Sunday, December 23, 2007

Happy Holidays!

As you can tell from the lack of recent postings, I have been enjoying the holiday season myself. The shopping is done, the tree is trimmed, and the outside decorations all work, thank you very much.

As our family gathers to celebrate its traditions we hope that yours is too. Whatever this time of year means to you, it is for all of us a time to pause and reflect. 2007 was a very good year and 2008 lies almost within reach, full of the promise of the unknown.

For now, enjoy your family and loved ones. Watch little kids' eyes grow wide and listen to their laughter, and through them become a child again yourself.

There will be time enough for business after the holidays - I'll be back after the New Year with more random thoughts about the work side of life. Now, however, is for family.


Saturday, December 8, 2007

VR Comes to the Real World

No doubt you know someone who is a ‘gamer,” someone who actively participates in virtual reality experiences. I have a son, for example, who is a Halo fanatic. He spends hours in the game, networked with friends around the world as they collaborate in the experience. They play the game, they network, strategize, allocate resources, and execute. Well, guess what? VR technology has matured to the point it is becoming a factor in business. Consider the following:
  • People are now attending full conferences virtually, viewing presentations as they occur and simultaneously chatting with other attendees.
  • The military is now using VR as a primary training tool, giving combat personnel those most critical first exposure experiences in a non-life-threatening way while enabling them to experience the emotional and mental challenges of combat.
  • The same sort of VR training is being developed for paramedics and medical personnel to give them enhanced triage skills.

And now for a real application that you and I care about….Cisco and others are using VR to enhance internal business collaboration. VR environments are used for hosting meetings and to create a virtual workplace for project teams with members scattered across the globe, enabling them to act and react more naturally - as they would if they were all together. As Cisco and other early adopters develop, enhance, and debug these systems they will begin to migrate out. Think about designing, building, and operationalizing that new manufacturing site in India with a European architect, a multi-national contractor, and your process development team comprised of members from several different divisions and locations; all meeting as one group, and each having a unique and visible identity and personality.

But do not for a minute think VR allows you to avoid the dark side of doing business. With it comes, you guessed it, human nature. Virtual worlds, even virtual work worlds, are extensions of who we are. Already in game worlds there are black markets in game elements, unsavory behavior by some participants, and the predictable entry of lawyers as VR disputes boil over into the real world. If you think of any less than desirable trait or behavior in the real world you can be pretty certain you will see it in virtual environments as well. All of which makes time management, meeting management, interpersonal relationship skills, and other management systems you depend upon so much in your real world just as important in virtual world environments.

VR is an exciting and “next” development in workplace sophistication. It will take a while yet for the technologies and protocols to be normalized by the early adopter community, but you can expect to see furniture companies, workflow management systems, and teaming/collaboration support systems all moving in this direction.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Nimble Is As Nimble Does

Nimble and Agile. I am sure you have heard those words a lot in the last couple of years. Some refer to it as "the speed of business," or being able to "maneuver quickly." All good stuff, but how? Here is a great article that will help you understand and give you some pointers on organizational models and strategies to increase your maneuver capability. Tips and Strategies to Keep Nimble and Stay Ahead

Monday, November 19, 2007

Data Center Energy Management: Reliability vs. Efficiency

If you have been building or operating data centers during the last 20 years or so then you know that the mantra has long been "reliability, reliability, reliability." While designs have changed in response to new IT technologies and their implications to infrastructure provision, one thing has remained constant - Uptime is King. Data center, and hence, energy reliability expressed as a percentage of time is typically measured at the "nine nines" level. To get there we have redundant systems to redundant systems, and sometimes solve problems through brute force. Many older data centers are grossly inefficient in today's terms with little or no control over server utilization and its attendant cooling and power demands.

EPA estimates that U.S. data centers currently consume 1.5% of all U.S. generated electricity at a cost of $4.5 billion. They expect the cost to grow to $7.5 billion by 2011 and require construction of ten additional large generation facilities. Since the EPA is in the business of discouraging this type of development expect them to be very active in helping you solve your energy problem. Mandated server utilization and infrastructure efficiency levels are already in the works and headed for Congressional desks, expect new regulations coming to a data center near you soon. Read EPA report here.

That isn't to say that we are without options. Most utilities complain that their rebate programs for infrastructure modernization are under utilized. Server management and more efficient and "leaned" cooling system technologies are beginning to arrive in a meaningful fashion. And, distributed generation technologies such as fuel cells are finally achieving critical mass and becoming more affordable.

The point is this: Your data center has most likely been part of the problem. Now it is time for it, and you, to be part of the solution. The need is here, as are the opportunities. Are you?

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Who is Your "Mentor?"

If you are like me several of your friends have been mentors to you, or you to them. In my own career I think instantly of Bob, that older professional who took me under his wing when I was just getting started, of Tom who challenged and pushed me, and of Chuck, who had faith in me and let me struggle until I finally started to get it and began to gain confidence. All of these and untold others invested in me when they didn’t have to. Each affected the path and outcome of my career and life.

If you recall Homer’s epic The Odyssey, Mentor was the trusted friend to whom Odysseus left the care of his most cherished treasure, his son Telemachus. While Odysseus was off fighting the Trojan War the noblemen of Ithaca were busy spending his wealth and courting his wife. All except Mentor, who faithfully performed the duties of caring for and educating Telmachus. As a result of his faithful service “mentor” is now synonymous with loyal and trusted friend, enlightened advisor, and teacher. Most translators couple these terms with our “enduring” to render the fullest meaning of the word.

Think about that. What would it mean to your life to be, or have, that kind of relationship with someone you respected and trusted? My guess is that you already have several, and I suggest that you have opportunities to have more. It is called making a difference. Being willing to invest or be invested in opens the door to a different future. It allows the one being mentored to gain the insight and wisdom of someone who has been there and done that, and allows the one mentoring to, among other things, plant a bit of themselves that will endure well into the future.

Mentoring opportunities are virtually everywhere you look. It may be at the office, in your family, church or other organization. Some may be formal and some may be informal. If you are looking for resources I suggest starting at your local university, most have well developed mentoring programs and courses. If you are more the self-help type, then check out some of the resources listed below.

