Strategic Facilities Master Planning

April 17, 2009
The FM team in Johnson County, in Olathe, KS, remedied the ills associated with its strategic master plans

Location: Olathe, KS
County Size: 480 square miles
No. of Buildings: 250
Total Square Feet: 2.2 million

“Being flexible and anticipating need are matters of survival in the facilities business,” says Joe Waters, director of facilities, facilities management department, Johnson County, Olathe, KS. While most strategic master plans provide a 15-year outlook of space needs and construction projects, they rarely incorporate flexibility; after year 10 (if not sooner), they’re sorely outdated.

Johnson County’s facilities management department reme­died the ills associated with these long-range plans: Its Strategic Facilities Master Plan (SFMP) provides a 15-year outlook, but is updated annually.


Any strategic plan requires a thoughtful planning effort and frequent updates that reflect changing needs, market factors, and current data.

First created in 2001, the organization hired a consultant to help put together the original plan, purchased FM software, and conducted a space inventory. “First, we determined how much space we had in each building, and how much space is occupied by each department/program in each building. Then, we assessed the adequacy of the space,” says Waters. Findings revealed that some spaces should be replaced, some should be reused, and some had space shortfalls. Every department that the FM team services – all 39 of them – has to articulate its vision and mission annually for inclusion in the SFMP.

Despite resistance to an annual update cycle, the plan’s value has proven that the effort is worthwhile. “When our Board [of County Commissioners] began to use it as the tool it was intended to be, the organization really embraced it,” says Waters. He says that an annual update is important because:

  1. Decision-making should be based on current data. “It doesn’t do you much good to have the context of last year or the year before when you need to decide about a project today,” he says.
  2. Changes in leadership may alter the course of future plans. Waters explains: “If you get a new department head, he/she may have a different vision of where his/her department might need to go.”
  3. Market influences should be considered. New legislation, a county/city initiative, or the rising price of construction materials are factors that influence project pace or direction.
  4. Annual updates increase flexibility. “You need to be able to adjust and change to the changing demands of your organization and your public,” says Waters.

The SFMP has many benefits. “What it has allowed us to do is meet the needs of the county programs and services, and the public, in a proactive manner. When you’re doing that, it’s almost, by definition, more cost effective, because being reactive is inefficient in terms of time and money,” he says.

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