Monday, December 20, 2010


The Future of FM Is Up to Us
The realities of today naturally influence our vision for tomorrow and ability to attain it.  Although often painful at the moment these realities are guiding us toward a reshaped future that will be more efficient, which will demand and reward creative solutions, and which requires each of us to accept responsibility for our share of the outcome.  We have an opportunity to leverage the conditions as they now exist and dictate what we will make of them, and that is what we are in the process of doing on a daily basis.

FM’s often complain about not being heard and thus having to be in reactive mode most of the time.  When I hear these comments I often wonder how much FM is pushing the issue and how much we are to blame ourselves for being “comfortable” with the status quo.  Just as in any other area of life, if we do not like the current reality then we must accept our role in changing it.  Let’s not fall into the category described by the famous philosopher Pogo when he said, “We have met the enemy and he is us."

Fine, you say.  How do we do that?  How do we assume our role, accept accountability and move the FM agenda and profession forward?

We start by being the best we can be, by challenging ourselves more than others do, and by being thought leaders inside our organizations. 

We start by refusing to accept the status quo in ourselves. 

My challenge to each of you for 2011 is this:

  • Demand more of yourself than you do of others
  • Demand more of your staff than you have
  • Learn what your CEO’s top three concerns are and address them directly
  • Create solutions that inspire and amaze
  • Lead by example with integrity and purpose
  • Give yourself away by mentoring others
  • Make the commitment first, then figure out how to accomplish it. 

Congratulations on a successful year and enjoy the holiday season with those you love.  It is a special time of year; make sure you enjoy it and capture its memories.  I will be back in January with new FM musings.

Sunday, December 12, 2010


Technology Must Support Increased Efficiency and Productivity
Coming out of the financial downturn companies will capitalize technologies that directly affect core FM concerns; improving space efficiency, reducing energy costs, reducing the cost and time to build, and increasing productivity.

Previous posts discussed the increasing frequency and importance of Building Information Modeling (BIM) and Integrated Project Delivery (IPD) in the capital projects arena.  The efficiencies and gains derived from implementing BIM and IPD on new projects should not be under estimated.  New projects, however, represent a very small fraction of the built environment.  The existing built environment represents a much larger opportunity and risk. 

For those not building new facilities the emphasis is clearly on increasing utilization and efficiency of existing assets.  Many CEO’s are challenging unit heads and FM to increase headcount and revenue within the existing physical footprint and with limited re-capitalization.  This is driving renewed emphasis on Alternative Workplace Strategies (AWS) while prioritizing the smart use of technologies that increase productivity and collaboration.

It is important that significant changes required by these initiatives be properly socialized within the organization to assure alignment with corporate goals and culture, and to speed acceptance.  It is likely that policy changes will be required, that fact alone elevating the discussion.  Recent conversations with peers across the profession make it clear that many are dealing with these issues.  For example, underutilized office space represents an asset that can be redeployed to increase collaboration, but such changes cannot be made unilaterally.  It is likely that space entitlement policies and even key personalities are involved and must be accommodated or changed through a studied process that discovers, informs and advises decision makers.  Only then can the right policies, projects and protocols be put in place.

Executing the project successfully, however, is just the beginning. Technology systems will be expected to collect and dashboard data, making understanding of collaboration and productivity metrics readily available.

This last is a key change for most FM’s.  We are used to and comfortable with measuring space and reporting its efficiency and utilization in terms of area, headcount, units produced and revenue.  Some of us even measure collaboration and the tools for both empowering it and measuring it are now beyond the infancy stage.  Most FM’s, however, will simply stare at you when you ask them how their FM metrics measure productivity across the entire organization.  For many of us that will be the next frontier.  We are, after all, in the business of supporting business.  Everything we do is pointed toward helping our organizations be more efficient and productive but most of us have been measuring only one of those domains.

Productivity SLA’s and metrics are the other half and they are waiting for your attention.

Monday, December 6, 2010


Sustainability Is Moving Along the Maturity Curve
Sustainability is maturing beyond the “new build” emphasis that characterized it not so long ago.  Today, the emphasis is on developing corporate sustainability policies and protocols to improve behavior and outcomes while working to strengthen new build rating systems and credentials.
The growing interest and effort behind developing net zero buildings is placing a premium on the integration of design and operation, and recognizes that a building’s affect on the environment continues over its entire life span, the sum of the whole being several factors greater than first environmental cost.  Key strategies in this maturation include green leasing, supply chain accountability, making data transparent and possibly a bit of social engineering.

The Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) continues to evolve but is only one example of maturing sustainability regimens.  In August of this year the UK Green Building Council published the results of its latest review with members as it gears up for a GRI update in 2011.  The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program continues to refine its credentials and provide market-niche specific certifications.  In whole, these and similar transitions in other protocols indicate a continuing trend toward knowledge specialization with the goal of driving sustainability consciousness deeper into the built environment psyche.

An interesting evolution to watch is the increasing use and effect of visible building performance data.  Important to operators because visibility makes operating efficiency transparent, and therefore important to them personally as well as organizationally, it also has the potential to broaden its reach.  Buildings with good sustainability resumes command higher rents.  As technology makes information more visible, however, it will not only be owners and operators who see it.  Occupants will be able to compare energy performance of other occupants in the building.  This visibility has some peer pressure potential and most certainly will encourage lessees to include occupant energy profiles on their lease shopping list.

Monday, November 29, 2010


We are at a very interesting crossroads, where today’s realities intersect with and influence our ability to achieve our vision for tomorrow.  This sort of intersection is not rare, of course, as it happens on an ongoing basis.  Every once in a while, however, the constantly shifting nexus undergoes a fundamental or at least notable shift.  And that is where I believe we find ourselves now.  The economic challenges of the day affect virtually every government, business and family around the globe and each must independently decide how it will best respond to protect itself and enable its future. 

In one sense this seems a bit like watching the never ending dance of cells through a microscope as they circle, collide, combine and divide.  What results may be predictable or exciting, depending on the conditions that have been established.  As we begin to work our way back to a “new normal” on the back side of the global economic trouble I expect we will agree that we have experiences that fall into both categories.  Out of this, however, emerges a few noticeable trends, or in some cases a new emphasis on old patterns.

Economic Constraints Will Continue to Shape FM
As noted above, the financial realities of the day will continue to influence governments and organizations for some years.  Said another way, it may not have taken long for us to dig the hole we are in, but it is going to take a while for us to climb out.  In this environment not everything is as it seems on the surface and a discerning eye is needed.

We are living in an era of capital ambiguity where interest rates are historically low yet access to money is not the given it once was.  That said, many of those who can get it are, taking advantage of low rates to stockpile capital.  Not all who do so are using it, however.  This may simply be opportunistic behavior, in some cases it may be preparatory to later moves.  Intel offers a good case in point, having stockpiled capital to the tune of $20 Billion U.S.  For nearly two years Intel sat on its growing reserve before recently announcing a set of acquisitions and large capital projects.  In this case, Intel appears to have been taking advantage of the low cost of money while waiting for the market to signal appropriate deployment strategies.[1]

That is the key isn’t it?  Hoarding cash (as some companies still appear to be doing) is not a good thing, but doing something wrong with it can be even worse.  Prudence suggests waiting for the market to declare need before committing capital to projects and initiatives.  Given the consumer-driven nature of many large economies, that serves to complicate the recovery equation. Only time will tell if those still sitting on the sidelines with cash are actually in the game, or if they will be content to sit and count. Those decisions, however, contribute to recovery speed, momentum and force, which in turn have a direct effect on FM. 

A key question remains:  How will the capital environment affect FM development, technology capitalization, and ability to meet business needs?  For those who have resource and opportunity the answer is likely to be positive and possibly even energizing.  For those without access to capital, however, the realities of today are a cloud over the visions for tomorrow.

Today, “low cost” is a serious advantage in virtually all respects.  Buyers of FM services are on the hunt for value at aggressive price points and this emphasis is driving changes in the supply chain.  For several years globalization was feeding a business model that relied on a smaller number of provider alliances which aggregated services under one alliance partner, as opposed to multiple providers and contracts.  While this trend has been in place for some time the financial pressures of the day have allowed FM’s to improve the value proposition in these relationships.  Maintaining quality in the face of cost and revenue pressures is the daily regimen of these providers.  Smart buyers understand the pressure on their suppliers and require ongoing quality audits and performance benchmarking.

This is the first installment of a multi-part post covering FM trends. 

