Developments in Facility Management Essay

Developments in Facility Management

The expansion of the internet, and other technologies that enhance communication, have inadvertently led corporations to exist within a global market that require them to be omnisciently connected to the ever changing interests of their consumers. Facility management has become understood as an invaluable factor for corporate success.  The extent to which its practice very often signifies how long a company will stay in business.  It is also often deemed as a contributing necessity of strategic management.  This inherent relationship between facility management and strategic management has incited corporations to develop knowledge based teams.  Knowledge has become the most invaluable facility any corporation can have, and thus contemporary facility management is deemed by many corporate theorists almost as a form of knowledge based maintenance.  This essay evaluates the current perception of facility management, compared to the traditional view, and it reviews facility management’s hand in making knowledge based teams so prevalent within the common corporate structure.

Facility management is the maintaining of buildings and services.  These services are usually broken down into two parts known as hard services and soft services.  Hard services consist of things like making sure air conditioners are operating efficiently.  Soft services include monitoring performance of contractors, builders and electricians.  Facility management makes certain that every aspect of business is being carried out properly through the continual maintenance of company resources.  This task is best defined by the International Facility Management Association as, a profession that encompasses multiple disciplines to ensure functionality of the built environment by integrating people, place, process and technology (IFMA).  Management’s pursuit of this corporate goal is often deemed as contingent on the understanding and practice of ergonomics.

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Ergonomics is the science of equipment design.  Its use is intended for the purpose of maximizing productivity by increasing comfort and making equipment use more convenient.  In their article, Designing The Ergonomically Correct Workplace, the Partners for Small Business Excellence (PFSBE) published their take on creating the most efficient work environment.  The article shows how ergonomics is the core study inherent in facility management. Ergonomics is studied by corporations specifically to reduce employee stress and enhance employee health and safety, to lower costs by improving equipment, to improve the work environment, and employee attendance and morale. The end result of all of this is that ergonomics increases performance and optimizes efficiency. These are undoubtedly the desired objectives of every manager, of every corporation, everywhere. The PFSBE recognizes these as the five major goals of ergonomics.

This concept was once very esoteric, and it was only adopted by a handful of industrial engineers, and it was considered by many as no more than an office fad, ergonomics has become a key health and safety issue for employers today. As people’s jobs have become increasingly stable and reliant on technology, these desk-bound workers are engaging in minimal movement throughout the day. Employees are moving less as they work. This has resulted in what the PFSBE refers to as a skyrocketing of cumulative problems caused by poor ergonomics (PFSBE,). This increasing trend is forcing business to evaluate the different methods to improve the match between the worker and the workplace.  Ergonomics is most simplistically defined as the study of physical work habits. Its specific use is best described by the PFSBE in their essay when they say,

More specifically, the aim of this discipline is to design jobs and tools (including chairs, desks, lighting, computer equipment, telephones and multiple accessories) that fit the physical and psychological requirements and capabilities of employees. Ergonomic concepts emphasize working smarter and more safely, not harder, thereby reducing stress and fatigue in the work environment, and preventing costly injuries.  (PFSBE)

This was the traditional view of Facility management.  Since this definition, the understanding of Facility management has changed drastically.  This is particularly in reaction to technology and the information age.

In his essay, Intellectual capital: future competitive advantage for facility management, Peter McLennan attempts to explain the relationship between facility management and the information age.  He says, although “intellectual capital” is a new management concept, it has been mentioned as an important business asset by both Galbraith (1973) and Demming (1982) in their discussions about organisations[1] (McLennan, 2000). This just further enforces the idea that this current major change in the understanding of facility management has been developing for a long time.  He points out that this new trend is invaluable, when he gives his own personal definition of what facility management has become.

It is the realization that they hold a unique information data set on the physical resource and its use through time by particular organizations that provides the opportunity[2]. Within the office sector it is about exploiting the strategic value of their knowledge about physical resources. (McLennan, 2000)

Here McLenna acknowledges the value of the study and its growth over time.