Good luck in your journey, whichever role you are in. Make it a rich and meaningful experience, be intentional, and treat your relationship like what it is. Someone has entrusted themselves to you or in you, be faithful with the charge.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Green America

In honor of this week’s Green Build conference in Chicago ( I thought it would be helpful to list a few green building links you might not normally run across. If you haven’t noticed, “green” building is permeating the design and construction industries to a level few thought possible here in “show me the bottom line” America. The reason for this surge? Green is a better economic model as well as a better environmental model. Government agencies helped lead us to this realization by requiring green principles be included in their own projects. Doing so demystified the process and helped prove the economics. As a result, understanding of green’s real economic benefits are becoming wide spread. Now, corporate America is signing up not only because it is the right thing to do for the planet, but because it is also the right thing to do for the bottom line. Is it easy? No. Does it come without tradeoff? No. Will it reverse global warming and save the planet alone? No. But it is an important step, a right step, and a significant part of the overall solution. Green Up, America!

In the links below you will find guidelines for communities, a list of green General Contractors, narratives on the state of Green America, and much more. It is only a starter list. Enjoy, and contribute your own.,1607,7-135-3585_4127_24843---,00.html

Monday, October 29, 2007

Giving Feels So Good

I've just returned from IFMA's annual convention and exposition, WorldWorkplace which was held in New Orleans this year. A lot could be said about the event, another impressive effort by IFMA staff, but what I really want to share is the Saturday experience. Out of the thousands who attended the week's events and toured the French Quarter, only 120 stayed for the volunteer work effort on Saturday. It may have been a small group, but we were a hard working bunch!

We took on four NOFD stations. Each team had eight hours to paint the interior of their station from head to toe, including the high bay "apparatus floor" where the equipment is parked. These stations were all in functioning neighborhoods which, I suspect, you would equate to second or third world country status. Their equipment is old, the protective turn out suits they wear when fire fighting are literally rotting, and the conditions they live and work in at the station houses are deplorable. Want to see mold? They can show you mold.

So what did we do? What did we accomplish? What difference did we make?
  • We painted and sweated for nine hours and were exhausted at the end of the day. Some of us spent a good portion of the day on top of scaffolding painting the high bay ceiling, some of us "cut in" around doors and moldy window frames, and others cleaned and painted.
  • We talked with the fire fighters. Heard their stories, their dreams, their frustrations...and shared ours with them.
  • We laughed, hugged, and cried...and they did the same.
  • Grainger and Bank of the West donated $35,000 to the FD's recovery fund, on top of the materials that were provided by donation.
For my money, that was the real event. Want to talk about a Value Add experience?
  • I got acquainted with people in IFMA from all over the country (and one wanderer from Australia) that I didn't know before.
  • I helped make a difference. At the end of the day this fire station was a different place, it had a different feel. We didn't solve all of their problems by a long shot, but we did something, it was important, and it was appreciated.
Kudo's to Will Rub, Bill Black, Francis Kuhn and the IFMA Foundation staff for putting this day together and giving us the opportunity to give back. It is two years since Katrina devastated the region and there is still much to do. It felt good to help out.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Understanding Roles and Needs Key to Successful Real Estate Strategy

FM’s are often uniquely placed and uniquely challenged when it comes to RE strategy and tactics. We are on the inside and know our organization and its needs and culture. We know our own strengths and weaknesses, how accurate corporate planning tends to be, etc. And as FM’s we are expected to translate what we know into forward looking strategy and tight execution tactics. Many FM’s, however, are not that well versed in the RE arena. If you have “grown up” in the profession on the services or maintenance side and not the RE side of the profession, then you may feel a bit uncomfortable when given this task.

Understanding who the players in the game are and what motivates each, what they need, their strengths and weaknesses is a first critical step a successful RE transaction. This knowledge allows you to leverage individual strengths so that team results can be maximized. For example, strong alliances with brokers who have strong business acumen will increase your effectiveness in the strategy domain, especially if RE and/or finance are not your strong suits. One mistake too many FM’s make is shopping for a broker with the lowest commission on a specific transaction, instead of forming a strategic alliance with the broker who has the best business knowledge and market intelligence.

But the issue of role definition and selection applies to all RE participants, not just the brokers. Here is a good cheat sheet that provides an overview of RE project principals.







Food Chain


Reputation & referrals

Book of clients



Board of Directors


Deal making

Leverage over contractors, design

Document deal points

Increasing portfolio valuation

Complimenting architect

Driving the bottom line


Occupancy issues

Designs that work (end user defined)

Simplifying deal

Paying attention to tenants


All things FM


Who the know

Submittals, acceptance of work

Pre-negotiated Terms & Conditions

Access to capital

Project Management


Key Person Profile

Young lion, Harvard MBA

Firm principal or star associate

Seasoned partner, top regional player

Local principal with roots

Firm’s star associate



Sq. Ft. leased

Cover of Architectural Digest

Number of high profile deals

NOI, asset leverage

Annual volume

Bottom line

While the table is obviously not literally correct for every individual or firm, it is a good guideline that holds true more often than not. Which is simply another way of stating the age old truth…. Choose your partners wisely.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Outsourcing Best Practices

If you are about to go through an outsourcing exercise do a lot of research before getting too deep into the effort. Informing yourself is always a good idea, especially when dealing with something as important as deciding upon a long term relationship with a provider. Two of the best sources to start with can be found at and

You may be surprised to learn that The Outsourcing Institute’s survey of Fortune 500 CEO’s indicated that improving company focus is the number one reason executives opt for outsourcing, with cost control coming in second. I suspect many of us would argue that order, but the survey says what it says. Other top rated benefits include access to increased capabilities, accelerating re-engineering benefits, and risk sharing.

To achieve these goals, concentrate on the “Two T’s” of outsourcing, technology and transformation. The former enables the latter and without the latter, your effort is in trouble. Why, you ask? Because transformation is the name of the game. If you are simply transferring the responsibility for performing the function without changing how it is performed, then it is likely that over time the outsourced option will become more expensive. Transformation is technology driven and provides time, cost, and quality improvements that you will not achieve otherwise.

