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While the master plan sets the agenda, facility managers know they have to translate that plan into individual projects, a step that can raise a whole new set of planning challenges. At the Four Seasons Los Angeles at Beverly Hills, for example, work has to be done while the hotel is running 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, and not inconvenience guests enjoying their stay, Cooper says. That’s true at any hotel, but at an upscale property the expectations are even greater. Cooper and his staff must plan extensively — considering all scenarios — and then communicate and work with other departments so it’s all seamless to guests.
“So you have to include the ‘what if’s,’” he says. “What if the project should take two days but the valve breaks? Can you get it in 24 or 48 hours? Should you get the valve in advance in case it breaks? What if you blow another gasket because of the pressure?”
Cooper keeps his supervisors informed, telling them how long a project will take and how much it will cost, but also what it means in terms of time, cost, and possible guest inconvenience if something goes wrong. “If you’re closing 20 rooms at $1,500 a night, that’s a lot of money,” he says.
Guests pose another challenge for Cooper. If a guest who has been coming for 15 years and stays in the same room every visit will be arriving at a time when the room needs to be empty for three days, Cooper may put planned work on hold or give the guest a complimentary upgrade or free dinner.
“It’s a challenge,” he says. “You don’t want any part of the business down for any length of time because it’s expensive.”
The solution is solid planning and keeping all departments in the loop, Cooper says. He starts at the top of every department and makes sure everyone who may be involved or affected by the work knows the plan. Cooper recently was working on a plan to knock out half the hotel’s restaurant, and he had meetings with general managers, the director of rooms, hotel owners, and others.
“If you start from the top, you can get the word out,” he says. “Make sure everyone understands why you’re doing it, the benefits of doing it, and how it enhances the guest experience because then they are on board and then they help.”
Desiree J. Hanford, a contributing editor for Building Operating Management, is a freelance writer who spent 10 years as a reporter for Dow Jones.
Building Operating Management asked facility managers to share lessons they’ve learned about master planning. Here are some of their comments, taken from a master planning survey.
“It takes more money and more FTEs than expected.”
“Include cost escalation and contingency.”
“Find ways to tie plan to financial aspects and consequences of inaction.”
“Adjustments (training and physical) always need to be made long after systems are switched out/upgraded.”
“Expect that initial timetables may not be achievable due to multiple factors.”
“It’s a living document that is constantly changing with projects completed, new requests, and the ever-present emergency.”
“Maintain flexibility to adjust plan to respond to changing urgent priorities.”
“Insure key stakeholders are identified and have bought in to the plan at the very beginning of the planning process.”
“It won’t work if you don’t have buy-in from the top.”
“Some projects have many critics; it’s our job to make sure the critics are involved on the front end (planning stage).”
“It is important to keep the involved parties informed as to successes as well as ‘potential trip hazards.’ ”
Making the Plan Work:
“Do not overextend what you can do in one year. Do not ask for too much funding in one year.”
“Don’t use outside ‘experts’ until you have done your research and have set your own criteria.”
“Revise costing estimates often and maintain accurate files, inputting data as we get it.”
“If you do not maintain it, it takes a long time to update it.”
Making Master Planning a Valuable Tool for Facilities
Various Types of Facility Master Plans Serve Different Purposes
Using Master Plans to Address Funding Challenges in Facilities
Translating a Facility Master Plan into Individual Projects