff, support areas and other departments or work groups
  • Departmental Support Areas: Improvements needed for departmental support areas
  • Shared Support Areas: Wish list of new or improved shared support areas
  • Keep vs New: General aspects of their current space that should be retained and what changes are needed for the new space

Once the survey has been written and vetted by your workplace committee, you can input it into an online survey tool. Always give a deadline for completing the survey (one to two weeks is usually adequate). You might want to consider giving an incentive for completing the survey (such as being copied on the results).

Analysis of the survey results is critical to the survey being seen as a useful tool that will lead to, or validate the proposed workplace changes. It should be done by an unbiased third party or a workplace sub-committee with the results submitted to management for review and comment. Ultimately it is the decision of management as to how the results of the survey will affect decisions that will lead to workplace change.


Workplace Strategies - 2016


Workplace Strategies - 2016

This is the first of twelve articles on workplace strategy issues that are shaping the way we design offices today.  This information comes from my 38 years of experience in commercial design, as well as the meetings, international conferences and classes I have taught and attended with thousands of top facility managers over the past 20 years.

Alignment of Work Space Design to Desired Corporate Culture:

The re-design of an organization’s facility is an ideal time to re-think its desired corporate culture and the desired results of corporate re-invention. A beautifully designed facility will not achieve the desired results unless it is combined with the proper cultural foundation to support it. The results that most organizations desire today is a world class, quality organization with a high percentage of engaged staff where innovation occurs through effective collaboration. Creating a culture where everyone is excited about their company’s mission and their individual role in helping to achieve real results through meaningful work. The organization must promote a sense of security in the workspace where staff is empowered to try new innovative approaches and to allow for failure if a new approach or initiative doesn’t work. Management should also be supportive to enable the desired change through the proper policies and incentives. As an example, some organizations encourage staff to take blocks of time to walk away from their electronic leashes so they can pursue creative thinking time, or time for exercise throughout the day.

Gathering the Right Information

Design can support the needs of management and staff by conducting a top-down and bottom-up programming approach.  The first step is to perform a series of visioning exercises to identify the desired end-results of a major relocation or renovation. The second step is to take a “people focused” approach to understanding the true nature of every end-user’s functions within the organization and what design considerations would make them most productive.  Sometimes the results of these two steps are contradictory, which needs to be addressed with management.  Ignoring existing standards and taking a zero-based, out of the box approach to programming is essential to collecting meaningful information. Critical adjacencies, amount of time dedicated to heads-down work versus collaborative work, work time spent outside of the office, work flow, paper flow, technology support, visual and acoustical privacy issues, collaboration needs, ergonomics, lighting and environmental controls are just a few of the issues that must be addressed that will shape the needs of a company’s workspace.

The Most Nimble Wins!

Flexibility in space, furniture and construction standards are vital for any organization to be competitive in our complex and ever changing world

Modularity and simplicity in space standards, furniture standards and construction standards are some of the considerations that should be explored for any organization in a dynamic industry. There is a dilemma between providing a wide variety of workspaces, especially with organizations that utilize a telework/free address (unassigned)/hoteling model, versus keeping space standards simple and limited.  There is always a happy medium that can do both, if properly designed.

Telework as an Option

A telework option, or alternative work arrangement, which incorporates free address space at the office, is not for everyone.  Most companies considering such a fundamental change of non-assigned workspace will hire a telework consultant who will survey the staff to determine who is a good candidate for telework. It also requires a higher level of staff management and metrics to track and measure staff productivity. There are many case studies that illustrate significant square footage savings from implementing a telework program. The “My Work Corporate Workplace” initiative implemented by Bank of America is one such success story that resulted in a $6,000 per year/per associate savings in real estate while achieving a 97% increase in job satisfaction. Other added benefits were providing more flexibility to their young parent employees, which resulted in a sense of work-life balance. The telework program allowed the Bank to expand its geographic reach for talent and also helped to support their COOP (Continuity of Operations Plan).  They reinforced their corporate culture through developing an internal, on-line corporate community group, which resulted in connecting employees that share common interests.


There is no “one-size-fits-all” solution when it comes to one approach that blends the desired workplace culture, facilities design and management results. Each organization is coming from a unique place and desiring different results.  It takes a creative, cohesive and dedicated team of both management and consultants to work together to explore the various options and create the desired results.