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.


  1. I cringe at the phrase "graying of the profession." In HR terms, it could, to some extent, be construed as discriminatory especially in the latest unemployment climate. I prefer your word, "maturation" if any.

    Having had the opportunity to visit many different offices lately, I am hoping those kids I have seen walking about with iPOD earplugs stuffed in their ears are listening to management books on tape or similar. I am hoping they will soon be ready to remove those earplugs and take that seat at the Board table before it is lost and all the work to obtain it is for naught.

  2. Point taken. I write in a colloquial manner without too much concern for the PC quotient. Thanks for the admonishment. I will be more attentive (but I'm not dying my

    Many share your concern about the future of FM. Check out the October 29 post. I think Dean Kashiwagi hit it on the head. FM will be professionalized, but future leaders may not come out of traditional tracks. There is a bit of buzz on this subject at the moment. Some will tell you that university fresh talent coming into the profession is formally educated but doesn't know much about "the boiler room." Others will tell you that FM continues to struggle to gain its place at the Board table because the executive talent is not there or has not been properly developed.

    I happen to believe that both are likely true, depending on who and where you are. I also believe that the need and expectations for strong executive leadership within FM is growing, putting pressure on the "system." The system will create its own solution and I strongly suspect Dean's prognosis is correct.

    Thanks for your input. Enjoy a great holiday season.