Evaluation Programs for Your Facilities Team

Jan. 22, 2010

Programs like APPA’s Facilities Management Evaluation Program offer valuable tools to help you see how your facilities team measures up to the competition.

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.

What an Assessment Program Can Uncover

In 2006, the University of Hawaii at Manoa underwent APPA’s Facilities Management Evaluation Program. The results of this thorough assessment helped the university make changes that improved teamwork and campus facilities. Here are just a few examples of the problems and solutions identified in the assessment:

Problem: There was no strategic vision or sense of purpose among team members. Roles and responsibilities weren’t clear, and there was no sense of responsibility for campus condition and appearance.
Solution: Senior FM leaders should set direction and establish customer focus, clear and visible values, and high expectations in line with the campus mission, vision, and core values. A succession plan should be put into place to ensure continuity of leadership. Job descriptions should be updated. Job and performance expectations should be stated in a manner that is easily measured.

Problem: Policies weren’t written out or available.
Solution: Campus leadership should develop consistent and uniform design, building, and maintenance standards – and then document them. A simple example of consistency includes uniform landscape fixtures, benches, trash receptacles, signage, etc. Agreed-upon standards could lead to things like a priority response for repair and replacement of campus lighting.

Problem: The inventory of physical conditions to support deferred maintenance estimates was informal and incomplete.
Solution: A large number of quantitative and qualitative data sets need to be developed and organized into a coherent, comprehensive capital plan, including:

  • Construction history.
  • Square footage.
  • Replacement value of buildings.
  • Summary of the condition of each facility.
  • Condition ratings determined by a facility condition audit.
  • Cost of deficiencies by type (e.g., electrical, HVAC, roofs).
  • Future facility renewal costs.
  • Deferred maintenance (repairs and maintenance funds) levels and funding requirements.
  • Graphic and table presentations of backlog projections and funding projections.
  • Annual life-cycle requirements.

Problem: A number of research units on campus resorted to a “do-it-yourself” facility services approach. These departments engaged in these workarounds because they weren’t receiving the service response and the quality of facility services needed.
Solution: Customer needs and expectations should serve as major drivers for setting strategic direction. Communication should include direct contact in meeting settings, as well as electronic communication. Facilities should identify and engage key campus players who can provide timely feedback regarding campus needs and expectations, and who can outline whether those needs and expectations are being met.

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.

Assessment Criteria
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).

Why Benchmark?
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].

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