Here is a starter list of things to be aware of, or beware of:

  1. Culture match between buyer and provider is a critical issue.
  2. Monitoring, compliance, and establishing a culture of best practices at the outset sets the tone.
  3. Don’t let providers pigeon hole you into their “standard” solutions. You are unique, they should align with you.
  4. Working with an outsource provider requires close oversight, but don’t micro-manage them.
  5. You should be allowed full visibility into their cost structure, including staff salaries and benefits.
  6. Beware of firms tied to one technology solution - are they selling you services or hardware?
  7. When evaluating providers, look at their turnover metrics. Turnover has a direct bearing on the quality of people and performance you can expect.

Things you might want to include in your contract:

  1. Require specific education levels and/or industry certifications of staff they employ on your account.
  2. Require that a portion of the annual savings be returned to the staff who work at your site, or to your organization.
  3. SLA’s and KPI’s rule the day. Make them the centerpiece of periodic business reviews and use them to determine penalties and rewards.
  4. Include reward/penalty statements in each SLA/KPI.
  5. Importantly, require the provider to report how they are meeting the SLA’s and KPI’s, not just the volume.
  6. Include a clause that allows you to arbitrarily reduce labor and technology costs by a set percentage without penalty (especially if the requirements may sometimes change, as in the case of copiers for example).
  7. Consider a clause that allows you to buyout unamortized technology costs and retain the technology in the event you terminate the contract.

That’s a good starter list, no doubt you have your own issues to consider. My closing caution is to remember that with outsourcing you are talking about a true business partnership. They are going to be in your house and working next to you every single day. Think carefully about the value proposition, the culture issue, and who you will be working with.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Recruiting and Keeping the Y Generation

Forget about “Gen X,” the new crop of young faces leaving college and showing up in your offices is commonly referred to as “Gen Y,” and they have different perspectives and needs from us “old heads” and even their close cousins, the X’ers. Given that the most important game in business these days is the talent game, it is important to understand Gen Y needs and how you can meet them.

Provide meaningful work that contributes to the organization’s mission. That may sound silly to you for an entry position, but it isn’t to them. And don’t assume that they will just “get it,” either. Tell them why they are doing what they do and how their work supports and advances important goals.

Mentor intentionally. The younger generation has a need to be and feel nurtured. Good mentoring will meet their need and simultaneously enhance their current and future value to the organization. And, don’t limit it to just one person. Mentoring by their first level supervisor can focus on tactical and organizational issues while mentoring from a more senior executive will help them feel validated and provide a more strategic view to their future.

Help them develop networks. Encourage their participation in professional associations and design networking events for your company. Importantly, Gen Y’ers want to know where the people who used to work for you are now. Have their careers been successful? The answer to that question will carry a lot of weight as they evaluate your organization and you while deciding to join or stay.

Focus performance reviews on the future. Poor performance or “issues” should be dealt with immediately, either at the end of the project or as soon as possible. The annual performance review may need to look back to those briefly, but should generally be a look forward. Discuss next steps in their careers and what it takes to accomplish those. One good way to do this is to think about their resume. Since their need is to be nurtured with an emphasis on career development, then put your coaching and feedback into that mold. Have them bring their resume to the review meeting and spend time discussing how what they have done over the past year enhances their resume. Use it to demonstrate your concern and interest in their development.

Bottom line, this generation of workers needs and wants to be nurtured, and they want to know how you are advancing their careers. You should not accept sub-par performance from them any more than you would others. But they are different and your method of communicating with them needs to adapt to the way they listen.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

“Officle,” or “Awficle?”

A few weeks ago I was attending one of the major trade shows and sitting in on a case study presentation a friend was giving when one of those horribly awkward moments we all dread occurred. The case study centered on a major restack project in very trying circumstances, including the move to an open plan standard in order to accommodate growth. Not only was the staff of this professional services firm leaving private offices, but the new workstations were significantly smaller. Even Partners of the firm were making the switch due to space constraints. Needless to say, no matter how good the project was from an aesthetic design and implementation perspective, this project team had a very tall mountain to climb.

It was in the context of explaining this situation that my friend created the moment all speakers dread. In describing how the project team designed new amenities into the project to offset the sense of loss he mentioned that they installed sliding doors on each cubicle to enhance privacy, and quipped “some staff are even calling them Officles now!” Immediately from the middle of the room a loud bass voice boomed, “How are you spelling that? A-w-f-i-c-l-e?” Needless to say, the room went suddenly and painfully quiet.

My friend stumbled for a few awkward seconds, then recovered and went on. But the damage had been done. The presentation was itself, in fact, a perfect case study of a very good project that didn't get the credit it deserved because of the expectation gap. Sound like any open plan projects you’ve been involved with recently?

The fact is that offices are an emotional issue, and that will never change. When space and finances are constrained the temptation to increase space efficiency and improve operating costs becomes very seductive. But all of that advantage comes at a cost. As the FM leading or managing a large open plan transition project you have to anticipate and respond to the real, perceived, and emotional needs of your customers. This project team was on the right track, providing new amenities in the effort to overcome the negatives associated with squeezing the space. That is an important tactic, but it is only one. Here are a few others that you should have in your bag of tricks.

Know the “why” and sell it hard. The knowing comes from having done your homework, from having developed and analyzed multiple options until you arrive at a fact-based conclusion. Great. Now inform the staff. Don’t expect an initial positive response no matter how much you communicate or how hard you try to sell the outcome. And don’t become defensive over the reaction. It’s natural and part of the transition process. Your job is to help staff make that transition. Instead of meeting their initial resistance with a defensive or hurt attitude, continue to inform and advise.

Develop a set of guiding principles. Establishing clear project expectations and rules of the road at the outset will keep you on track and help diffuse the occasional wayward gripe. These principles should be viewed as your “True North.” They are litmus tests against which options and issues can be judged, helping to clarify and simplify the project. Again, communicate them broadly and draw the connecting line between them and your final solution.

