Home > The Monday Musings Column > getting facilities management out of the closet and into the mainstream

getting facilities management out of the closet and into the mainstream

I am often asked what I miss most about no longer being an operational Facilities Manager, and I have a two part answer; on the up side I am glad I no longer have to put up with sitting at interminable meetings where the chair and many of the participants are ill prepared, but on the down side I miss making things happen.

Glossing over the meetings the buzz in FM for me was that we could always be in the thick of things, for pretty much anything that the business was doing would involve us in some way and I always take the view that if I am going to be involved then I want some influence rather than just be a passenger.

My early experience of FM in corporate surroundings was in my IT days. Being an IT project manager meant that you were constantly having to set up camp somewhere around a building and then having to arrange for the installation of cabling, telephony and equipment as you rolled out whatever that project needed. Back in the 1980s this would entail entering into a search for, and then subtle negotiation with, a shadowy group of people who might be labelled the Buildings Team or similar. Their role seemed to be very much that of preventing anything much happening and requests to see building plans and the like were treated very much like asking to see Prince Charles’ letters.

Later, in a corporate role my path would cross with FM rarely, as on the morning that I arrived at my office to find my furniture piled in a heap under dust sheets and a painter happily at work redecorating. The building supervisor informed that I must have missed a notice on the board that listed the offices to be painted and the days that such work was due on.

My entry into FM was through the side door as for so many of my generation. I was running a large logistics operation and we found ourselves at a standstill one Monday because of some building maintenance. FM there was run by a small team within Personnel, but they were quickly transferred to me after that incident on the basis that “If you think you can do it better”.

The problem for the FM team, although they were known as Buildings & Accommodation at that outfit, was that they were working in a vacuum; they had a budget to work to and a manual that told them what cycles certain things had to be done to and they just worked to that regardless of the consequences. Any changes that affected the use of the site were not being passed on either until they were about to happen and so the first job for me was to put that right; things got planned and agreed in advance with the people that they would affect. We also started to get the impact of accommodation costs and timescales built into projects.

One of the effects of all of this was that FM became so prominent that it started to lead projects on behalf of its customers. Now not all of the team were comfortable in that more exposed role and I lost a few of them along the way, but their replacements were up for the challenge and these formed the nucleus of the team that I took with me when I made the full time move to FM in the mid 90s.

Getting FM into the heart of what the business was doing is what I miss most about the job.

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