Today’s business environment places new demands and expectations on facilities management that must be accommodated as the tools and methods we use shift. While changes in technology and new practice areas of increased interest are common in business, the accelerating pace of change and compressed business cycles are putting an exclamation point on the need to be agile. It is not good enough to just get it right. We must get it right quickly, and we must be ready to deploy the next new “right” just as quickly, and without consuming too much resource. In short, facilities management must increase its agility in responding to new expectations on a frequent basis, concentrating on what is right for each customer.
That sounds obvious enough but it isn’t that easy. What is right for one customer is not necessarily right for the next, and we all have a lot of customers. Solving the puzzle to deliver the right service to each in just the right manner at the right cost is the sweet spot. “One size fits all” attire does not meet the basic needs of today’s discerning consumer, nor does one FM solution fit all business needs, even within one company.
Changing the Structure of How Work Gets Done
In most cases increasing agility will require changing how work is done. Possibly one of the foremost challenges for FM, however, is what must come first – changing the mindset.
As a profession we are more process and control oriented than most. In many ways agility requires less focus on control and much more on flexibility, or nimbleness. Flexibility and nimbleness suggest more freedom to decide and respond as appropriate given individual circumstances, which in turn suggests fewer rules and more ambiguity. For most FM organizations I have been associated with these represent significant departures from standard practice and expectation, and that is where the rub is. Agile organizations by definition encourage risk taking and rule breaking to a certain degree. Organizations with a strong Six Sigma or Continuous Improvement orientation may have an especially difficult time with these shifts.
The Tools of A Changing Structure
When process and control are de-emphasized in order to increase agility then something must be elevated in their absence to maintain cohesion. The levers of change are two old friends, strategic alignment and communication. I would add to these a strong emphasis on vision and mission statements to anchor and guide the culture, but will assume these are included as key parts of the communication effort.
Simplification is the key in the absence of strong command and control mechanisms and processes that are enforced with rigidity. Strategic alignment enables disparate parts of the organization to maintain momentum on common goals, and continual communication reinforces core values that cannot be compromised and aids alignment. These are not tools that should go unused. Leave them in the kit very long and you will find momentum and agility have dissipated and left confusion or worse in their stead. Improving agility requires continual alignment checks and constant communication.
Multiple Service Delivery Models
To carry the toolkit analogy one step further, think of a wrench set. All wrenches perform essentially the same function, but not all wrenches will work in every situation. There are different sizes and types of wrenches, each designed to solve a particular type of problem. Service delivery models are the same. For example, sometimes you need a service model that prioritizes continuity while other scenarios might require a focus on depth of capability.
Very few organizations these days can make do with only one delivery model. As FM serves parent organizations that are striving to become more agile and effective, and to meet individual customer needs in ways that best align with each, then FM must do the same.
The options are many including outsourcing, out-tasking, crowdsourcing, agile teams, contract and term employees, expanded use of interns and more. Lack of options at your disposal is not the issue, picking the right one for each circumstance is. The key here again is “each circumstance.” There are two things to note when considering service delivery models:
- The delivery method should be aligned with the customer’s needs, values and culture, and
- The model selected should be robust enough in its capabilities to meet the full need and your organization should be capable of using it successfully
That last point deserves a bit of attention. Being capable of deploying a service delivery model successfully and quickly requires that the FM organization not only have the requisite resources but also the experience needed. One of the fundamental mistakes I see organizations make is to try something new for the first time on a large strategic project or one that is under time pressure. Different service delivery models have different characteristics, requirements and risks. The organization and its operators should have a confidence in their competence that is born of experience. The only way to gain that confidence is from real experience; making sure the confidence is maintained is a matter of successful repetition. The message here is that the tools must be kept in a good state, ready to use.
Image credit: Photographerlondon via Dreamstime.com