Engage influencers from among your customer base as part of the project team. When you do this, make them a real part of the team. Let them help you identify the issues, options, and solutions. Give them an equal voice in the process and include them in all of your activities. Take them on the factory tours with you. By walking with you they will develop an understanding of the issues and be able to represent the project to their contemporaries in a way you cannot. Including them demonstrates to staff that you are making the effort to consider and respond to real issues even in the midst of a challenging project environment, you are not simply shoe horning people into the smallest possible footprint without engaging them. One big thing to remember is paying for their time. Include staff salaries and fringes in your project budget for these “non-FM” types you want to include on your project team. If they have to do it as an added duty you’re going to lose the priority game more often than not and be left with a sometime partner that you can’t count on and who is ineffective in their role. Buy their time up front.

Periodically ask all employees for their input. Do this only when there is an issue that has potentially significant affect on the office culture or project acceptance. Keep the surveys tightly focused and make sure that you share the analysis and conclusions. Later on you can draw another line, between this input and your design solution. For example, in one recent project we surveyed staff regarding operable windows at our new headquarters facility. Because of the fifty year tradition of operable windows the response was predictably strong in their favor. However, the survey identified tradeoffs required to support the choice for operable windows, such as difficulty managing the HVAC system to maintain comfort levels, project elements that would have to be cut in order to pay the additional cost, etc. It is easy to do surveys today using electronic survey tools which are readily available, but be thoughtful and strategic about using them.

Give something back. Everyone knows what the acronym WIFM means and everyone expects an answer. Your customers are no different. They are giving up space and privacy, make sure you give them something in return. This might be upgraded finishes or furniture, the ability to accessorize their space on the project budget, some limited form of personalization, or possibly other perks such as subsidized gym memberships or increased personal technology. There may be additional costs for providing these, but it will be a fraction of the cost of redesigning and reworking space because disgruntled staff lobby for and get changes after the fact.

Any time you are on a project that has this Private to Open transition element in it, you are in for a ride. But, it is also an opportunity to demonstrate leadership, develop connections, increase credibility, and deliver excellence. Make sure you take full advantage of it.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Graduate Certificate Program in Facilities Planning and Management

Ohio State University's City and Regional Planning program is offering a distant-education graduate certificate program in Facilities Planning and Management. This curriculum offers working professionals an opportunity to expand their education from the convenience of your home or office. Enrollment deadline is November 1, 2007.

Four courses will be offered between January and December 2008. Each ten-week course is taught at a graduate level by a faculty member at Ohio State University. Students can participate at their convenience each week from any computer with an Internet connection.

There are no scheduled class meetings. Participants view audio/video lectures, discuss issues, work on projects and consult with faculty. The courses include hand-on experience that includes case studies, team work, and in-depth projects. All courses are available for transfer to other universities toward a graduate degree.

The following courses are scheduled to begin in 2008: City Planning Administration: January - April: Learn the essential skills for managing a planning department. Programming Environments for Human Use: April - June: Learn about how to program and evaluate the performance of facilities and landscapes. Real Estate Finance for Planners: June - August: Learn the essential elements of real estate finance including market analysis, pro-formas, taxation, and financing mechanisms. Practicum in Facilities Planning and Management: September - December: Integrate the learning from the curriculum into a final project that they design in conjunction with the faculty.

Upon completion of all four courses, participants receive a Certificate in Facilities Planning and Management from the Ohio State University. Registration for January is open now to November 1, with payment due by December 1.

Each course costs $1,110 or the certificate program may be paid up front for a discounted rate of $4,000.

For more information contact:
Jennifer Evans-Cowley
Phone: 614-247-7479

Monday, September 24, 2007

I Miss My Morning Coffee

Several years ago I accepted a position with a new company and was immediately invited to join the division’s senior management team for coffee each morning. It was important to me because being included validated my standing in the organization and, as a newcomer, it was a great way to learn the culture, personalities, and methods of the key decision making group.

One of the things that made this daily session so useful was its informality. It wasn’t a management meeting, it was a group of friends having a cup of coffee at a nearby restaurant. We discussed family issues, sports, and yes, business. In fact, I would argue that many of our most important and best decisions were made in this setting. It was a time when we could let the organizational facades fade to background as we talked conversationally and honestly about the pros and cons of various initiatives.

Because of the various business segments we represented, resource constraints, and sometimes different views on the correct future direction of the organization we were bound to have different perspectives at times. It wasn’t always non-confrontational, but it was always respectful, relaxed, and informal. Out of this process came consensus-driven decisions that all were invested in. As a result this team worked together over the course of several years to affect a remarkable set of changes. We designed and built a new headquarters facility while simultaneously relocating two other major sites and developing an offshore presence. We changed all of our core processes, successfully implemented significant technology programs, and eliminated organizational and geographical stovepipes that had been hindering us for decades. We moved from a “I don’t know, let me get back to you” culture to having real time metrics on key operating information and a balanced scorecard that executive management routinely checks. As a result, our stock in the C Suite has gone sky high.

Now, however, the corner restaurant with the very attentive staff (who used to let us in well before opening) is too far away. The days are too hectic (but no more more so than they were before) and we all seem to have different agendas (didn’t we always?). I still have coffee each morning, usually alone in my office. I have become my own counsel, and sometimes I’m a lousy counsel.

On second thought, it’s not really the coffee I miss at all. The good news is that I can do something about this. Excuse me, please. I have a few calls to make.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Understanding Data Visually

If you have looked at many graphs and charts displaying metrics data you have no doubt scratched your head from time to time and asked what the chart is really trying to tell you, or why someone thought it important. The graphic portrayal of data should have one, and only one purpose; to make understanding of the data clear. Here are a few simple pointers:

Don’t measure and report something simply because you can. Measure and report what does or can make a difference.

Think about the timescale. Just because you can track it in real time doesn’t mean you should, or that it should be reported that way. If the variances over time are small, or if the opportunity to use it as a lever for positive change is small, then consider reporting the item on a quarterly basis.

Simplify for clarity. Too many charts confuse or hide what is really important because they include unimportant information and/or get too cute with the graphics. Graphics should be used minimally and to clarify, not to make the chart a piece of art.

