The (not far) Away Day (part 4)

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by @paulcarder (with a prompt from @FrankandBrown & others! this tweet chain)

Scroll down for the story so far. Three managers met at the bar of a corporate training centre. Frankie (from HR), Sam (from FM – Facilities Management), and Jules (from CRE – Corporate Real Estate). There has been some discussion, largely around the mystery of why the HR Director has called this Away Day, “so we actually talk to each other, and share information and experiences”. But then, Sam met Charlie (IT Strategy) who provided an insight.

Charlie left, to get showered and changed for dinner. Sam was considering doing the same, just as Jules returned to the bar. “Got a few minutes, Sam?” asked Jules. As FM reports into CRE, Sam took that more as a statement than a question. Jules didn’t wait for a reply anyway, “I’ve had an email from the Finance Director …keen to engage an architect to do some modelling of what we may actually need in terms of the new HQ …options, stats, etc.”

Sam raised an eyebrow, in a Roger Moore style. “The FD didn’t mean ‘architect’ though, right?”

“Why not?” asked Jules, keen to get on to the real purpose of the discussion.

Sam left a short pause, for Jules to continue. But it wasn’t going to happen, so Sam replied, “Well, just that I thought we might develop an outline brief first, so we can give the architect a better idea of what we are looking for”.

Jules wasn’t in the mood for a philosophy on how to deliver buildings, having owned the firm’s ‘estate plan’ and appointed teams to deliver major capital projects for years. Jules replied, “Have you read the RIBA Plan of Work, Sam? Stage 1 – Preparation and Brief. Architects are trained to take a brief …and we have the experience to brief the architect …where’s the problem?” 

Jules assumed that Sam wouldn’t know, having moved from a hotel management background into FM. But overlooked the fact that Sam had worked on the development of hotels.

“Stage 0 – Strategic Definition… added in the new 2013 Plan of Work” replied Sam, “and you find me an experienced architect who has a deep knowledge of that, and I’ll buy you an expensive dinner, Jules”.

Jules retorted, impatiently, “So, what’s solution? I was just going to ask you if you have experience working with any of the large firms?”

“I have worked with a couple” Sam replied, “But, in the hotel group we had an evidenced-based design …EBD… approach. This was actually led by the marketing team, and their customer insight managers. In fact, it was essentially a research function. The unit head had a PhD in Organisational Anthropology …really interesting guy. If you walked through a hotel with him, you saw it differently – not just a building, but a series of processes and human interactions, stimulated or facilitated by the physical environment.”

Sam realized that Jules had switched off. Time to step back, and build up slowly. Sam knew that architects, surveyors and engineers…the building team…we’re generally not well versed in social science. But that was exactly what this project needed. Behaviourists, psychologists, organizational development …maybe from HR? Maybe there may be people in Marketing? Certainly, there were consultants out there. But not architects!

“You look a bit tired, Jules” said Sam, “Shall we get some dinner?” Jules agreed; not sold on all this research stuff, but hungry. It was tiring working with Sam…but, grudgingly, it was interesting.

  1. Peter Prischl says

    So it seems this company – should be named “Bubble Corp.”, because it seems to allow its managers to not mention “market”, “customers”, “competition”, “corporate strategy” even once throughout this story – has not bothered to train Sam at all in the organisational function Facility Management, and he has not bothered either. So if a hospital hires a physical therapist to do cardiology, why not? – if he fits in well, he is going to learn cardiology on the fly, right?
    A company which takes itself seriously will take Facility Management seriously – not yet happening here. The Head of Facility Managment is more worried about being “under” someone than about knowing and mastering basic FM functions such as deriving FM strategy from corporate strategy, creating an appropriate FM business model and extricate BUSINESS REQUIREMENTS in a systematic professional way. Maybe the manager in charge of this all should shill out a few quids for a copy of the ISO 41000 Facility Management standard so she gets an idea why, how and what for she is spending 20% or so of total costs on FM, and how to set up this organisational function so that it generates quality of life and productivity in the core business…

    1. Paul Carder says

      Hi Peter,
      Sam could mention “market”, “customers”, “competition”, “corporate strategy” …or could just do it…who says Sam does not have all these things in mind?
      Define “market” and “customers”? – intentionally, we do not know what kind of external market this business is operating in (the story is about the service operations of any large complex organization).
      Sam’s focus is on the internal market, and internal customer base (e.g., Heskett’s service-profit chain, etc.). Get the internal service proposition right, and it will affect (and partly effect) customer delivery to external customers, and so on.
      There is a lot more to come. All service operations will begin to work together.
      It is not Facility Management…just Management, which includes Facilities, IT, Procurement, HR, Marketing…etc…all the support “regiments” working together to help the boys and girls on the front line.

      You are arguing the reverse. You seem to be trying to show how important FM is – self-justification of a management discipline. It doesn’t matter to internal customers (staff & visitors) or external customers. All they care about is that they have somewhere to do their work, where things work, with minimal distraction to their working day.

      As for any busy operational manager bothering to buy and then wade through an ISO standard that none of his/her customers know or care about, you have to be kidding me. The only people who read those things are FM consultants with a vested interest, and academics.

      1. James Ware says

        I am just now catching up with this unfolding story, and I have to say I am on Paul Carder’s side so far (full disclosure: I am a co-founder of Occupiers Journal and have collaborated with Paul for more years than I can remember).

        But even given my obvious bias, I do agree with Paul and where I think he’s going with this story. Yes, we do see a company mired in a stovepipe culture, but we are also getting acquainted with several executives who appear to be thinking much more broadly and holistically, even if they aren’t empowered yet to act on their instincts.

        I am eager for the next ‘chapter’ in this saga – and it also occurs to me that empowerment isn’t something that’s given to people by anyone else – true power must be taken. Hence, I look forward to hearing how Sam and Charlie and their ‘partners in crime’ put into practice a truly integrated capability for enabling employees to do their best work in the new HQ facility (and wherever else their work takes them).

        1. Paul Carder says

          Thanks Jim, the four managers have been in & around the bar to date. They will move into the Away Day this week! And will be joined by others…some of the speakers may disrupt their thinking. The CEO has clear plans for how the organization’s support functions must become far more aligned with the customer-facing business units…and in turn, their customers.

          And yes – “wherever else their work takes them”… perhaps the Board of Directors (C-Suite) has a radically different idea of what the future HQ will look and feel like…and where else they will encourage employees (and the other third of building users who are not actually employees anyway) to work.

  2. Dr Doug Aldrich says

    Interesting story and cast of characters, clearly siloed and layered in their organization. It would be most interesting to consult with this firm, starting at the top. The behaviors are of epidemic proportions from the past, and a major overhaul is in order. I never prescribe solutions before thoroughly understanding the problems, but this could be an extensive gig. Not only is there a big multi-function opportunity internally, but a real orientation change to a customer delivery model externally. Collins wrote Good To Great, pairing companies in the same fields, articulating why some thrived and some died. We’ve seen stalwart American firms lose their edge and even existence with many similarities to your story line. FM directors can often be in the crossroads of not only communications but also the catalyst for meaningful changes. Thank you.

    1. Paul Carder says

      Hi Doug,
      Thank you very much for your comments. Is it realistic, in your view? For an organization in the lower half of performers perhaps?
      There are some glimmers of hope here though, with Sam and Charlie forming a good relationship. The siloes are starting to break.
      Interesting you mention external customers – I do have in mind Heskett’s service-value/profit chain – the knock on impact of good internal service delivery onto external customers.
      The new HQ project will be part of the “catalyst for change” as you note. But many organizational changes will go with that as the story unfolds.
      Thanks again – I’ll email you.

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