An organization’s success is highly dependent on the quality of its staff, and requires benchmarks and performance standards that comprise an excellent facilities organization. Members of your team must have a keen understanding of, and a desire for, top-quality achievement and organizational excellence – it’s essential for any organization striving to become world-class. One way to begin this journey is through an assessment that uses industry standards, benchmarks, and organizational performance criteria.
With APPA’s Facilities Management Evaluation Program (FMEP), for example, FM teams gain an in-depth knowledge and understanding of the criteria needed to optimize organizational performance. The criteria used in the FMEP provide a tool for continuous organizational improvement and serve as a benchmarking tool essential for your FM team. Although the program is geared toward educational facilities management teams, it applies to all FM staffs.
The problems surrounding our institutions and their facilities teams are mounting, and we must be part of the solution. We must not only do things right, but we must do the right things consistently and predictably.
This requires increased levels of productivity and accountability in alignment with your institution’s vision, mission, and strategy.
As Ernest Boyer, a former higher-education institution president, stated, “Good facilities are essential to good learning.” As leaders in educational facilities, it’s incumbent to demonstrate that enhanced facilities do positively impact the retention and recruitment of students and faculty. Assessing how a facilities organization measures up is part of that retention and recruitment.
Whether you choose to engage in a formal assessment or not, utilizing a set of criteria to develop strategic action plans and annual assessments is critical.
What an Assessment Looks Like
APPA’s FMEP is a comprehensive evaluation of the quality of the facilities organization at educational institutions and its delivery systems. Undergoing the evaluation and assessment provides you with a customized evaluation across a comprehensive, defined set of criteria. Each institution is evaluated by a select group of peers from institutions or companies that share similar educational, financial, and physical characteristics. Because each FMEP is customized and tailored, the resulting report consists of feedback and recommended actions personalized to each institution and designed to help transform facilities programs into those worthy of international recognition.
The comprehensive nature of APPA’s criteria provides an excellent overall baseline assessment or snapshot to launch further benchmarking efforts against other industry sectors. By virtue of the knowledge gained by your team, overall benchmarking efforts are enhanced and enriched.
If you’re expected to continuously improve over time, you need a set of criteria established by a third-party organization. In the private sector, the Baldrige National Quality Program Criteria for Performance Excellence is one of these well-known tools. APPA has patterned its evaluation criteria after this model.
The FMEP represents a system approach that embraces the central idea that “it’s not possible to achieve excellence by only doing some of the things that are easy and ignoring the rest.” These core values and performance criteria describe the organizational environment that we must create today, and they’re comprehensive enough to cover all aspects of leading and managing in the facilities management profession.
Embedded in the criteria are facilities performance indicators that help you determine how well your facilities are being operated and maintained. These performance indicators serve as a baseline for future improvement and as comparative datasets with other institutions or companies. Comparisons help you determine acceptable ranges for similar building performance (e.g., energy cost and use per square foot; maintenance and custodial cost per square foot, with or without purchased utilities; and grounds cost per acre). These metrics arm you with powerful information to highlight problems and begin the hard work toward solutions.
Measuring Up Against Yourself
When you choose to undertake the FMEP or a similar program, you should form a team that represents a broad spectrum of your staff to assist in the development of the self-assessment report. When individuals within the organization are actively involved in the process of formulating the department’s initial self-assessment, they have a greater understanding of the importance of the criteria and the associated processes, are more engaged during the site visit interviews, and are more apt to buy in to implementing the organizational changes identified within the final report.
In addition, the self-assessment report serves as the basis for the FMEP evaluation review team to conduct a site visit, which allows the team the opportunity to assess how well the organization is performing against its own self-evaluation, and to conduct interviews with a broad range of the department’s stakeholders.
Once the site visit is completed and an exit interview occurs, the evaluation team prepares a thorough, final report that provides recommendations. Most organizations take these recommendations and formulate a strategic plan to progress the facilities function.
In addition, many organizations utilize the report’s outputs to engage in more formal benchmarking efforts. Ultimately, benchmarking is just a statistical term in which you refer your “score” to normative data (i.e., to look at where you are on the bell curve).
Benchmarking is a long-term process involving comparisons of relevant data with appropriate institutions considered the best at what you’re trying to accomplish, setting goals for your organization, and regularly measuring your program. It can be cumbersome and time-consuming initially, but the payoff is in the results. Engaging in this type of benchmarking exercise helps you look closely at what you do, be strategic about your review, and determine the right direction and application of your resources.
Most recognize that the traditional facilities model won’t cut it in today’s environment of diminished resources. We must borrow from other industry-sector experiences coupled with strategic, state-of-the-art technologies and methodologies. Without baseline data for staffing and operating costs, there is no way to effectively determine a path for improvement. Several institutions have recanted that by taking the time and effort to engage in this comprehensive review process and applying the recommendations; they were able to achieve increased customer satisfaction, improved employee morale, reduced maintenance backlogs, and better manage overall costs.
E. Lander Medlin is executive vice president for APPA. She can be reached at [email protected].