Watch the value scale. Logarithmic scales are generally hard to interpret because we tend to take spatial relationships literally. If you have values with large spreads consider weighting them or annualizing them to normalize spread. is one of the best websites I’ve seen about visual presentation of metrics data. Take a tour and look at samples of good and bad metrics reporting. Then look at your own metrics reports and ask yourself if you are really telling the story the way it should be told.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Green Construction Processes

See Greg Zimmerman's article at,%20leed for an excellent summary of issues that surround green building projects. Notably, Greg comments on mindset changes that FM's are faced with when building Green.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Data Center Optimization: Increasing reliability, decreasing energy consumption Thursday, September 27 1:00 p.m. (EST)

Building Operating Management magazine is presenting a free webinar that many of you may be interested in. Here is the basic info, with a link to register.

Attend this free Webcast on high-performing data centers for a comprehensive look at their role in energy use, IT sophistication, sustainable practices and 24/7 operations.Produced by Building Operating Management magazine, this free, online, 75–minute Webcast will introduce you the best practices and latest technologies you need to ensure your data center operates consistently and cost-effectively.

Presented by Steve Spinazzola, Vice President of RTKL, an international architectural, engineering and planning firm, the Webcast will address many important topics related to a fully functioning data center, including:• the growing demand for uptime• what IT knows (and what facility executives don't)• factors making existing data centers obsolete• how these trends affect an organization• planning for the future• energy efficiency and green designRegister for this free data–saving (and job-saving) Webcast right now.

Negotiated Fee Contracts Have Their Place

Most Owners are reluctant to issue a major construction contract without knowing the bottom line cost. Getting to that point, of course, requires lead time for design evolution and documentation so that contractors can bid. There are times, however, when the advantages of getting the Contractor on board as early as possible warrant the acceptance of some additional risk. The question then is which project delivery method should be used, Fast-Track, Design-Build, or Negotiated Fee.

Negotiated Fee contracts offer many advantages, including early engagement of the Contractor while avoiding the contractual and schedule intricacies of other project acceleration methods. Certain project conditions strongly favor this option. Examples would be a hyper-critical schedule or the need for contractor participation in pre-construction activities such as value engineering, project estimating, and constructability reviews in a project where the Owner wants to retain as much control as possible.

In Negotiated Fee projects the selection of the Contractor is based upon a review of qualifications, appropriateness for the work, availability, and the negotiated fee points. RFP’s for a Negotiated Fee contract should include all of these and other routine due diligence questions, and your follow-up should be just as complete. Negotiated Fee contracts may or may not include a Guaranteed Maximum Price, depending on the state of design documentation and allowable time (use AIA Document A-411 for projects with a GMP, and AIA A-414 for those without a GMP).

The heart of the matter (assuming all of the contractors you are considering are qualified and appropriate) are the fees that you negotiate. These are provided by the Contractor in its RFP response and may be accepted as-is or further negotiated. Typically these include overhead and profit rates expressed as a percentage, a set amount per day for General Conditions, and the Change Order mark-up rate. Also consider locking in hourly labor rates and unit costs for typical items. Remember that General Conditions should be a set fee for a defined time period (day or week), not a percentage of the project cost. Finally, make open book bidding and Owner review and/or participation in the sub-trades buy-out process a firm requirement.

While some Owners may feel there is risk in this methodology the fact is that the Contractor is assuming more risk by setting these rates and agreeing to opening the books during trade bidding and buy-out, which protects the Owner against any attempts to embed additional costs. The Contractor also shares in the responsibility to deliver at the expected overall cost since they participate in value engineering and provide cost estimating services during the design process. Significantly, this model eliminates protracted bidding exercises between design completion and start of construction, thereby, saving time and money without compromising value or quality. The advantages of this delivery method go primarily to the Owner in increased speed and flexibility.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Call It What You Will

Six Sigma, Lean Sigma, Continuous Improvement and a few other labels you could name all define initiatives aimed at improving organizational performance. Regardless of which one you are called to execute, there are a few common strategies to ensure success.

De-mystify the initiative. Often people will trapped in set thought patterns and need help breaking out, or do not understand the real purpose and value of the initiative. The answer here is to keep it simple. Overcome complacency and resistance by being transparent and as always, communicate, communicate, communicate.

Consider beginning quietly. Instead of making a big splash with lots of hype, simply select a small number of projects that will demonstrate improvement and value, and go do them. Set up the teams, assign leaders, give them clear charters, and then get out of their way. In four to six months all should be complete and your teams will be able to point to their improvements. Before long you have several improvements, a new culture, new team-based relationships, and emerging leaders.

Speak clearly. All of the various systems seek to improve speed, quality, and cost. Too often, however, the goals or results are stated in these bottom-line numbers. That may mean something to the CEO and CFO, but be meaningless to those who have to do it and live with the changes. For example, in the construction business we always state the project in terms of its performance against the scheduled completion date and cost. Delivering a project early not only saves project costs, it also accelerates revenue generation from the new project. Saying that the client can begin shipping 10,000 units a day thirty days earlier than planned is sometimes a more powerful statement than telling them you saved $100,000 on project costs.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Virtual Project Management

As collaboration technology continues to improve more and more projects are utilizing distributed project teams. Today it doesn’t matter so much where the project is as much as where the talent is. With virtual teams, however, there are new issues, especially if your team is comprised of people who do not have a history of working with each other. In that case you have trust issues as well as time zone and cultural/language barriers. Yet the expectation is that you will deliver a very high quality product. Here are a few tools you can use.

Most important on the list, I believe, is developing a sense of trust with members individually and as a collective group. In order to build trust you need to do three things: exhibit integrity, be consistent and fair, and demonstrate that you care about others’ interests, lives, and success. In other words, get personal. The more you develop strong interpersonal relationships the more cohesive and supportive the team will be. In this virtual age it is even more necessary to be intentional about building team chemistry.

Critically important in any project scenario, but especially so when your team is scattered across the country or across the globe, is exhibiting integrity in honoring your commitments. If you say you are going to be there, be there. If you say you are going to do something, make sure it gets done as and when promised. And it goes without saying (but I will) that meetings must be well planned, resourced, and tightly executed.

On the process side it takes more diligence to maintain consistency in virtual teams. Decision making, problem resolution, performance measurement, schedule and budget tracking all have defined processes that can be impacted by time, distance, and lack of visibility. The key here is to improve visibility into the processes and outcomes, and maintain high accountability.