[1] PBS Nightly Business Report, October 25, 2010, Intel CFO Stacey Smith on the Company Cash Stash

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Working My Way Back to Work

The thing about taking time away from work is that eventually you have to go back. That’s where I am today, too few hours separating me from a wonderfully refreshing break and my return to “normal” life. The break has been good and it gave me a chance to muse about a few FM-related things. I know…really? Yes, really. You didn’t think I was daydreaming the entire time up there on the mountaintop, did you?

In no particular order here are a few thoughts from the break:

  • There is no good time to take a vacation. Once you are away, however, there is no bad time to take one. That statement is about priorities and perspective, I think. Funny how a few days of clear air can clear your mind and rearrange your priorities. That’s a good thing.
  • This vacation happened to occur as the year is coming to an end, all too soon if you ask me. It is a good time to reflect back on the achievements of the year and look ahead to next year’s slate. Evaluating the past and re-setting personal priorities is an important activity. I’ve done that and already begun making changes in how I allocate time.
  • Many of us are too focused on the immediate crisis, meaning that we are consumed by the “tyranny of the urgent” and do not engage enough on broader issues with a broader audience. Guilty as charged, I’ve made that one of my reality checks for the coming year.
  • There is an interesting dialog in the profession about the maturation and/or decline of the FM industry as we have known it over the last thirty years. Some say that FM is finally getting its seat at the Board table while others believe FM is being commoditized as a transactional activity. I suspect that both are true depending on individual organizational dynamics. On the whole, however, I am enthusiastic about the trend toward FM’s elevated role.
  • At the recent WW2010 in Atlanta a spotlight was placed on the average age of the practicing FM. On one hand the graying of the profession is an issue to be dealt with. On the other hand this talent gap represents opportunity. New blood is coming into the profession with new passions, ideals and energy. That’s a good thing. My mentors trusted me when I was learning the ropes, and I think the new batch of “kids” will do just fine, thank you.
  • That said, the old world can still teach the new world a thing or two. Organizations need to do more to ensure that hard learned lessons of the past are not lost. There is great value in the war stories we all have from our careers. One of the “gray beard’s” most important functions now is to build bridges and mentor younger FM’s.
  • Sustainability is well on its way to being normalized. The hype about “green” continues and can still sometimes verge on the laughable, but the fact is that smart sustainability is just plain good business. Good sustainability practices are now expected as the norm and FM’s are most often on point.
  • The effects of our recent financial history are going to be with us a while. It didn’t take long for the hole to be dug, but getting out of it is going to take a while. The realignment of economies as they work their way back will create positives and negatives for FM’s. Make sure your eyes are open and be prepared to take full advantage of the opportunities.
  • Alternative Workplace Solutions (AWS) are gaining in prominence but must be tailored. There is no “template” that works for all. FMs who undertake AWS programs must address it as a significant change management initiative, complete with all of the support systems for staff you would expect with any other large change.
  • Many CEO’s will look to reposition and grow their companies during the economic recovery without adding significant real estate and operating liability, especially in service sectors. This will put increased emphasis on space efficiency and AWS programs, and may further complicate the commercial real estate outlook.
  • I have been impressed of late by the number of FM’s operating as independent consultants at a high level. With each economic downturn some have been forced into “free agency,” but this time it seems to have much greater positive results on the whole. It is a trend to watch.

That’s it for this week. Those of you in the U.S. enjoy the Thanksgiving holiday and take a few days to relax. Hunker down with a bit of egg nog, a fireplace and some of grandma’s turkey. I will be back next week with a new post and maybe some news about a new site.

Friday, November 19, 2010

In Case You've Been Wondering . . .

The blog is still alive and well.  Since WW2010 in Atlanta I've been on hiatus, taking in the beauty of the high Sierra.  To prove it, here are a few of the photos from last week's visit to Yosemite.  The blog will resume later this weekend.  Thanks to all who offer encouragement, and a "I have no idea" smile to those who ask where I find the time.

Enjoy the pics, I sure enjoyed taking them.

Yosemite Falls

El Capitan

Half Dome at Sunset

Mariposa Grove Sequoia's

Mariposa Grove

Olmstead Point at Sunset

Lake Tenaya

The Valley from Tunnel Viewpoint

Yosemite Falls from the Valley Floor