Facility Management in the C-suite? That calls for a paradigm shift

How can Facility Management get influence in the C-suite? Today at World Workplace 2017 we had the great chance to talk with Dr. Dean Kashiwagi - the Professor of Arizona State University and director of the Performance Based Studies Research Group (PBSRG), a worldwide leader in improving facility/project performance and efficiency. Get his insights in this interview. 

We often hear in the industry, that Facility Managers are asked to do more for less. How can we do that without risking the service quality?

Nowadays a lot of companies lean to outsourcing when trying to get better services at lower price. That model is however inefficient. The cost does not disappear; the outsourcing provider still needs to carry it and as a client you will pay for that burden in one way or the other.

Now the problem isn’t whether the service is in- or outsourced. The problem is changing the paradigm of how Facility Management is done and that starts with convincing anyone in C-suite who looks at Facility Management as a cost – that in fact it is not. Rather if done right, it is something that can add value.

That change of understanding in the C-suite is easier said than done, how would you suggest that Facility Managers should approach that?

A great place to start is to talk a language that the person in the C-suite understands. Talking to the boss in a technical fashion won’t cut it. The boss won’t understand because he’s not a technical FM expert.

So, the Facility Managers must start to think like the boss. This includes thinking in simple terms such as cost, added value and capability. And they must bring something of dominant value to the table.

By dominant I mean value that is observable, transparent and common sense. That is not a 2% cost cut off – that is 10 to 20% cut in costs.

How can Facility Managers reach such efficiencies?

Facility Managers must do that by being efficient and effective; which means that anything that does not deal with adding FM value or anything that is an overhead cost must be slashed.

To do this you need to break down complexity. You need a person who is the technical and specialized FM expert (whether in-or outsourced) and another who is more distanced to the practicalities, more observant but knows the language of metrics and the C-suite. The latter has to be totally non-technical. How this can work?

It will work because the observant is relying on the expert to use his best of capability and take total accountability of all services provided. As the FM expert is completely empowered in his role, the observant (C-suite) never has to tell the expert what to do and how. The expert knows best. All what the person in the C-suite has to overlook is the cost, capability, value-added and customer satisfaction. That simplicity of relationships and ways of working and that empowerment is eventually what is going to increase both the effectiveness and efficiency.

How can we realize this structure in the future of Facility Management?

We need more people driven by pure leadership and visions. Those are the people who can talk the language of the C-suite and understand how to push Facility Management forward. These people are not technical. Not at all. But they know how to drive organizational leadership – and that’s the only thing that eventually will push Facility Management in the C-suite.

One thing is how the people within FM perceive their own function and the capabilities of the function, the other is how we can make people outside of FM to understand the value-added. How can we change their perception of FM?

This is not an easy thing to do. Because this requires change. People are afraid of change.

So you have to find the visionaries who understand the importance of the change on both sides of the table. If you have to educate the client too much about the vision, then it is not the right client. At some point these people will just go back and ask you to cut costs.

When visionaries are identified on both sides of the table you can start to run tests and silently build a proven-track record. The value will be competitively identified [not by someone’s subjective decision making by using the Best Value Approach] and silently – because if you tell the organization that you want to transform the business everybody will freak out.

And then you run test after test, documenting the value and lower cost.  The number of people required to do the Best Value approach are few [but visionary].  The efficiency is ten times the traditional.  As the dominant information becomes available, it will slowly drive change.

It is through continuous testing and improvement, and by identifying the true visionaries that you can bring the FM to a higher level in the organization and move the focus from costs to added value.

And remember; the value needs to be so dominant that the C-suite does not have to think and make decisions.