Thankfully, the same technology capabilities that help create the challenges of managing projects remotely and/or with distributed assets also provide the tools to do so. Project wiki’s, blogs, collaboration websites, etc. are all readily available. With them you can improve project transparency, speed, documentation quality, version control, and overall communication.

The age of 24x7 projects is upon us. You really can have work on your project occurring around the clock and anywhere in the world, even while you sleep. The real test, however, comes when you must decide who gets to do the conference call at 2:00 a.m. their local time. Welcome to our new world.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Streamlining the Dreaded Weekly Project Meeting

Don’t you just hate them? You know what I’m talking about – those weekly project meetings that the entire team must attend and that last for hours, and in which about 10% of the content applies to you. You get dinged if you don’t attend and run the risk of missing that 10% that may be really important to you, but they kill an entire day.

A better model for large and complex projects is what I call “Discreet Communication & Decision.” In this model each core working group has its own committee and they meet once or twice a week as needed to manage the details of their particular project element. For example, a large corporate HQ construction project might have a committee for construction, one for technology, one for security, one for communication, one for relocation, etc.

The chairs of each committee together with key corporate sponsors form the project’s executive committee, which also meets as frequently as needed. This group is charged with communicating key project information among themselves and passing it down to their constituencies, identifying issues and making decisions or elevating them along with their recommendation. They also make priority calls to realign resources when needed. When run properly these, like all good meetings, are run to an agenda that participants have seen before the meeting and had a chance to develop their information for, have specific assignments, focus on good project and communication practices, and have a high accountability standard.

The advantage to this model is that meeting content is relative to those attending, information is condensed and shared with those who really need to know, and decisions flow much quicker.

I have seen this model used effectively on two large projects. The first was the relocation of a large electronics manufacturing company to a military base that was still active but transitioning to civilian ownership and use. The project’s executive committee was comprised of the COO and CFO, with committee chairs from Facilities, IT, Security, Manufacturing, Distribution, HR, and Legal. Each had their own sub-committees to chair which focused on the details of execution. In the second example, a large non-profit organization used this governance model for the renovation of an existing manufacturing facility, converting it to a large religious facility complete with a 3,000 seat auditoreum and state-of-the-art multi-media systems. This project had over 800 volunteers directly involved, but was effectively managed by a group of 15 individuals with one tie-breaker at the top.

This governance model works and it works well, but it needs some things in order to be successful. Strong executive mandate and participation, well articulated project goals and values, and consistency. Use this system well and those fifty people who have been sitting in the room for hours can be doing something really productive!

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Article Published in SoCal CoreNet Newsletter

The following article is published in the current issue of the Southern California CoreNet Chapter newsletter, Real Estate Perspectives. Please visit to see the entire newsletter and learn what the premier CRE organization in the region is up to. Also, don’t miss the opportunity to support the December gala event – it is shaping up to be nothing less than spectacular!

CRE Projects Change More Than the Building
By Ken Burkhalter, CFM

Corporate Real Estate executives do not always think of themselves as change agents, but that is exactly what they are. Almost by definition, the very purpose of the CRE function is to create and manage change. Lease actions that change office locations, building new facilities, relocating operational units, business expansions and contractions all place stress on organizations at multiple levels. It may be “business as usual” to you, but for your internal and external customers it is everything but normal. Work priorities are shifted, old routines and patterns are changed, and personal lives are affected, sometimes in very significant ways. Regardless of the reason for these changes everyone knows who is leading the charge on the project. They may be reluctant to call the CEO and express their views, but your number is there just waiting to be pushed.

Several years ago I participated in a large development project, moving a long-established non-profit to a new campus. Its history had been one of excellence in its field, inattention to “unimportant” infrastructure areas, and several failed attempts to move to a new facility. Soon after joining the staff the opportunity to attempt another development and relocation project presented itself and from the outset it was obvious that this time it would work. The opportunities were nearly without limit. Aside from the design, construction and relocation project, large initiatives to upgrade technical infrastructure and skill sets were required, all of which were embedded in the culture of the organization - a culture which would undergo its own transformation. In short, change, and a lot of it

When you are tasked to lead a large CRE project there are big questions to be answered. How will you be effective at leading this project? How will you develop broad-based participation and cooperation? How will teams be organized? Who do you need to encourage? Who needs skill support? Who is at risk? Who are the most important stakeholders? Who are the most important influencers? These questions and a host of others will likely begin to swarm around inside your head the instant you hear the “go” decision. Some of the most important questions, however, will be ones you ask yourself.

Am I willing to be the first one changed? One of the more interesting and sometimes challenging aspects of being a change agent is that you will be the first to be changed. You will be bought into the project and committed to seeing it through before most others are engaged or possibly even aware of a coming change. That fact alone means that your relationships will change, at least in the short term. The project may mean a different role for you, represent a difficult risk/reward scenario, or present any number of other challenges for you personally and professionally. Getting others involved and “bought in” quickly is important to developing momentum and minimizing any chance of isolation. How you lead from the front and help others to understand, accept, and internalize the project and its goals will speak volumes to the team around you and help reinforce your credibility.

Who will I lose by implementing this change? Possibly one of the toughest questions you will have to answer is how the change will affect others that you depend upon. In large projects, especially those involving relocations, it is not unusual to lose up to twenty-five percent of the key leadership staff. The project may position the organization for substantial and rapid growth but it almost certainly will come at the cost of losing some talent. And the talent game is the number one game in business. You may have some who are so important to the project or organization that special retention measures are appropriate. Such cases are rare and need to be dealt with delicately and quickly. Regardless, you can count on unplanned staff changes occurring, often at the seemingly worse possible time. To get ahead of this curve one of your highest priorities must be a strategic and candid evaluation of the project team and key staff during the earliest stages of the project. Upon thoughtful reflection you may realize that some will just not be able to be successful in the project or the changed post-project environment, or you may be able to predict who will have particular difficulties in making the required shifts but are important to retain. In either case, you have the opportunity to approach them honestly and share your thoughts, beginning a dialogue and process that can help them make the best decisions they can make, and protect you against unwanted surprises.

