Facilities Management (Managing Assets)

FM: The Future Came Yesterday

“Did you know—2017.” Have you seen it? You can find it on YouTube. Whether entirely factual or not, it provides some tantalizing food for thought. Each time we watch it (I share it routinely with our students), I am struck by two sets of data: the rapid changes in world demographics and technology.

Shifting Realities

Our country is experiencing a population adjustment. Minorities are becoming majorities, and vice versa. Traditionalists and baby boomers are “fading away” as younger generations are becoming predominant. (I admit to being confused about the various labels assigned to them, since some “millennials” are now almost 40 years old.) For us in facility management, the resulting shift in the way these younger generations function, think, and communicate likely has already affected our processes and policies. It will increasingly affect the way we accommodate our thinking as we identify goals and objectives within our own departments. Our strategizing must accommodate the way our institutions restrategize the ways they hope to provide the best environment to encourage the learning process. Those processes, in turn, will need to accommodate (nay, even invite) the increasing number of nontraditional students as they evaluate where or whether to go back to school.

The circle is complete. It is no longer a “chicken and the egg” discussion. A term that I was taught in my math classes years ago is continuous function. That is what we have here: no beginning and no end. It is the ultimate example of plan, do, check, act.

Must Quality Suffer?

I spent significant time last fall learning how to design online classes, because it is felt that more students will prefer that type of learning process. On the flip side, my current students still prefer a substantial amount of face-to-face interaction, because they feel they learn more and retain more successfully. It appears to me that we are in perpetual transition in the delivery of the educational process. Facility management leaders—as they plan, operate, and maintain campus assets—will need to assure that they can effectively accommodate that consistently shifting tide.

This leads me to another topic: quality management. I mean quality management in every function and role our department’s representatives perform: planning, communicating, scheduling, work performance, cost justification, timeliness, down-time management, and so many other aspects of our world.

We recently had the pleasure (I use that term loosely) of buying a new car. As it turned out, the type of vehicle we wanted was not available locally (after all, this is Utah). We had to wait for it to be shipped in from another state. All sorts of promises were made about how soon it would get here, how soon the dealer’s staff would get it prepped, and how soon they would get it ready for us to pick up. And, oh yeah, what the bottom line cost would be.

Sadly, I was not terribly surprised when they missed on all targets. Though not a big deal, when they mounted the frames for the mandatory license plates they used a mismatched set of screws, mounted one at an angle, and forgot to install the other. The explanation given to us was, “Oops.” My reaction was one of articulated frustration: If we are going to pay this much for a vehicle, we should damn well get good service!

Do you relate your daily experiences to your work environment? This is exactly what I did, while realizing that I chose this dealership. FM’s customers usually don’t have that luxury. What if our departments operated at the same level as this dealership? Then, I realized almost immediately… that is exactly how so many of our customers see us! Has any one of your staff ever said, “it is good enough for government work,” or “I am not paid enough to think,” or “that is not in my job description?” If you haven’t heard this kind of statement, you may not have been listening. Unfortunately, that type of attitude exists in almost all FM organizations, whether in higher ed, school districts, airports, military installations, or private sector enterprises.

If there is one characteristic that the newer generation brings to the workplace it is that many tend not to stick around for long in one position. Ironically, we can avoid being stuck with “dead wood,” and we should have more timely opportunities to impress upon our employees the importance of providing consistently quality service. Properly applied technology may help us toward this lofty goal, while human values, ethics, and sound judgment will continue and inevitably play a huge part. That’s what we, as FM leadership, must continually coach and model. Always.

This article originally appeared in the January 2018 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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