4  FM quick reads on communication

1. Facility Managers Should Not Be Invisible Within The Organization


Today's tip from Building Operating Management: Facility managers should seek visibility within the organization, not try to remain invisible.

Many facility managers not only accept the idea that the facility management role is thankless and invisible, but even believe that a certain level of invisibility is a hallmark of a well-run facility. That perception, even as it is less and less accurate, breeds a comfort level with keeping communication a low priority, says Bert Gumeringer, director of facilities operations and security services at Texas Children's Hospital.

"I think that's what a lot of facility management leaders fail to grasp," Gumeringer says. "If we communicate, collaborate and market our departments well, instead of being viewed as that necessary evil in the organization, you can be viewed as an asset."

Facility managers are not the only professionals who aren't good communicators. "Fear of public speaking is right up there with fear of taxes and fear of death," says John Finney, senior communication and change management consultant, Towers Watson. In fact, fear of public speaking is often listed as number one among the things Americans fear most.

To make things worse, many facility managers follow a career path that exacerbates the communication challenge.

But here's the rub. Facility managers now have so many varied responsibilities and are so visible within their organizations that it is increasingly essential they should be able to communicate effectively, says Richard Christiano, assistant professor in the facilities planning and management program at Wentworth Institute of Technology. "There's an art to it. If you can't do that, you're never going to be successful because people are going to dismiss you as less qualified."

This has been a Building Operating Management Tip of the Day. Thanks for listening.


2.  With HVAC Upgrades, Look at the Entire System

Today's tip from Building Operating Management: When considering an upgrade to a major piece of HVAC equipment, take a look at the rest of the system as well.

Given the planning, disruption and cost involved in an HVAC upgrade, it makes sense to take full advantage of the opportunity. That may mean expanding the scope of the project beyond a single piece of equipment that is immediately in need of replacement. "You wouldn't want to replace one piece and not consider the other pieces," says Clayton Ulrich, senior vice president of engineering services for Hines. "If you have a chiller that's reaching the end of its useful life, you have to consider the condition of the cooling tower. It's a mistake to replace the component of a system that has an obvious problem and not have the foresight to take a holistic look at it and say, 'the chiller's 30 years old and it has a problem, what else is that old?'"

One good place to start when looking for other areas that might be affected by an upgrade is the control system. If you have a legacy control system, you're running the risk of either limiting your upgrade options or not getting the most out of them.

“I wouldn't limit myself with an old BAS or energy management system and have that tail wag the dog, if you will," says Tony Bamonte, vice president and regional property manager for Liberty Property Trust. "I wouldn''t say, ‘since the controls can't handle certain types of equipment, let's not go down that road.' I would start with the main equipment and then work from there.”

Other things to consider have more to do with the building's infrastructure than anything else, such as ductwork and piping. And, Bamonte points out, don't just assume that a new piece will fit in its intended spot — or be the right weight to be supported if it's a rooftop unit.

This has been a Building Operating Management Tip of the Day. Thanks for listening.

3.  Good Communication Is Essential to Facility Management Success

Today's tip from Building Operating Management: In facility management, as with any leadership position, good communication skills are essential.

That might not have been true in the past, but it certainly is true today. "The old days of the facilities person being the one who took care of the heating and cooling stuff, sort of being a mystery behind the scenes, that's long gone," says Richard Christiano, assistant professor in the facilities planning and management program at Wentworth Institute of Technology.

One of the big complaints facing facility managers, Christiano says, is occupants wondering why they didn't know about a change before it happened. This occurs because someone in the facility department thought the change was so minor that notification would just be a nuisance and they should just go ahead. But taking that approach may well have unintended consequences. The facility manager could be making the situation that much more difficult because people are going to be on the defensive if they haven't been brought into the process.

It's almost always better for facility managers to overcommunicate rather than risk undercommunicating, say experts on communication. "I think people would rather get what they consider to be an unnecessary memo if there's some validity to it, than to not be told about something even if it's relatively minor," Christiano says.

In the end, good communication is about never making assumptions. Don't assume a message has been received just because you sent it. Don't assume that information has been understood without soliciting feedback. And don't assume that communicating is not important in the first place.

"I think, when it doubt, communicate," Christiano says.

This has been a Building Operating Management Tip of the Day. Thanks for listening.

4.  ADA: Communication for Success

I'm Dan Hounsell, editor of Maintenance Solutions magazine. Today's topic is, clear communication for enhanced accessibility.

The remedies for barriers to accessibility in institutional and commercial facilities might seem complex, given the systems, equipment and materials that often are involved in renovations and remodeling. But tactics for improving access outlined in the Americans with Disabilities Act, or ADA, need not be complicated. In fact, in some cases the remedies are surprisingly straightforward and practical.

For example, involving building occupants and visitors in the planning process will result in an accessibility plan that thoroughly addresses the access needs of all involved. Among the steps managers should consider are these:

  • Make the self-evaluation and transition plan available for public inspection.
  • Post a policy or statement of nondiscrimination that includes members of the public and employees.
  • Develop an ADA advisory committee that includes individuals with disabilities and other members of the public.
  • Maintain a library of staff-development resources that can be checked out or made available, including videotapes, presentations, and audiotapes.
  • Provide ADA materials and staff-development sessions for managers, administrators, supervisors, maintenance and operations staffs, and other departments as appropriate.
  • Adopt or develop procedures for grievances or uniform compliance that include members of the public, recipients of services, and employees.
  • Disseminate and post information regarding the organization's compliance procedures.


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