Facilities Management: (a) boring, (b) boarding, or (c) on [the] Board? (C-Suite, for US viewers…)

by Paul Carder on July 29, 2013

Paul Carder writes:

Sometimes I hear a conversation, or read a tweet, and have to ‘fire some pixels’ at my screen! Maybe someone will read them out there in cyberspace….in (cyber)space nobody hears you scream…!!

Facilities Management is…  Quick answer: can sometimes be (a), should be (b)…and if you are at (c) it is probably due to the organisation and not its FM prowess. Why?

(a) Boring

Before I get a verbal beating from all my Facilities Management (FM) colleagues and friends, I’m not saying FM is “boring”….I am ‘in’ FM, so why would I say that? Boring can simply mean, you don’t want to hear about it; you ‘switch channels’.

So, with that clarification out the way….do you try to talk about FM with business leaders/managers? If you do, unless you are particularly attractive for some other reason (which, of course, some of you are), you’ll see that far-away gaze. Just think about the words leaving your mouth and entering the other party’s ear canal….facilities (last heard at reception: “sir, would you like to use the facilities? – they are just down the corridor, turn left…”). Or “cleaning” perhaps? Or “maintenance”…(starts thinking, I really need to get my boat out of the water and check the hull….eyes glaze….off into another world….”err, sorry…I was just daydreaming then…erm, could you say that again?” Lost….boring!

It’s not you, it’s me…. Not everyone is interested in the same things!

(b) Boarding

If your subject is not on the “Board” agenda (that’s the C-Suite my American friends)…you are just getting ‘on board’ with the Board. Or perhaps “boarding” that vessel that will take you there…to the place where you can talk to business leaders/managers without them drifting off.

If you are “boarding” then you have an invitation (or a ‘ticket to ride’ perhaps). You have said something to someone that has really made them think, and consider how what you said affects their business unit or responsibility.

You may have just started speaking a new language, wittingly or unwittingly – business language.

You may have hit a ‘hot button’ – it may be staff satisfaction, or difficulty with graduate recruitment, or achieving cross-functional collaboration, etc. It’s less likely to be cleaning, or maintenance, or even space planning. But all those things can be in the subconscious mind when considering ways to improve staff satisfaction, or making the workplace more attractive to potential employees.

(c) On [the] Board (or C-Suite)

Most FM leaders are ‘Boarding’ – on and off, as they momentarily attract the attention of senior business leaders, then get forgotten about!

If you are ‘on Board’ (or on ‘the’ Board/ C-Suite) you are in a small minority. If you made it there through FM, that minority is very small indeed. Most FM leaders in large corporate and government organisations are fortunate to get occasionally engaged with the Leadership Team, but do not expect to be ‘called up’ to join the Board.

We are very interested in what gets FM leaders to this level, and we investigated ‘what it means to be strategic’ at some length in our report for the RICS last year, Raising The Bar – enhancing the strategic role of Facilities Management.

My own view is that FM is part of a wider “Service Operations” requirement in most large organisations. You can read more about this, and our #SOCS “Service Operations Case Studies” project on it’s dedicated LinkedIn Group: http://www.linkedin.com/groups/Project-SOCS-Service-Operations-CASE-5093552/about

If you are ‘on Board’ it is likely that your ‘core business’ organisation has already recognised that FM has a strategic role – i.e., it makes a difference to the direction of the organisation. That may be due to its customer-facing role (e.g., in retail). Or, it may be due to an understanding that staff satisfaction is a key part of the value-chain to achieve higher business performance. If that is the case, we would especially like to hear from you – you probably have a leading case study for the #SOCS project. Is that you? if so please email: paul.carder@occupiersjournal.com

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