Organisations are subject to continual change, yet their facilities often remain static, impeding progress that is critical to business success. We ask Dave Wilson, FRICS, IFMA Fellow and Director of Effective Facilities Ltd, how facilities managers can manage change to ensure that it bridges the gap between what an organisation has and what it needs.

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Change is inevitable. Technologies evolve, organisational structures are modified, people and underlying cultures are transformed. Sadly, planning and managing for change can be lacking, leading to facilities that struggle to support the organisational reality, never mind the vision.

Dave Wilson, author of the recently published RICS guidance note Strategic FM Framework, believes that FM is perfectly placed to better manage change for the benefit of organisations, their workers and their customers. What is needed is for senior management to be more receptive to the recommendations of their FM teams before, during and after any change programme.

“What we do is essential,” says Dave. “Lots of people think of us as a support service, rather than core to business success. My argument is ‘you try doing it without us then’. OK, FM isn’t a primary revenue stream for commercial organisations, and it isn’t how public service organisations reach their remits, but neither can exist without us. The responsibility for change ought to lie with facilities managers because we are one of the few parts of an organisation that has an overview of its activity from the beginning to end. We are better placed to join up the dots than anyone.”

So, why aren’t facilities managers being given the opportunity to manage change more effectively? How do they gain the ear of senior management and the board?

Dave is concerned that part of the problem is that change management is often considered a discreet activity that happens occasionally. He believes that the need for change management should be regarded as constant as change itself, particularly in the field of facilities management.

“There are so many touch points, nothing is ever stable. It is vital that we generate a culture that embraces change as a normal part of life. In the past, FM has suffered because facilities managers have been satisfied with doing the task well but without understanding the context that the task sits in. Then, they wondered why they didn’t get appreciated. In my experience you get access to senior management by telling them a success story. Doing the job you were told to do isn’t a success story. Success is when you do something cheaper, quicker and better than you were originally asked to. It is about focusing on outcomes and not tasks.”

Misguided management

Another part of the issue is just lazy or misguided management from the top down.

“In a lot of organisations there is a management culture that refuses to tell people about its plans in sufficient time to enable them to respond fully. Where senior management considers FM as just a support service it rarely sees our relevance in the early stages of planning.”

However, Dave says that it would be wrong to attribute all of the blame to senior management. FM has to take some responsibility, and facilities managers need to demonstrate that they are capable of making a valid contribution. To successfully manage change they must be able to properly engage those around them, including colleagues, senior management and customers.

If Dave is correct, it seems that those who work in our sector need to re-discover what it means to be a facilities manager. To explore well-beyond the boundaries of traditional FM, well-beyond just making buildings work.

“This is an issue,” agrees Dave. “Are our people sufficiently versed in management to fulfil this role? The truth is that many FMs are intimidated because they don’t feel that they have the right qualifications, which is why RICS involvement is crucial because it is such a management-disciplined institution with amazing credibility.

“Buildings are just tools that enable companies to do things. If you are going to wield that tool effectively then you have to understand what the organisation does. That requires you to have a lot more management capability, a lot more financial understanding and a lot more change management skills if you are going to deliver something of value.”

Rounded Skillset

To build a more rounded skillset Dave recommends facilities managers develop a magpie-like level of curiosity about other industries and sectors. To be inspired by best practice in fields such as architecture, design, business management, surveying and beyond.

“So, how are you going to get these skills? You could be mentored by someone above you. You could be naturally inquisitive and hard working. And, you can go on structured courses and training programmes.

“I don’t think that people train enough, the number of people that I come across who don’t know how to put a business case together is astonishing. Articulating the need for change has to be a core part of what a facilities manager does. It doesn’t matter what level those changes are. If we cannot make the case for change, how are we ever going to understand it when somebody makes a case to us? The answer is more training and qualifications from bodies such as RICS and IFMA.”

Change management

According to Dave, approaching change management proactively brings its rewards. By including all stakeholders from a position of knowledge and value, a virtuous circle is created.

“It is revelatory when FMs do get support from senior management and their customers because they begin to realise that the potential of what they can achieve is phenomenal. That really starts to excite people. Likewise, it is an eye-opener for the board because opportunities that it didn’t know existed start to reveal themselves.

“Facility managers get support from senior management by stepping up to the mark and being qualified to do so. It is like the old adage, nothing succeeds like success.”

The Strategic FM Framework guidance note, authored by Dave Wilson, is the result of a collaboration between RICS and IFMA. It sets out a coherent, consistent approach to planning the provision of FM. It also reflects the competences required to pursue the qualification credentials required by both IFMA and RICS.

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