By Stormy Friday, IFMA Fellow
Published in the March 2004 issue of Today’s Facility Manager
As many of you know, I sometimes feel I missed my calling. I often lament the fact that forensic science was not on the radar screen when I was an undergraduate in the late 60s or a manager/graduate student in the early 70s. Instead, political science, public policy, and organization design and development (OD) became my forte.
Exactly what is OD? French, Bell, and Zawacki describe it as a “powerful set of concepts and techniques to improve organization effectiveness and individual well-being.” [Wendell L. French, Cecil H. Bell, Jr., and Robert A. Zawacki, Organization Development and Transformation: Managing Effective Change, 5th Edition (Boston, Irwin McGraw-Hill, 2000), p.vii.] As a management consultant, I have assisted countless organizations struggling to find the right mix of ingredients to make them successful, contributing members of corporations and public institutions.
A few years ago, as I prepared to write my second book for facility management practitioners, I found myself addicted to shows like “CSI Crime Series” and “Cold Case.” While struggling with a way to present material that sometimes appeared to be theoretical and esoteric, the light bulb in my head finally clicked on. I realized facility management organizations and forensic science have a great deal in common.
I had ample documentation to prove that successful facility management organizations—defined as entities achieving their own business mission, contributing to the company’s mission, and having productive, healthy, and content employees-all have a common formula. This formula has characteristics much like those of a DNA chain that links together to form the foundation of an individual’s-and in the case of facilities, an organization’s—identity.
When certain organizational DNA links were the predominant building blocks, the facility management organization would be very strong. These same organizations historically survived the cyclical peaks and valleys of resource cuts, downsizing and rightsizing, and massive, wholesale outsourcing. Therefore, facilities professionals must pay closer attention to OD and its impact on the viability and longevity of their organizations.
The following seven DNA links appear consistently in the most enterprising facility management organizations.
1. Leadership. The linchpin for the DNA chain is the way in which senior management in the organization leads and creates an environment for others to demonstrate leadership capabilities.
2. Individuals. Too often, facility management organizations overlook the forces that drive individuals to make positive contributions to the organization and ignore the way this knowledge can help them shape behavior patterns.
3. Groups. The dynamics of group process and the various ways to construct work assignments to maximize the interaction of individuals within groups is a DNA link of supreme magnitude.
4. Culture. Long neglected as “fluff” by facility professionals, the culture of a corporation or institution profoundly affects the culture of the organization and its ability to achieve goals, objectives, and recognition as a leading edge entity.
5. Visioning and Strategic Planning. The adage “plan your work and work your plan” rings true within facility management organizations that seem to bypass this critical step in building a strong foundation for related activities.
6. Structure. The following are critical in a facility department’s structural DNA link: the evolution of a company’s facility management structure; the examination of how it has been organized in order to meet the department’s charter; an assessment of the mix of knowledge, skills, and abilities required for staff to carry out the mission; and the establishment of performance and benchmarking measures.
7. Future. Developing a crystal ball capability within the facility organization to forecast business trends and issues that have substantial bearing on the organization’s delivery of services often requires professionals to posture outside their comfort zone.
When it comes to organization development, facility professionals often feel they are in uncharted waters, struggling to find a beacon to guide them towards the most appropriate course of action. Just like a forensic scientist, these managers look for clues about how people work together and what makes them tick; what organization schemes are right to deliver services that meet the needs of clients and the parent company; and how they can diagnose when their organization is well and when it needs attention.