            In his article, Integrated Facility Management, David Kincaid identifies the three main initiating elements of Facility Management as Property management, Property operations and maintenance, and office administration.  He feels these aspects all contribute to supporting the core activities of an organization.  He further argues that the present practice and future scope of facility management can most commonly be seen in the fact that offices have taken over the attention of facility management.  He recognizes facility management as one of the key elements of strategic management, and the maintenance and procurement of knowledge has become the future of facility management.  This is a relationship that has become more reliant on the use of knowledge based teams in corporations, most commonly known advised on in the business world by the expertise of the Fisher Group.

Kimball Fisher is a best selling author and the co-founder of The Fisher Group.  He is internationally known as the authority on leadership and team chemistry within the corporate world.  He has consulted with the top global corporations, and his ideas have been implemented world wide to improve the conditions of many businesses.  Fisher was the first recipient of William G. Dyer Outstanding Alumni Award for significant contributions to the field of Organizational Behavior, this honor was awarded to him by BYU.  His key argument is that corporations are in the age of knowledge work.  He feels it is best to keep knowledge expanding and universally fluent within a corporation through the use of teams, as apposed to one or a few individuals (Safferstone, 1998).  He refers to this concept as the use of knowledge teams.  His ability to discover a need for these particular groups in corporate America, as well as his years of analysis to understand the best way to structure and utilize them, has been the basis for his entire career.

            Fisher’s knowledge teams are implemented by corporations to make sense and use of the rapidly changing information age.  They focus more on mental work than the physical.  They are seen as a direct result of the corporate need for Facility Management, because it is only through these knowledge based teams that corporations can maintain a constant awareness of the condition of its hard facilities and soft facilities, while at the same time keeping up with the rapidly improving facilities of the times.  They are also quite complex to manage.  It is this complexity that has driven both Fisher and his wife’s career.  Most of the work processes are mental rather than physical as well; which means, there is rarely a visible focus or product produced. In January of 1998, Management Review had a sit down interview with Kimball Fisher, in which they assessed some of his ideas on the advancement of information technologies and his take on how knowledge teams can be implemented in corporation to keep up with this change.  When asked what types of challenges knowledge teams help companies to meet, it was fisher’s view that,

Companies used to be able to solve business problems based on the information and [technological expertise] contained in one person’s mind. That is rarely true today. The problems businesses face are much more complicated and typically cannot be solved from the framework of one technical perspective… (Fisher,1998)

Fisher further corresponds this understanding of perspectives with the strategic planning involved in launching a corporation. But, not all members of corporations have advanced knowledge of technology, or advertising, or engineering.  This brings us back to perspectives and Fisher’s view of segmenting groups to handle the needs of the corporation through the use of, and solely focusing on, their own personal expertise.  Fisher best explains this concept in his interview when he says,

If you want to be effective in a high tech industry and you approach [the market] only from an engineering perspective, you won’t get things marketed very well. If you approach it from marketing only, you might create things that cannot actually be built. A variety of experiences and technical perspectives are required in today’s complex business environment. (Fisher, 1998)

His concept of knowledge teams can be seen utilized throughout multiple corporations, specifically internet companies like: Google, MySpace, YouTube etc… Once Fisher’s take on the condition of modern business is assessed, the question arises what is the most common way facility management is carried out today?

Internet companies operate differently from other corporations.  As apposed to utilizing the information age for their best interests, they survive on it.  They have also proven to be the main disciples of Fisher’s method. Whatever websites are receiving the most hits, whatever search engines are being used most often, or whatever is simply most popular at the time, are the core tools for these corporations to generate income with each other.  This advertising culture is a completely different media from its previous counterpart and its continuously changing. The complexity entailed with creating a knowledge team to asses the companies best interests, but still producing intangible results is the factor of how the company’s management gets a hold of the work produced by these teams.  Fisher explains this when he states,

Part of the difference between managing knowledge teams and managing physical teams is that you don’t really control their work. (In fact, you really don’t do so with a physical team either.) Getting your arms around the work would mean approaching management from a “control paradigm.” The best managers in these organizations approach it from a “commitment paradigm.” (Fisher,1998)

As shown in this statement, Fisher largely bases the key success for the communication between knowledge teams and corporate management to be in understanding the difference between management from a control paradigm and from commitment paradigm.

