Facilities (Managing Assets)

My FM-Related Frustrations

Everyone has “stuff” that they find constantly annoying. In my personal life, that includes paperclips and wire coat hangers: I can’t ever get just one.

The list that follows identifies my perennial FM annoyances. Although the items on this list without doubt changes from day to day, I have little concern that the survival of these annoyances in my “maturing” consciousness validates their inclusion.

Windshield time — If your campus is large enough to have roads and parking lots, you may have noticed a few of your staff taking the longest possible route to get to their next project. This is non-productive time that is robbing your organization of labor hours you don’t have available to waste, but is a tough-to-crack cultural nut.

BIM objects — This refers to the “symbols” that manufacturers and others make available to your designer’s BIM geek to import into models that you need to use for years to come. I learned of a project that had dozens of different representations for drinking fountains. Come on; let’s establish some consistencies. After all, we FMers rely on them for many years. Speaking of which — how about accurately marrying as-builts with BIM information shifted to FM?

Communication Pot Holes: I — How frequently have you heard complaints from your frontline staff that say, “I’ve never heard of that”? Or conversely, have you ever not been told about stuff that is important to your frontline staff? Why are some middle managers communication potholes? Is it because knowledge is power?

How about our customers? Do we really communicate (two-way) with them? Or are we still acting as silos that pretend the other one doesn’t exist? It is more convenient to blame the other guy when we treat them like mushrooms!

Communication Pot Holes: II — Your department finally replaces that 20-year-old drinking fountain in the science building with a shiny new, ADA-compliant one. It looks great, except that the area around the new fountain needs paint to match the rest of the wall. It sits like that for weeks and months, leading the building occupants to assume (with some justification) that people in FM don’t care, even when we have a quarter-million-dollar CAFM system in place. Are they correct?

Training — We have never invested enough in training our people, from frontline staff to our senior managers. Then, when the chips and the budgets are down, we train them even less — at the very time when we should be training non-RIFed survivors even more! Effective training has an ROI, though tough to measure, that should not be ignored! Do we and our bosses, as senior managers, need more training as well? (I’ll resist answering that largely rhetorical question.)

Safety — Segue: We can never do enough training pertaining to safety. Some organizations and units do a marvelous job in providing a safe working environment. I have seen others where supervisors dummy-up personnel files, indicating the existence of training sessions that never occurred. Yet, as more demands are imposed on the workplace, the less investment some of us make into safety training and programs. Sometimes, procurement policies prohibit training by vendors/manufacturers, for fear of promoting unfair competition. So, we opt to avoid training altogether.

Inability to grasp changing priorities and needs — The nature of higher education is changing faster now than it ever has. At the same time, our buildings are being built with technologies that make them smarter than we might be. Plus, our internal and external stakeholders have access to boatloads of information regarding what we should be doing. The Internet tells us what other institutions are (or claim to be) doing in their FM organizations. Times are a-changing, and we can’t be stuck in a world made up of a baling wire, duct tape and index card mentality. Our FM world is not what it was — but unfortunately, some of us are desperately clinging to a questionable past.

Lack of professionalism at all levels within FM — In dress, behavior and communication skills, we keep shooting ourselves in the posterior when dealing with on- and off-campus professionals. Thank goodness for our professional associations that are working to get us to a higher level.

Efficiencies vs. effectiveness — We must continue to learn the difference between doing things cheaply and doing them right at the right time. It is important to pay attention to the budget, but it is equally important to recognize the impact of our decisions on the long-term welfare of the institution. We may not be the problem — it could be the old bureaucratic way of doing business that guides our bosses.

Perhaps you don’t agree with all items on this list. That’s cool. Prepare your own list and then deal with it. That would be even cooler.

This article originally appeared in the April 2014 issue of College Planning & Management.

About the Author

Pete van der Have is a retired facilities management professional and is currently teaching university-level FM classes as well as doing independent consulting. He can be reached at petevanderhave@msn.com.

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