By Sydney Hamilton
We have all navigated economic uncertainty in recent years, and the horizon is still unclear. While no one loves facing uncertainty, navigating it with a plan can offer meaningful rewards—especially if the plan is built with consensus from leadership with clear messaging as the changes transpire. This stands true for any strategic planning effort, including business planning, organization change engagement, and strategic facility planning.
At a recent CRB event, nearly 40% of attendees indicated recent reductions in capital budgets. As organizations address changing capital budgets, facility executives must contend with a complex set of factors that will impact their facility plans. From construction costs to talent retention to regulatory requirements, balancing implementation plans or projects with stakeholder needs is critical to maintaining a successful organization while building a productive future.
In some cases, this may mean facility managers will need to revisit or update an existing plan for a project. In others, organizations may need to build a strategic plan from scratch. Reprioritizing a CapEx project successfully involves a series of critical steps to build consensus among differing opinions, requirements, and business goals.
Get The Appropriate Stakeholders Involved
Consensus building is a collaborative problem-solving process involving complex multiparty requirements. A critical component is participation across all leadership and stakeholder groups. The process should allow a variety of people to have input into decision-making rather than leaving decisions up to just leadership or subject matter experts. Since stakeholders can possess a wide range of perceptions related to capital needs, the consensus-building process helps establish a common understanding and framework for developing solutions. Representatives should include C-Suite leadership such as the CEO and CFO, as well as directors of individual departments whose needs are being addressed.
Participants should be prepared to participate throughout the planning process. Participants who are engaged are more invested in the outcomes, resulting in a more successful strategic plan.
Engage A Third-Party Facilitator
The benefit of a third-party facilitator, like a facility planner, is that they are not only impartial, but they are going to have tools to help you clearly define the problem and navigate your decision-making process, facilitating conversations among the different stakeholders to help build collective empathy. A good facilitator will know the right questions to ask and will be able to address a variety of personality types and communication styles, understanding that some participants will be comfortable speaking in front of a group, while others may prefer to provide anonymous feedback or contribute in a 1-on-1 interview. Engaging in a variety of styles provides more equitable input into the discussion, which provides a more comprehensive picture of the needs and sets you up for the most logical strategic analysis.
It is usually helpful to define success at the beginning of the consensus-building process for a project. By doing this, stakeholders know what criteria need to be achieved in order to conclude the process and begin working on the plan. Consensus has been reached when stakeholders agree to the proposed solutions after multiple options have been explored to meet all stakeholder needs. Consensus does not mean that everyone gets exactly what they want; it means building collective empathy in order for stakeholders to support the final decisions and take ownership of the outcomes.
It is important to define the project problems and needs as clearly as possible. An additional benefit of using a facility planner as the facilitator, is they can analyze the qualitative and quantitative deficiencies and opportunities and summarize them in a way that helps create a framework for decision-making.
Collectively Evaluate Options For Addressing Stakeholder Needs
Once the problem has been clearly defined, develop a framework or set of rules for organizing potential solutions. This can be done by prioritizing planning goals in a democratic way and then ranking alternate solutions against those priorities. A facilitator can assist with collaborative brainstorming, validation of potential solutions, and evaluation of options.
A clear set of solutions may become apparent immediately, or there may be a need to refine the options and revisit them with more information, such as opinions of probable costs, implications of construction sequencing, or hybrid work scenarios. A facilitator maintains engagement until consensus is built around a preferred set of recommendations for the strategic plan.
Implement The Project Plan
Communicate the outcomes of the planning effort and CapEx strategy to the entire organization. Provide clear and consistent messaging about the plan and any upcoming changes resulting from it. Engage stakeholders at all levels where appropriate, and be sure to offer mechanisms for feedback and tweaks.
Your facilitator should be available to help communicate to your organization what the changes are going to be and throughout the implementation process to help find out if anything didn’t go as planned or if anything unexpected happened that still needs to be addressed. You can then take those lessons learned and continue the conversation.
Change is inevitable, but having a solid consensus-driven roadmap can protect the interests of all stakeholders and help organizations navigate CapEx budgets and plans to maintain a strong business strategy.
Hamilton, LEED AP is a Strategic Facility Planner for CRB. With 20 years of experience, her work focuses on providing design-driven planning solutions that help clients realize efficiencies that will benefit them and their customers for decades to come. She conducts research, analysis, and documentation of facilities, trends, utilization, surveys, and other data to develop innovative solutions tailored to each client’s needs.