Monday, March 26, 2012

The Magic of Doing One Thing At A Time

Tony Schwartz has a great blog post at HBR on how multi-tasking is not always such a good thing.  Good stuff and I'm a believer.  It's more than longing for "the good old days," it's about being able to maximize the impact of our time.  Check out ....

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Agile FM

You hear a lot these days about “agile” project management.  This term is generally used by IT project managers to describe software development and system roll out projects.  The general sense is that agility improves project outcomes by valuing open collaboration, speed of process, and transparency.  While “Agile Project Management” is an important and valuable tool in the PM context, even in non-IT environments, I do not believe this limited scope should be taken as the definition, or necessarily even the goal of what we might call “Agile FM.”

Given FM’s scope of responsibilities and today’s business climate with limits on capital resources, changing priorities, new competencies and more, it is important that FM be agile in the way it approaches its responsibilities and delivers services.

At a recent meeting I heard what I think is a very good articulation of an agile organization, and I think it can be directly applied to the FM function in nearly any enterprise.

Become More Efficient at Everything We Do
Efficiency is key to optimizing work processes in a manner that improves speed, quality, cost, and customer satisfaction.  The greater the gain in any of these dimensions the more efficient a process is.  Efficiency is not always about speed, rather it is about the time and/or cost of the process relative to the quality of outcome.  Anything you do to improve the quality in those dimensions makes it more efficient.

Aside from providing better outcomes to a process, improved efficiency also delivers another benefit – opportunity.  The financial and human resources freed up by more efficient processes are available for application to other areas.  The accumulated savings of multiple efficiency gains can be deployed against other processes or problems.  In effect, the organization self-funds improvement activities.   Continued over time this behavior will develop into a culture that thrives on innovating solutions and creating new opportunities.

Accelerate Transformations
Accelerating the pace of transformation provides a needed sense of urgency to help overcome resistance to change, and supports the development of favorable expectations.   This cannot happen without a focused plan and executive sponsorship that demonstrates steady commitment to transformation processes. 

Transformation is often about simplifying, creating clear pathways through complex systems and processes.  When thought of this way transformation doesn’t seem so daunting.  At its base it is about making work, and therefore life, easier.  Who doesn’t want that?  But initial changes that improve processes and systems are not the goal.  True transformation changes organizations in ways that encourage and support future transformation.  In many ways it is about creating a new culture, one that accepts constant change throughout the organization without paralyzing it.  By leveraging the existing culture and organizational values a new culture of transformation is established and nurtured.

Two final points on transformation:  First, this new culture will need to be nourished.  Abandoning efforts to validate it after the first few wins risks a quick, and likely painful regression.  Secondly, a key deliverable of any transformation initiative should be the building in of change tolerance to all core processes.  This enables the kind of continuing change that keeps moving the organization forward.

Illuminate Trade-Offs, Make Decisions
Agile organizations are by definition constantly evolving organizations.  That means that there is a never ending process of discovery, investigation, option analysis, decision making, implementation, and feedback. 

The importance of objective trade-off analyses cannot be over stated - the commitment to objectivity is a critical part of agility.  It places less value on assumptions and personal power and more value on transparency and fact-based evaluation.  In the quest for objectivity there is empowerment that supports the asking of tough questions, the kind that might not get asked if the security of that value is not present.  Answers to those questions present and illuminate facts that might not be known if the questions were never asked.

Once the objective analysis presents clearly defined options it is time to decide.  The speed of decision making is important because it helps maintain or diminishes momentum.  On the other side of the coin, the speed of decision making can be largely affected by organizational risk tolerance.  Some organizations have a culture that allows making decisions as quickly as possible, accepting that there is more risk of a wrong decision than if waiting until more facts are available.  Organizations with this model tend to be entrepreneurial in style if not practice.  Other organizations may require nearly all or all known available information before making decisions.  These tend to be long-view oriented and institutional in nature.

Generally, it is better to make decisions at the earliest possible moment in order to accelerate the benefit of those decisions.  Organizations that fall into the latter category mentioned above, those that require greater amounts of information and never ending analysis before making decisions, handicap themselves in the effort to be agile and nimble.  Unless they are in a very protected class they run the risk of analyzing themselves into irrelevancy, or worse.  Today’s world does not coddle those who cannot look, decide and act with precision and speed.

Start Now – Don’t Wait
Agility is about movement and momentum.  Waiting to start only perpetuates the present and loses the opportunity of the future.  Once you’ve made the decision (there’s that word again) then get to it.  Don’t become paralyzed by planning, scheduling, convincing and all the other reasons you could think of to wait until you can get it perfect.  Don’t worry about perfect.  Worry about getting started…now.  Start small if you must, but start now.  Start with small projects, celebrate success, build the culture, change your future.   Develop momentum - you can worry about perfection later.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Fundamental Changes to the Workplace

Changes in multiple domains are combining to fundamentally influence the workplace.  You can expect this trend to gain momentum as fiscal health strengthens and companies begin to deploy capital on projects that they see as positioning themselves for the future.  While not all organizations will deal with all of these factors, rare will be the one that escapes change.

