Change Leadership In FM: It Starts And Ends With The Tone At The Top

In an increasingly digital environment, facility management leaders foster successful evolution by showing their willingness to encourage change toward an innovation culture.

By Lisa Stanley

In 2019, the sheer quantity of facility management (FM) data that can be collected is increasing at a phenomenal rate, but the discussion should be focused on what to do with it, not the volume of data collected. Where does the catalyst for change and advancement in a digital FM world come from that enables an organization to advance faster than their competition?change leadership

The Tone At The Top

Prosci, a leading provider of change management training, identified active and visible executive sponsorship as the key contributor to the success of change initiatives — the tone at the top. Some things haven’t changed — this factor has been at the top of their contributors’ list for more than 20 years.

Before an effective approach to change management can be implemented in policies, processes, and projects, senior leaders must demonstrate their willingness to encourage and accept change while fostering a culture where innovation is recognized, supported, and rewarded. Other traits of successful change leaders include:

  • The ability to influence and inspire others through vision, drive and personal advocacy.
  • Leadership that is part champion, part evangelist, and even part cheerleader.
  • It’s a role that requires vision, great communication skills to help the team develop the shared vision needed to move forward, a better than average tolerance for risk, and outside the box thinking that encourages innovation.
  • It’s recognizing the important role of internal influencers to move the organization forward. Every organization has key team members who can make or break implementation of a new initiative or project. Identifying these key team members and personalizing the “why are we doing this and why should I care?” dialogue is critical to success. Influencers can be as powerful as decision-makers, sometime even more so during these early pilots.

This vision enables the organization to access resources needed to build a solid platform for change that can transform it, and its competitive position, in FM. Given the outsized role that data and technology now play in FM decision-making, a key trait is a leadership style that encourages IT and business units to communicate and collaborate both internally and with business partners.

Start With Pilot Projects

Change management doesn’t have to be an “all or nothing” proposition. Effective change leaders commit the resources to advance change, including financial support for pilot projects and needed training that builds skills in the workforce.

Pilots can be limited in scope and completed in months (not years) to build confidence and internal support for both process and outcomes. It’s about building an effective and long-term approach to asset lifecycle management, and an environment that fosters workforce productivity one step at a time. It’s a combination of will and skill. If leadership has the will to advance and foster innovation (as well as tolerance for the risk that accompanies it), the skill to carry out the change can be developed and acquired through training and experience. Skills in data governance and digital competency are becoming highly valued in this evolving workplace.

First Project Priority: Data Governance

Building an effective data governance framework is critical to moving forward, and includes establishing data governance policies and defining who owns the data that’s driving business decisions, who has access to it, and who controls it. Current organizational structures need to be examined to see if they are still relevant in the evolving digital world. New roles are emerging including data stewards, data architects, chief data officers, and change managers. Collaboration across business units and with external business partners is key to moving forward.

Inherent in this approach is a need for a higher level of risk tolerance as emerging technologies, including artificial intelligence, machine learning, blockchain, and others are evaluated and explored. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to move from an environment dominated by manually generated spreadsheets to a more digital world. It’s a balancing act to identify the resource allocation for traditional business intelligence and analytics with predictive analytics and the wide array of emerging technologies that can be harnessed to improve performance. Successful change leaders in the FM world are acquiring a new understanding of the power of the digital world, and supporting their team members to do the same.

Change leadership in FM requires a data culture that brings together talent, data tools, and enlightened decision-making powered by a digital ecosystem that sustains and supports growth. What is a digital ecosystem? It’s an information-enabled network of collaborative internal and external business partners who utilize technology to confirm and connect strategies, business functions, competencies, and actions that cultivate and encourage innovation and lead to better business outcomes.

No matter how we frame the discussion, the end goal is to improve business outcomes. Change leadership advances discussion to action and fosters constructive collaboration that empowers people at every level of the organization. Building a digital ecosystem starts with one change leader who is willing to step up and step forward. Are you ready?

Stanley is CEO of OSCRE International, a member-based organization focused on transforming the way digital information drives real estate. OSCRE works with industry leaders to expand understanding and implementation of standards, effective data governance, digital competency and emerging technologies. Visit for more information, and to learn about OSCRE’s new initiative, The Council of 100.