Monday, February 27, 2012

Bamboo Architecture

Check out this YouTube video of Columbian Architect Simon Velez.  Amazing work using bamboo as the construction material of choice.

The No Asshole Rule in One Company: A Simple Decision-Tree

Simply too good to pass up, here is a reblog from Bob Sutton's Work Matters site.   What I like about Bob's work is that it is common sense and no nonsense.  He tells it like it is and he is almost always right on.  

I recently posted an updated version  of People and Places that Use The No Asshole Rule.  In that spirit, a group of students in my class Organizational Behavior: An Evidence-Based Approach did a little case study of how a local start-up (with about 150 people now) is sustaining a civilized workplace.  I liked this simple decision-tree as it captures much of the essence of how to enforce the rule -- assuming they actually use this rather than just talk about it!
Jerk Decision Tree

Customer, Serve Yourself!

I recall many years ago when I was a new employee at a major financial institution and my boss and I were wrapping up an east coast trip.  More or less on the spur of the moment he decided to reroute our trip home through Chicago to check on a rumored real estate deal.  When we got there we learned much to our dismay that the deal was done.  A long term lease for the entire top floor of a new high rise in the loop area … to house a regional data center.  To say this is one of the more nonsensical decisions I’ve ever seen would be true, but it certainly isn’t the only one. 

As a result of this particular event a new corporate policy was implemented requiring that the Corporate Real Estate and Facilities group lead all real estate and development projects.  Shocking, I know.  Previously our group had been a service available to senior management in different regions.  Some used us, some did not.  After this incident choice was removed and the organization got serious about managing its real estate processes.

What is the point of this story?  It is this: Customers have a responsibility to make responsible decisions.  Consultants have a responsibility to assist them and hopefully, to help them avoid these kinds of egregious errors.  While both customer and consultant share responsibility I believe it is the customer who carries the larger burden.

Customers know more about themselves, their strengths and weaknesses than outsiders do.  Consultants can investigate, analyze and suggest cures; but it is the customer who makes the choices.  They decide which consultant to engage, how diligent to be in the process, how objective they will be, and how they will respond to advice and input.  Customers do a disservice to themselves when they shortchange any of these because they didn’t get the answer they expected or wanted, or don’t think the effort involved is worth it.  If the initiative is not worth your effort to do correctly then it certainly is not worth engaging consultants in the first place. 

Intelligent customers understand the environment they work in, what is needed, and what is not needed.  They make fact-based decisions and are candid with themselves first and foremost.  Intelligent customers buy smart, hire smart, design smart, and execute in smart fashion.  In other words, intelligent customers make better decisions and execute better because they know more, have well-honed protocols and standards, and require adherence.

While this story is about a real estate and development project it could just as well have been about deciding whether or not to build a new factory, launch a new product, or any other business decision.  Knowing your requirements, their drivers, what risks and mitigations are involved and a hundred other things are important.  As FM’s we are often in the customer seat as we acquire services to meet our organizational needs.  Are you a smart customer?  Do you know what the requirements really are?  Do you know where the levers are and under what circumstances they should be exercised?  Do you know what your internal customers are looking for, what their business plans are, what frustrates them about your operation?  Do you know the strategic direction and tactics of your enterprise and are your goals and processes aligned with them?

You are an FM.  You serve internal customers.  You are also a customer yourself and every service, product or project you acquire has a pass through effect to your internal customers.  Your smart customer behavior has a direct effect on the health of the enterprise. 

Serve yourself well so you can better serve others.  Be a smart customer.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Five Most In Demand Jobs in FM Today

Kudos to Ashley Halligan  for her article on the five jobs most in demand in today's FM world.  Reading the list one quickly understands that what has always been the heart of FM is still the heart of FM - making buildings work.  While there is much talk about FM's ascendance to the board room the heart of the profession remains with the details of operating and managing space.  Today that requires different skill sets than it once did, with an emphasis on technology and data.  Good stuff, Ashley.  Read it here.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Applying Lean Six Sigma to Facilities Management - Pt. 2

Two Disciplines with Common Goals Combine to Improve Operations and Profitability

This is the second and final installment on applying Lean Six Sigma in Facilities Management organizations.  Last week's post defined Lean and Six Sigma and discussed their histories.  This week we look at how the two disciplines can be integrated and how one FM organization used Lean Six Sigma to solve a long standing problem.

Combining Lean and Six Sigma
The advantage of combining Lean and Six Sigma is in simultaneously improving the speed of work (Lean) and the quality of work (Six Sigma).  This dual-purposed approach integrates initiatives to improve process efficiency and effectiveness as measured by quality, speed and cost.  Critically important is the vision and leadership of senior management.  Without visible commitment from the top Lean Six Sigma risks succumbing to the pressures that endanger all change management initiatives.  For the initiative to be successful the attention to it must be consistent and long lived.

