Maintenance & Operations (Managing the Physical Plant)
An Honest Assessment
- By Bruce A. Meyer
- April 1st, 2017
Every year budgets are
reviewed to track performance and
determine where the challenges lay
for the coming year. Typically, budgets don’t
get expanded, so operational groups have a
tendency to hunker down and focus on defending
rather than considering alternatives.
Prior to the budget discussion it is important
to assess all areas of your operations. What do you do well
and what do you need to improve? An honest assessment can be
extremely beneficial, but also controversial. Sometimes employees
can view it as a challenge to their personal performance. In reality,
the organization may need to be updated or reorganized; all scary
words! When performing the assessment, use data to support your
challenges and communications to your team, as well as establish
accountability indices. The data can be gathered internally or by an
outside company. When using an outside company, it can be very
beneficial to review and compare benchmarks that have been established
from each organization that has joined in on the data collection.
This data will help lead to the identification of goals for the
organization and foster a competitive environment for your team.
When reviewing budgets and staffing levels, pay particular attention
to openings caused by resignations and retirements. This is the
opportune time to reflect on the performance of the organization and
take a quick pause to be sure the organizational structure is evolving,
paying particular attention to exceeding your customer’s needs. In
other words, do you have the right people in the right places?
Be sure to ask your team the following related to personnel
openings: What do your metrics look like and do they reflect the
correct performance based on your customer’s expectations? How
did the work get addressed after the opening occurred? Did we use
overtime? Do you need the positions going forward or can we get the
work accomplished another way? Are there any technology improvements
that might help us become more efficient? Do you need help in
another area or would you like to move the position to another area
of your operations, or even upgrade it? Are there certain types of credentials
or skill sets you are looking for to improve the performance?
Try to work within guidelines that keep staffing levels consistent
but require supervisors to periodically move and/or rotate
employees from task to task and from building to building. I know
this isn’t easy and your supervisors and employees might push
back; but for the good of the organization, work on getting this
implemented. Implementation can occur in many ways — one
building at a time, or by zones.
Survey Your Customers
How do you know the internal customer is satisfied with your
organization’s performance? A great place to start is to ask. Setting up
meetings periodically can help with communication and awareness,
particularly for summer projects. Some organizations use surveys to
appraise performance — this is quite popular. Be prepared, however,
to do something when the votes get tabulated on the surveys.
You can also choose to have an independent company assess your
buildings as well, but there is a cost associated with this service. Be
sure to request benchmark data regarding the standards and results.
Another way to review performance is to once a day or once a week
choose a building and walk through it, checking out, in particular, the
restrooms for cleanliness and correct supply of paper products. Are
the carpets and floors clean and freshly vacuumed? And what about
the paint, is it up to date? Are all the faucets in working order? Any
leaky pipes? What is the condition of the grout and are all the lights in
working order? Remember that restrooms are usually the first place
people visit and then the last place people stop before heading home.
That first and last impression is critical when students, parents and
staff are visiting. If the building looks good, let people know!
Remember, It’s a Process
Finally, don’t worry about needing to hit a home run every
time. It is the singles that matter most and help get the operational
team noticed. In reality, most operational areas are costs for the
organization, so becoming more efficient is paramount. An honest
assessment can be extremely beneficial when based on customer
feedback, understanding that it won’t always be based on good
news. Focus on the message related to the results and work with
your team to get the performance back on track.
Don’t forget to review all vacancies within the organization for
any necessary skill set upgrades. Also, getting some quick wins
will help you build political capital across your organization.
This article originally appeared in the April 2017 issue of College Planning & Management.
Bruce A. Meyer, Ed.D., is assistant vice president of Campus Operations at Bowling Green State University, Bowling Green, OH, appointed in April 2010. His team currently manages 5,000,000 square feet on a campus with over 20,000 students, faculty and staff.