            Fisher states that the control paradigm says, I’m in charge, I’ll direct the work and I’ll tell people what to do (Fisher, 1998).  This is the format most commonly used by many corporations and Fisher places it in opposition to his concept of the commitment paradigm which characterizes as a manager saying to himself, I cannot understand everything that everyone does because the [workplace] is changing too rapidly and the technology is too complex. So my job is to create a work environment in which people can direct themselves (Fisher, 1998).This ideal of a commitment paradigm acknowledges that the value of expertise inherent all the individuals within a corporation.  It is true that an expert in advertising might not be gifted at engineering but he may be able to advise the engineer on what characteristics to implement in constructing the most marketable product.  This is a forward thinking concept for corporate management, but it still must be implemented. The key characteristic of Kimball’s knowledge teams is that they ask managers to come up with ways to allow the groups to manage themselves, as apposed to taking full control.

In July and August of 1998 for the Cincinnati publication known as The Journal for Quality and Participation, Kimball Fisher and his wife Mareen Duncan Fisher outlined the steps that should be taken to implement the knowledge team into a corporation.  In their article titled, Shedding light on Knowledge work learning, they broke down this process into four steps, which are: 1) organizing for socialization; 2) creating cross-disciplinary learning experiences; 3) promoting active experimentation; and 4) developing Learning structures (Fisher ; Fisher, 1998). Organizing for socialization basically entails getting the company ready for the implementation of a knowledge group.  To best explain this Fisher uses the life of Thomas Edison as his example, when he says, Quite simply, Edison organized for socialization. Using the craft culture in Europe and the machine shops of Newark, New Jersey as his inspiration, Edison organized teams, creating a model that might be somewhat likened to today’s project teams (Fisher, 1998).  The lesson that should be learned from this Edison example is the understanding of other cultural mediums.  By collaborating different cultural mediums within knowledge learning, a doorway for more diverse array of ideas can arise.  Fisher claims the next step is creating cross-disciplinary learning experiences.

For developing learning structures, Fisher presents a diagram, known as The Learning Lattice.  This diagram can perfectly be applied to any corporation to open up communication.

Fig.1 (Fisher & Fisher, 1998)

Through the use of this diagram, companies can form knowledge teams that embody all of the characteristics of their corporations. This means specifically that the top engineers are able to collaborate with the top advertisers, accountants, customer service reps etc…  This group is represented by the center square in the diagram and leads to uncommonly productive group interaction.  The use of this diagram has superseded the past corporate strategy matrixes of the 70’s and 80’s (Fisher, 1998).  It allows for open communications between all separate departments of a corporation, with the sole goal in mind of consistent improvement of company conditions and services.

In sum, facility management has developed into a race to maintain knowledge.  Companies that could stay afloat based solely on corporate upkeep are now expected to maintain constant knowledge of developing resources and services, changes in the market, and of course new-age needs of the consumer. It is very doubtful that these groups designed solely for the procuring and maintaining of contemporary intellectual capital can be seen as anything but the current state and future of facility management.

Work Cited

Designing The Ergonomically Correct Workplace Free Management Library: Copyright 1997-2006, Authenticity Consulting, LLC.

Facility management.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. 16 Feb 2007, 04:43 UTC. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. 26 Feb 2007

Innovation process and innovativeness of facility management organizations Tomas Mudrak, Andreas van Wagenberg, Emiel Wubben Facilities; Volume: 23   Issue: 3/4; 2005

Integrated Facility Management David Kincaid Facilities; Volume: 12   Issue: 8; 1994

Intellectual capital: future competitive advantage for facility management Peter McLennan Facilities; Volume: 18   Issue: 3/4; 2000 Viewpoint

The collective mind at work  Fisher,Kimball . Management Review. New York: Jan 1998.Vol.87, Iss. 1;  pg. F2, 2 pgs

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The Distributed Mind: Achieving High Performance Through the Collective Intelligence of Knowledge Work Teams Mark J Safferstone. The Academy of Management Executive. Briarcliff Manor: May 1998.Vol.12, Iss. 2;  pg. 107, 2 pgs

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Tips for Teams: A Ready Reference for Solving Common Team Problems Smith, Richard L. Personnel Psychology. Durham: Autumn 1995.Vol.48, Iss. 3;  pg. 689, 4 pgs

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