An Ear to the Ground

By Ed Sullivan  

Decisions about the value of facilities are rarely made on the basis of numbers alone. That’s true even when it comes to cost cutting.

Entrenched management attitudes can be an enormous obstacle to facility projects that can reduce costs. Resistance to change is one reason that hotelling initiatives can be a tough sell. And a major stumbling block to energy-efficiency projects is CFOs who believe utility costs are fixed; that mistaken but stubbornly held notion can be a big hurdle to approval.

Clearly, decisions about facilities involve a variety of factors, and cost is only one. That’s why soft skills are important. For example, marketing successful projects can help smooth the path to approval for future efforts. And it’s often necessary to educate upper management about the realities of facility costs, whether that means explaining why the budget for rent can’t arbitrarily be cut by 10 percent or showing that a lighting retrofit is a reliable way to trim electricity costs.

But of all the soft skills that are essential to influencing decisions about facilities, none is as important as listening. Listening to what the CEO says about organizational priorities. Listening to what business unit leaders say about their space.

Reading between the lines when decisions are made about funding projects — that counts as listening too.

Ultimately, the facility executive should keep an ear to the ground for factors that drive decisions in an organization. Without a clear sense of those factors, facility executives may see well-researched, thoroughly justified projects shot down, without understanding why or knowing how to change the outcome next time.

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  posted on 10/1/2005   Article Use Policy

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