Professional Development: “If You Don’t Know Where You’re Going, Any Road Will Do.”

By Phil Wales
Published in the February 2012 issue of Today’s Facility Manager

Most commercial real estate (CRE) and facility management (FM) organizations have a service delivery model that keeps them on the map. Unfortunately, organically developed service delivery models tend to be very tactical and fail to drive the management of real assets into optimum alignment with 21st century corporate missions. Thus, many CRE/FM organizations have an Achilles’ heel: the absence of a well defined enterprise wide workplace strategy.

Well beyond simply being something “good to have,” a strategy is vital to ramping up a CRE/FM organization’s effectiveness and value several notches. The challenge is to define a vision that enhances the corporate mission, set strategies to enable the vision, and then establish a roadmap that drives execution of the strategies. When properly executed, it sets the strategic/operational parameters and generates workplace dividends that typically surpass most predictions.

If you ask any CRE/FM executive whether they have a strategic vision, the answer is almost always a “yes.” However, if you ask to see their vision it is often a different story and the reason is quite simple. Most organizations have a sense for what they need to be doing—a vision—and they do it with a purpose; thus, they believe it to be strategic. However, most organizations have an organically evolved set of strategies with no direct or active effort to align services offered with the corporate mission. Most do not have a formally documented roadmap for how their services align with the corporate mission. Even though a few have actually codified a strategic plan, they have not updated it in several years, which, in today’s fast moving world, makes the document virtually worthless.

Before getting the ball rolling, fms should understand what “enterprise wide workplace strategy” means. On the one hand, enterprise wide refers to looking at the entire portfolio, which in global corporations could span from major campuses to tiny outposts in foreign countries. Therefore, “How does every single piece of your portfolio align with the company’s mission?”

On the other hand, enterprise wide refers to the life cycle of services. Not limited to ensuring that the space and workplace work, it’s also critical to consider at the outset the type of facilities, where to locate them, and, in today’s mobile environment, whether facilities are even necessary in certain instances. The object is to work everything in tandem to optimize the organization’s investment in its people as well as its facilities.

Once a vision is defined, it is important to determine whether any disconnects or gaps exist between current practices and the new vision. This includes determining which services should be continued and which should not; which policies are enabling or hindering the corporate mission; and which processes should be outsourced to a qualified service provider or automated.

Strategic use of partners allows an organization to go beyond the large traditional structure to today’s leaner and flatter organizations—but still with centralized control. To enable this transformation, the vision needs to address the strategic role of partners and the definition of the Service Level Agreements (SLAs) that will engage their services so the service level is aligned with the intent of the vision.

Once the vision and strategies are defined, establishing a roadmap comes next. The roadmap defines the activities required to execute the vision and the sequencing of those activities. The roadmap defines the scope of work and establishes the basis for accountability (measurability, responsibility, and timeliness). It also describes the specific programs supporting the broader strategies. Although these programs are operational in nature, it is imperative that they are all traceable back to a strategic initiative. It’s simply too easy to do things which seem logical but are, in reality, counter to the new vision.

A major component of the roadmap is a solid change management program. Any departure from the current ways will often cause friction and resistance. Therefore, an active change management initiative is critical to ensure that the new vision actually gets executed. That entails engaging all the appropriate stakeholders, addressing concerns, outlining an accurate and detailed future vision, clearly explaining change is necessary, communicating the roadmap, and finally, initiating the benchmarking progress. A comprehensive change management program is intended to align management and staff, defuse any resistance, and accelerate both buy-in and implementation.

Strategy is vital to ramping up a fm’s effectiveness and value. To that end, a clear vision allows everyone to focus on organizational components that support the corporate mission, set strategies to enable the vision, and then establish a roadmap that drives execution of the strategies.

Wales is CEO of Houston, TX-based eBusiness Strategies.