Factors Driving Workplace Changes
Recent economic experience has increased the already existing emphasis on improving process outcomes.  As momentum shifts to a broader recovery companies will increase the flow of capital to projects and initiatives in this domain.  Attention to service delivery processes, supply chain management, and increasing customer satisfaction are high on the list.  The Quality – Cost – Time mantra of process improvement will be exercised in every nook and cranny of operations.

The expanding influence of technology growth in FM is being felt as interoperability between disparate systems allows FM’s to collect, analyze and act on increasing amounts of data.  Integrated Workplace Management Systems (IWMS) are now linked hand in hand with more traditional FM technologies such as CAFM, Building Automation  Systems (BAS) and others.

The well documented generational shift continues as Millennials now make up 34% of the American work force, moving beyond 50% within the next five years.   With these new workers come new desires, values and needs.  They have leverage and they know it, and are not afraid to use it.  They care more about Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and work life balance, and less about the normal rules and trappings of the traditional workplace than their older coworkers, and are voting these values with their employer choices.

Finally, office space is shrinking as described in recent independent CoreNet and JLL studies.  Again, multiple forces are at work here.  Financial constraints, the effects of a virtual and mobile work force, increased use of collaboration technology, and different value sets of the aforementioned younger work force are all contributing to this shift.

What Should FM’s be Doing?
The demands on FM to adapt to the increased speed, complexity, flexibility and innovation of today’s workplace are as numerous and pressing as the factors driving the changes.  There is much to do and it must be done in an era of fiscal constraint where dollars, people and other resources are usually far less than we might suspect we need.  That means we must find a way and that we must help lead the dialogue that will result in resource decisions. 

Actions that support strategic change in both FM internal operations and in support of other business units include,

  • Deploy technologies that streamline 24/7 work globally
  • Stay informed on the growing body of “evidence based design” knowledge
  • Modify space entitlement policies to reflect changing fiscal and work style realities
  • Deliver work spaces that meet new needs and expectations
  • Manage real estate portfolios to limit financial risk
  • Envision, promote and implement FM productivity and quality improvements
  • Utilize best practices in re-designing work processes (Lean, Six Sigma, Continuous Improvement)
  • Understand corporate KPI’s and develop direct linkages using the language of the business
  • Recruit, train and mentor the next generation of FM professionals

And oh yeah…keep the boiler room running at higher efficiency and lower cost.

How Do We Do All of That?
First and foremost we do it by investing in ourselves.  We find ways to increase the knowledge and skill sets of FM staff from the bottom to the top of the organization; providing challenges, education and training.  We do it by expecting the best of our people and supporting them as they reach to meet the expectations.

We do it by increasing our business sophistication and credibility, leading to enhanced opportunities to dialogue with and influence executive leadership.  We do it by being objective in our analysis of capabilities and needs, and in taking necessary steps to improve the overall performance and value of FM.

We do it by being aware of the changes around us and ahead of us, by translating them into FM risks and opportunities, and by creating solutions that improve not only the FM domain but which also serve to improve the enterprise.

We do it by leading.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Facility Manager Juggler Videos

In the early 1990's (how long ago does that seem?) Steelcase produced a series of videos on the daily trials, tribulations, and triumphs of facility managers.  They are a bit dated now obviously, but still some of the funniest and truest explanations of the "Art of FM" around.   Here is the first in the series.  Enjoy.

Friday, March 2, 2012

CoreNet Global Study Predicts Shrinking Office Space

A new CoreNet Global report predicts that the average U.S. office employee space will shrink to 100 sq. ft. or less in the next five years.  The report cites growing collaboration work styles and economic pressures as the main drivers behind this trend, which is moving U.S. occupancies closer to the European standard.

This type of fundamental shift will affect virtually every facet of the design, construction and facility management industries.  Organizations that go this route will be faced with developing new or enhanced workplace policies, including an increased emphasis on office etiquette and behavior management.  FM's will be in the forefront of these changes and in some ways will be most affected.  Designers and builders will complete projects and move on to the next one, while FM's and their HR and operational cohorts will be left to live in, work in, and manage the new work space.

While some will make the point that these new workplace standards fit the work styles of younger generations now becoming predominant in the workforce it is also true that not every type of work will lend itself easily to this change.  Concentrated cognitive work, for example, requires greater visual and acoustic privacy than other forms of work.  In these types of organizations the spatial changes potentially have deep implications to the quality of work product.  In all cases, the importance of thoughtful consideration, function-centric design and accommodation, and well managed socialization of the change process will be essential.

Not to be overlooked are implications to the CRE industry.  A true contraction of space requirements of this magnitude can be expected to affect vacancy rates, project activity, and capital investment in new inventory.

Read the CoreNet Global press release here.