Will I be around after the change is made? Not a small or unlikely question. Just as others will find a changed operating environment after completion of the project, so will you. If you have been focused on leading a multi-year project then you may have been uninvolved or on the periphery as the organization continues to constantly flex and evolve. When the time comes to turn your attention back to your original job, will it still be there? If it is, will you be cognizant and positioned to join step as you meld yourself back into the day-to-day life of the organization? Thinking about this early on provides the opportunity to put safeguards in place, not thinking about it until too late opens the door to an unpleasant surprise. Given the chance, it is likely that you will be able to negotiate protections for yourself and turn your engagement as project leader into an even greater win, both for you and the company. But it doesn’t happen by accident. An honest and transparent dialogue with corporate leadership is in order. You should walk away from the end of those discussions with agreement on the project charter and goals, your lines of authority and accountability, and your role after the project is complete. Some of these will certainly change over the course of time, but being a partner in their formation and acceptance gives you a seat at the table when changes do occur, allowing you to influence the outcome.

In the end the project I mentioned earlier was a success. We were able through intentional process and consistent communication to keep the leadership team together while honoring and assisting those who had played an important role but needed to make transitions. The new physical plant with its enhanced capabilities and appeal became the springboard for rapid growth, the development of important new partnerships, and the formation and launch of several new programs.

We set out to build a new campus for the organization. In reality what we affected was a dramatic makeover of the institution, its culture, and its reach. And that is often the case with large CRE projects, regardless of the business of the organization. Development projects simply have a way of testing and challenging, often leading to change in areas that had not been considered a part of the project when the process began. Inevitably, they are a part of the outcome. Those that understand this avoid the pitfalls of unplanned effects of the project process while allowing themselves to be strategic and intentional when taking advantage of opportunities.

Careful consideration should be given when you are asked to lead a large change initiative. Before accepting the charter, think about the 360 degree future. Plainly speaking you need to ask yourself: Am I willing to pay the price this change will require? Leading is always difficult and change is often threatening to people. Leading positive change, however, can be one of the most important, empowering, and dynamic things you will ever do.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

More on FM Trends

IFMA convened a panel to determine which industry trends will have the most significant and lasting impact on the FM profession. The results have been published in the Facility Management Forecast 2007 which ranks the trends as follows.

Linking FM to strategy
Emergency preparedness
Change management
Emerging technology
Broadening diversity
Aging buildings

If you think about this list for just a moment you realize that the business of doing business is still number one. When we read articles and attend conferences, however, the focus often seems to be on the current buzz topic. A few years ago it was ADA, today it is sustainability. This statement is not meant to suggest that these topics are trendy or unimportant, but it does intend to note that they are supportive of the grander scheme, not the end unto themselves as sometimes presented.

Look further at the list and you will note that several of those listed are old friends. Emergency preparedness, globalization, diversity, and technology are all topics that we have been dealing with for some time. They are not new to our radar screen and they may never leave it. But the priorities have shifted. Each has had its turn at or near the top of the list.

One new one that I suspect will gain stature in coming years, aging buildings, is at the very bottom of the list. It is not just our buildings that are aging but a large share of our infrastructure as well. The massive infrastructure projects of the 50’s and 60’s are at or nearing the end of their planned lives and the bill is coming due. We have deferred investment to the point that the pain is becoming real. The requirement is large, meaning that there will be no easy answer. Like everything else, the issue needs leadership and as FM’s who are actively engaged in creating and managing a large portion of this infrastructure, we can have a voice.

I encourage you to download the entire report from the IFMA website at .

Monday, July 30, 2007

Deepening FM Trends

Every once in a while one of the trade magazines, IFMA, BOMA or one of the other organizations will produce a list of emerging FM trends. Usually these are over the horizon looks at issues most of us have not yet begun to pay much attention to. Some of those “emerging” trends mature to become important elements of our profession. Here are three that I think have made that transition.

The line between FM and IT continues to blur. I do not know of an FM shop that isn’t working hard to integrate with IT on the applications side (CMMS, BMS, Workflow, CAFM, etc.), but now more and more are integrating organizationally as well. Citicorp and HP are two that come immediately to mind where cross-pollinization of IT/FM management teams is being used to increase the speed and reach of integration.

Increased interest in Security is here to stay. As one sign of this, biometrics, long a part of work performed by and for the government, is now moving down to lower tiers. Major corporations and outsource providers are installing many more biometric access control systems, and use is projected to increase dramatically. Additionally, exercise scenarios have now begun to trickle down to operational planning at the local level and among larger enterprises that are attentive to their risk profile.

Investment in intelligent building systems continues to rise. Energy demand, prices, and geopolitical uncertainty will remain high for the foreseeable future, placing a premium on smart consumption. Also contributing to this trend is the increasing emphasis on green building as more mainline companies take a proactive stance, helping to increase environmental leverage.

As FM’s we are dealing with all of these issues. Each affects the what, where, when, and how of the things we do in support of our businesses. We need to speak languages we haven’t spoken before, compete for jobs we haven’t competed for before, and be leaders of change in our work, physical, and cultural environments. If you haven’t already, get your game on!

Monday, July 23, 2007

Why Can’t We Get A Decision Around Here?

Have you ever wondered that silently, or even aloud? You are not alone. Decision making is at the heart of business, and most often at the heart of the state of a business. Organizations that make important decisions well and execute them well excel. One’s that don’t, don’t. It really is that simple. Why then, do so many have trouble making decisions, or spend their time on less important decisions? A few thoughts, if I may.

Focus on first things first. Seems obvious, doesn’t it? But many don’t. In the hustle of the day we all too often forget about priorities. Critical strategic and operational decisions should be at the top of your To Do list every single day, and time should be specifically allocated to think, process, and make those decisions.

Accountability trumps ambiguity. Holding people responsible for their role in decision making keeps the decision at the top of their To Do list. Don’t let it, or the phone, grow moss. If someone is late with a deliverable that contributes to an important decision, remind them quickly.

Analyze, then act decisively. Yes, you must analyze, but don’t overdo it. Gen. Colin Powell (ret.) gave a briefing on leadership that has become a cult classic, I am sure many of you have seen it. Look again at slide 16…

“Part I: "Use the formula P=40 to 70, in which P stands for the probability of success and the numbers indicate the percentage of information acquired.”