While both Lean and Six Sigma take a customer first approach the perspectives are slightly different.  It is important that a combined program make customer driven requirements, specifications and expectations a pre-eminent part of enterprise culture.  This is not always easy to do and it should be expected that there will be challenges.  Old attitudes must be changed and operational protocols adjusted.  Services that once focused on cost reduction alone while maintaining an acceptable level of quality must now deliver customer driven results of higher quality with lower cost.  Functional or vertical boundaries must take on open characteristics so that cross-functional improvements can reach the breadth of the enterprise.  Attaining this will mean a fundamental analysis and streamlining of every process involved and a willingness to let the facts and data take you where they will without dilution by old issues of turf, inter-departmental competition and the like.

Goals of Lean Six Sigma
Because they are both quality initiatives the goals of Lean and Six Sigma also have much in common.  They strive to increase the importance of customers throughout the value chain by taking a customer focus on process improvement.  Further they strive to drive these changes throughout an enterprise both vertically and horizontally.  The result is that a successful Lean Six Sigma organization is attuned to and indeed driven by customer requirements, dictating a unified and synchronized provision of goods and services in a manner that reduces or eliminates the normal friction of business.

Eliminating waste, streamlining and synchronizing processes across organizational boundaries, and making objective decisions based on hard data are the hallmarks of successful initiatives.  While Kaizen seeks to make incremental changes that result in immediate improvement which often come from front line workers, Six Sigma looks to institutionalize and maximize gains.  Both seek to change corporate culture in fundamental ways.

Implementation Case Study
Shared services organizations are good candidates for Lean Six Sigma programs.  As service organizations they serve internal customers but never the less have great leverage on the corporate bottom line.  Facilities management is nearly always the second largest cost center on a balance sheet and IT is also a giant.  In many shared service organizations these two reside under the same leadership, presenting an opportunity to join forces to improve the quality, speed and cost of services to the larger organization.  Such was the case when the Facilities and IT groups of a mid-sized company teamed up to tackle a vexing problem.

For years the two groups had struggled with aligning data center operations.  One was responsible for providing and operating the physical infrastructure, the other for equipping and managing data center operations that served the global enterprise.  Frequently there were disconnects in project planning and communication.  The key individuals in the two groups, however, had good relationships and jointly recognized the opportunity to investigate and resolve this issue.  Working inside an organization with a strong commitment to Continuous Improvement and in which resources and tools were available gave these practitioners the tools and management commitment they needed to attack the problem.

Working as a joint team this group used a number of Lean and Six Sigma tools to identify, investigate, and analyze root causes.  Using an Ishikawa diagram (Fishbone) they brainstormed issues that contributed to the problem.  The X-Y Matrix tool then led them through a process of scoring and ranking the issues they identified, resulting in a short list of high value opportunities to affect change.  The Failure Mode and Effects Analysis (FMEA) identified individual failure modes, thereby informing the redesign of the processes involved.

As is usually the case these investigation and analysis tools identified causes that team members were already aware of.  In these cases the issues were quantified and documented to make them visible, understandable, and actionable.  As is also usually the case, this disciplined process of objective investigation revealed causes they were casually aware of without recognizing their full importance, or had been completely blind to.  One such key realization was that annual budgeting cycles for the two groups were not synchronized, with the facilities group being well down the budgeting pathway before the IT group began developing its annual project plans.  The obvious result was that facility budget decisions were made before IT projects and their implications to data center infrastructure were known.  As a result projects were often debated and delayed, preventing IT from providing services internal customers were waiting for. 

While this example may seem obvious that is often the point in these exercises.  The obvious becomes the norm, gets locked in and becomes a part of corporate rubric where it is all but forgotten except in times of stress.  But when discovered these issues can be dealt with and turned from red to green on the process status dashboard.

Keys to Success
As I mentioned this organization enjoyed a long standing commitment to Continuous Improvement and is familiar with Lean Six Sigma principles and protocols.  Over time these have become an ingrained part of their culture.  The environment established by leadership, the continuation of the commitment and the tools provided are all there.  But this is not an organization that has a large quality department.  Rather, Continuous Improvement has been made a requirement of all - it is largely a home grown bootstrap type of initiative. 
That said, tools have been provided.  Key individuals with Six Sigma experience from previous jobs have taken leadership roles as a collateral duty, functioning as coaches and mentors.  All staff in the entire shared services organization down to the first line supervision level (and often beyond) receives training in CI, Lean and Six Sigma courses taught on site by co-workers.  There are no consultants in sight.  Finally, CI project teams and their projects are periodically recognized.

The advantage of adopting Lean Six Sigma in your organization is that it provides a structured set of methodologies and tools which allow you to identify and remove obstacles.  While it is a disciplined approach it is not complicated and need not require a unique set of resources.  Indeed, the best results come from within based on commitment and perseverance. 

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Applying Lean Six Sigma to Facilities Management

Note:  This is the first installment of a two part series on Lean Six Sigma.

