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Facility management: Leading through change

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Facilities management is as much about navigating employer-driven change, personal goal achievement, and market opportunity as building technical, managerial, and leadership prowess.

What does it all mean?

Through the years, facility managers have attended training classes or seminars that deliver the message: embrace change and be a change agent — you never know what is around the next corner or through the next door.

All of this is well and good, until you are on the receiving end of the change message. No matter how prepared you think you are it still takes some time to sink in -- the world you knew changed direction and you have a new path to navigate.

This seems to have become a regular occurrence in the facilities management world. Whether it is due to an economic downturn, corporate restructuring, product obsolescence, or process improvement, improving budget performance is table stakes.

Therein lays the challenge for facilities management professionals — the profession is rooted in the cost side of the ledger. How do facilities managers stay professionally relevant when the very resources needed to do their work are becoming scarce?

Lead from the front — bring the organization with you

The answer lies in the question — who else is better equipped to optimize a facility’s operation and cost profile than the professionals that operate it?

Facility managers know what is needed to drive efficiency and boost cost productivity. They also know it can be a challenge to satisfy many constituents: Internal customers who are concerned about what could change — will they have what they want, better yet, will they have what they need; facilities personnel and teams who are concerned about the changes for their customers and themselves; and the organization’s leadership, who is expecting the facilities manager to deliver the needed productivity. Having the organization’s best interest at heart is key.

Take a step back to consider the alternatives and possibilities.

Buildings don’t run on autopilot

Certainly, automated building systems provide a means to operate plant and infrastructure efficiently, but it also takes highly trained and competent operators, technicians and managers to keep the system tuned, aligned and optimized. Facilities management has evolved from keeping the buildings clean, compliant and relatively comfortable into Integrated Facilities Management (IFM), which has opened doors to facilities managers by broadening their responsibilities to include logistics, document generation and processing, food service, and in some instances, production or laboratory processes.

As facilities management services and responsibilities are bundled, it is paramount that facilities managers develop the leadership skills necessary to lead multidisciplinary teams.

A manager, defined by Merriam-Webster, is: “someone who is in charge of a business, department, etc.,” and “a person who has commanding authority or influence.”

While most facilities managers might not have commanding authority, facilities managers can develop influence. Influence is created by having knowledge, meeting commitments, nurturing relationships, displaying good judgment and being a catalyst.

Utilizing influence comes with responsibility — being responsible to the same constituency that is in need of facilities management leadership. Facilities managers by nature experience a high degree of change; it is the nature of the job. By using their experience and leadership skill, they can help their broader organizations transform.

Gardner is a member of the International Facility Management Association’s San Diego chapter and is the founder of FM&O Advisors, a facilities management and operations firm that creates real-world solutions through planning, execution, and excellence. His facilities management and operations expertise was crafted at Gen-Probe Inc., Invitrogen Corp., and Pfizer Inc. prior to the formation of FM&O. Gardner holds a bachelor’s from San Diego State University and an MBA from the University of Pittsburgh.

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