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Let’s address the elephant in the room first. In many organizations, facilities management is not the core business — unless, you’re in the business of providing facilities management services.
In fact, facilities management is the provision of non-cor activities that support the core function of a business. General Motors is in the business of manufacturing cars and trucks. State Farm Insurance is in the business of providing insurance and financial services. Starbucks is in the business of selling coffee.
These prominent organizations have core businesses that require facilities not only to manufacture their products but also to store inventory and sell their products. Focusing on the core business often leads executives to treat facilities management as an afterthought.
But managers know that if stadiums are not maintained properly, it would be impossible for NFL teams to provide a desirable entertainment experience for their fans. If a roof is constantly leaking and HVAC systems are not properly maintained and balanced in their manufacturing facilities, then it would be problematic for Intel to manufacture microprocessors.
As non-core as it is to most businesses, facilities management is integral to the success of the business model for all entities operating within a built environment. Competing priorities pose a challenge to facility managers who are responsible for being stewards of these buildings.
Maybe their toughest challenge is gathering the right numbers and data to build the case among top executives for investing financial resources in projects, programs and processes that support maintenance and engineering activities. Among the key steps in this challenge are the following:
• Identifying and gathering the relevant facilities management data that correlates to the core business needs of the enterprise
• Formatting the data so that presenting the business case for financial requests creates buy-in among executive leadership.
• Communicating a business case in a way that executives are more likely to fund facilities management requests.
Norms, goals and priorities
Most organizations operate using a pre-established set of cultural norms, strategic goals and operating priorities.
Cultural norms are standards that members of the organization work by. They are the shared expectations and rules that guide behavior within that organization. Examples of this might include, “ensuring a workplace that is safe and free from harm” or “building quality into everything that we do.”
Strategic goals describe what a company expects to accomplish over a specific period of time in order to fulfill its business plan. Examples of this might include, “reduce the total number of injuries related to slips, trips and falls by 25 percent by year end” or “increase the first-time quality of finished products by 5 percent within Q1.”
Operating priorities are those tasks that need to be done first. Keeping with our strategic goal example around first-time quality, perhaps a business enterprise would make increasing first-time quality an operating priority due to warranty issues or complaints they might have received on their product.
Managers need a clear and thorough understanding of their organization’s norms, goals and priorities, as well as the way facilities management services provide support to help the organization attain these goals.
Consider roof maintenance. The roof in most cases is the biggest, most expensive asset in a facility. But it is not readily visible to most occupants and visitors. If not maintained properly, a roof can cause a great deal of expensive problems for the organization. Roof leaks can create slippery conditions and therefore, safety issues. They also can cause quality issues as a result of water leaking onto parts and equipment and downtime issues associated with power interruptions.
Many times, a roof is in such bad condition that managers must seek a major investment to restore it to an acceptable state. But with all the competing priorities executives are faced with, its imperative that managers keeps records of items pertinent to roof maintenance that are likely to impact the organization’s ability to fulfill its mission.
These problems are all data inputs to the equation that build the case for an argument to invest in a new roof or a major rehabilitation process. Managers can apply this line of thinking to other types of facilities assets, including HVAC equipment, electrical switchgear, plumbing and mechanical systems, and even pavement.
The key is to correlate key numbers associated with the desired performance of facilities assets to the organization’s overall business objectives. But once managers have gathered the key numbers and other data, now what? How should they format it in order to receive the proper attention — financial support — from leadership?
Telling the story
Top executives in any organization have many numbers and data points to sift through, and long commentaries are not the way to go in presenting your case. Managers needs to format the data so that executives can access and understand it easily. If allowed the opportunity to present your data in person, I recommend using the A3 one-page format. This reporting format came from the Toyota production system, and it helps managers achieve these seven goals within the context of their challenge:
• establish the business context and importance of the need of investment to address the facilities concern
• describe the current conditions of the problem and the impact it has on the overall business leveraging the gathered data
• identify the desired outcome as it pertains to the overall business objective
• analyze the situation to establish root cause by leveraging the gathered data
• propose countermeasures if the desired outcome is met
• prescribe an action plan for addressing the issue
• map out a follow-up process.
The A3 one-page format helps facility managers tell the story to executives clearly, succinctly and quickly. Visit https://bit.ly/2s4TxMd for an example of a one-pager that includes these elements.
Once managers have formatted the information and are ready to present it to executive leadership, how should a facility manager communicate the need and present the argument in order to generate buy-in? Managers must realize that they are the expert on the issue in question, and thus, should speak to the subject with authority and precision.
Using the format of the A3 can help managers guide the discussion of the issue. It streamlines the discussion and keeps the conversation on topic. Executive leaders don’t have a lot of time, so avoid getting bogged down in unrelated issues. Keep things objective, and channel your emotions only as necessary — for example, when speaking with passion about a need, that if not addressed, would impact human health and safety. Managers need to make sure that leaders clearly understand the impact of the decision to fund or not to fund the need .
Managers are responsible for efficiently, cost-effectively operating and maintaining facilities that house the processes critical to the profitability of the enterprises they serve. They need to continue to show that their departments’ activities are integral to the enterprise. I hope that executive leaders adopt this sentiment and that they recognize the investment in facilities management continues to be an essential contributor to the organization’s bottom line.
By the Numbers: Creating Buy-In for Maintenance
Norms, Goals and Priorities: Creating Buy-In for Maintenance
Creating Buy-In for Maintenance: Writing the Report
By the Numbers: Report Outlines Problems and Goals, Tracks Results