Two Disciplines with Common Goals Combine to Improve Operations and Profitability
More than ever before companies are under pressure to improve operational efficiency and bottom line profitability.  It does not matter if your business is manufacturing, service or knowledge based; all are under the same pressures.  Increasingly companies are turning to Lean Six Sigma as a strategic tool to achieve measurable improvements at the bottom line, reflecting the results of changes made throughout the value chain, including internal processes, suppliers and most importantly customers.  As a facility management professional you have likely been challenged to keep pace and may have wondered if and how these principles can be applied to your organization.  Rest assured that they can be, and that your staff and internal customers are up for the challenge.   As with any Continuous Improvement (CI) program strong leadership and commitment from the top is a requirement.  Your understanding, sponsorship, and support will help launch and sustain the effort.

What is Lean?
The term “Lean” was first used in reference to quality improvement systems when it was applied to the Toyota Production System (TPS) in the nineteen eighties.  Reduced to its basic premise, the system seeks to improve process efficiency and quality by increasing speed and eliminating waste.  Students of TPS will be familiar with the concepts and methodologies of Kaizen, the never ending effort to discover and eliminate all forms of waste in a process.  While originally developed during Japan’s post-WWII recovery to improve manufacturing quality and efficiency it is now routinely applied to all forms of work processes. 

It is a gross mistake, however, to think of Lean as a one-time project or improvement effort.  It is about establishing a new culture that pervades the organization and becomes a part of its very DNA.  It does not happen overnight, but it can (and should) happen more quickly than you might think.  This rapid adoption occurs best where strong leadership and commitment are obvious to all, setting an expectation.  Including Lean participation and results as a part of performance management signals to every worker at every level just how important it is.  Lean should be viewed as a journey.  One that can begin with early results to be sure, but those first positive outcomes should not lead to a declaration of victory and the sure to follow loss of interest.

Remember that the two prime points of focus in Lean are increasing speed and eliminating waste to improve overall quality and value.  To achieve this Lean practitioners take a customer view of every process and outcome, looking to improve customer value in terms defined by the customer.   Value stream mapping will identify areas for rapid waste elimination opportunities while flow management will optimize the sequence of process steps.  Allowing customers to control the pace of production through pull management systems that deliver products and services based on actual consumption need prevents the waste of over production and the transportation and storage activities associated with it. 

Lean’s attention to eliminating waste evaluates all areas of value provision.  Defects such as bad product or service quality and missed deadlines cause rework and increased resource utilization.  Over producing consumes materials and adds time cost as well as transportation and storage.  And lest you be thinking to yourself, “I see how that applies in a manufacturing environment but what effect does it have for my service organization?” think about the costs associated with your service quality shortfalls, the cost of bad information that leads to bad decisions, or the hidden costs of over-provisioning to provide contingencies that may never be required. 

Lean’s three basic components; Quality, Just-In-Time, and Stable Operations often require a different way of thinking about the work of the enterprise.  Where most are focused along functional lines Lean requires a re-focusing to improve efficiencies throughout the value stream.
What is Six Sigma?
Six Sigma is essentially a statistical regime that improves process effectiveness by reducing process variability and improving process yield.  It is a collection of various statistical and analysis tools which are used to discover process defects, and a set of methodologies for curing them.  The term “Six Sigma” represents 3.4 defects per one million opportunities.  Compare that to the average manufacturing quality level of three sigma, or 67,000 defects per million, and think about the human, material and opportunity costs associated with the difference between the two.  Not in manufacturing?  Then think about your service processes and the cost of your defects when applied to your corporation’s cost of producing its products or services.  Customers pay that cost and they know who provides the best quality at the best price.  Customers know where the value is.

Interestingly, the Six Sigma “movement,” if one can call it that, began in the eighties when Motorola took on the challenge of reducing product defects as a way of improving market position at about the time Toyota was inventing its Lean processes.  Like Lean, Six Sigma is best thought of as a philosophy and culture that is customer focused, in which the customer defines product or service specifications and the provider meets those needs with optimized efficiency.

The goals of Six Sigma are much the same as those of Lean but it approaches these from a statistical perspective.  Decreasing process complexity, reducing cycle time, and minimizing defects all contribute to increased customer satisfaction and all can be measured, mapped, analyzed and improved. 

All quality improvement programs include improving financial performance as a goal.  Six Sigma, however, uniquely equips an organization owing to its statistical nature and allegiance to empirical data and the scientific method of investigation.  Pre-project scoping analyses of financial benefits allow management to prioritize projects based on expected beneficial outcomes.  Continuing financial analysis during project evolution keeps the team focused on delivering bottom line results by fine tuning the project.  This also provides management a view into the project’s progress as it evolves, thereby improving and speeding intelligence on “ground level” operational developments.  At the same time it informs management the financial analyses educates the team members and allows them to recognize other opportunities for improvement.

Next week:  Combining Lean and Six Sigma, and a shared services implementation case study.