"Part II: "Once the information is in the 40 to 70 range, go with your gut."

"Don't take action if you have only enough information to give you less than a 40 percent chance of being right, but don't wait until you have enough facts to be100 percent sure, because by then it is almost always too late. Today, excessive delays in the name of information-gathering breeds "analysis paralysis." Procrastination in the name of reducing risk actually increases risk.”

I once saw Gen. Powell present this brief and on this point he made a remarkable statement. Let me paraphrase it here: At 40% of available information you have enough to make non-critical decisions. As the importance of the decision escalates so too should the percentage of available information. When you have 70% of the available information you have enough to make the most important and critical decisions of your life.

Speed and agility go hand in hand. Making good decisions is just the first step. Good organizations do not stop there. They execute with laser-like focus and retain the ability to adapt quickly to changing environments. Accountability is the key to the former and good intelligence and role definition is the key to the latter.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Article Published in FMJ

If you are a member of the International Facility Management Association (IFMA) then check out my article on metrics programs on page 50 of the July/August issue of the Facility Management Journal, or see it at .

Monday, July 16, 2007

Recipe for Successful Change

There are many formulas for leading successful change. If you are in the change agent role just make sure you pick which formula you will use thoughtfully, and then use it consistently. Nothing will increase ambiguity in a change effort like a methodology that does not seem well thought out or anchored.

Like I said, there are many formulas, but there is one that I find especially effective. Like most things that work well, it is simple.

Create a sense of urgency: Without an over riding reason to go through the effort and pain that significant change requires, most organizations will never get there despite their best intentions. Without urgency, it is too easy to delay and focus on putting out the fires that pop up every day, or to compromise inappropriately when hard choices must be made. Good leaders know how to recognize, create, and use crises in order to accomplish significant positive change.

Remove barriers to success: Many of these barriers will be in the minds of the organization, but a few may be in the seats. You have to know how to identify the sources of low performance and then be willing to go after them. Your number one job as the leader is to remove obstacles to the success of others. Make sure they have the tools, training, and support they need – help THEM succeed.. That’s your job!

Recruit champions: It is important that you have organizational leadership as part of the group of champions. They, after all, control the resources you need. But you will need other champions as well, people who are influencers but not in the executive suite. Do not be seduced by charismatic leaders who have energy and appeal, but lack knowledge, credibility, or constituency. Finally, be sure to recruit new champions along the way as the initiative continues, especially if it is a long-running effort. Doing so will bring new ideas, new energy, and help buffer against natural attrition.

Build internal momentum: Start by building coalitions of people at all levels of the organization and from a cross section of stakeholders. Give them the freedom to operate outside of normal systems and channels, and give them a clear plan that has already been endorsed by executive management. Then, go grab some low hanging fruit as a way of getting started. These short term wins are important to building momentum and energy, and demonstrating credibility.

Prove that change works: Here’s that “metrics” word again. You will need them to establish baselines and to track and demonstrate the improvements the change effort is delivering. Remember, data is king. Use it to communicate results, identify opportunities, and manage priorities. Additionally, think about the sequencing of initiatives and stagger them so that a series of smaller projects finish while you are working on bigger projects that take more time. Those smaller successes help sustain momentum and credibility, and keep people engaged who might otherwise be sitting on the sideline.

Continue experimenting: Don’t be surprised when something goes wrong, it’s guaranteed to happen. Big change projects are complicated and it is unrealistic to expect all to go perfectly. Do not become disillusioned when it gets messy. Each problem represents learning and opportunity. Treat them that way and you will serve the process and your team well.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Talking to the C-Suite? Then Speak Their Language!

One of the issues I typically see PM’s and FM’s struggling with is getting C-Suite buy-in to project and operational proposals. Yet, when you ask those who reside in the C-Suite they often respond that the information presented to them fails to address their concerns and needs. What then, are their information needs?

Understanding the priorities within your own C-Suite is critical to answering that question. Then you can decide what tactics support those priorities and craft your communications to articulate your project in a manner that clearly identifies its implications to those needs. Generally speaking, the list of things C-Suite executives care about is actually fairly short:

Competitive Advantage
Customer Satisfaction
Risk Management

Put your project proposals and updates into these terms and your message will be heard and understood.

Monday, July 9, 2007

The Advantages of A Continuous Decision Making Cycle in Project Management

In case you haven’t noticed, the volume, speed, and quality of information you need to deliver successful projects continues to increase across all three dimensions. Why is it then that many of our projects are organized and managed as if they are static monoliths instead of the organic entities that they are? In any large project the risks of delivering tomorrow what you needed yesterday is significant. The speed of change in today’s business world often times means that by the time you finish a project the environment and needs that originally justified it have changed. If you have not adapted the project to the new needs as they evolve, then you will at best strand some portion of your investment at project completion. If it is a large project then you can count on the stranded portion being large as well (there’s that pesky “Law of Large Numbers” again!).

One management model that seeks to overcome this dilemma is Continuous Decision-Oriented Governance. In this model critical strategic issues are identified and continuously checked. Key project executives are responsible for conducting due diligence and making top level decisions that redirect the project while it is in progress. Best implemented with lean management teams, the executive team’s focus is on the “next” major issue/milestone, having made the mid-course corrections needed for the last and leaving tactical staff to implement those. Think of it as Just In Time decision making for the project process, but with the difference that it extends throughout the life of the project, not just the pre-construction or pre-implementation phase. In the end, this methodology can lead to an end result that supports current business needs and strategies instead of ones that are outdated at project completion.

The critical elements in this concept are information, analysis, and data-based decision making. It is a requirement that the proper tools (strategic plans, financial data, able analysis, partnered executives, etc.) be fully integrated and aligned in this approach. It puts a maximum premium on agile execution, resulting in a project that is managed from a business perspective, not a bricks and mortar perspective.

Finally, lest anyone think this sounds like a recipe for chaos and project anarchy, let me set the boundaries. This governance model is intended to work within the framework of well thought out project objectives and must continually adhere to those. The framework, however, should provide flexibility to allow the executive team leading the project room to maneuver, in order to adjust to changing business needs and take advantage of opportunities as they present themselves.