A Day in the Life of ... Dennis Kniery

Feb. 7, 2002
Dennis Kniery Thinks Beyond the Box

An electrical engineer by training, Dennis Kniery of Dallas has been a facility manager since the days before the title “facility manager” even existed. As Hewlett-Packard’s North American Remote Building Maintenance Program Manager, Kniery and his staff manage approximately 2.5 million square feet of space in 160 offices nationally for the Fortune 50 computer company’s sales team.

Originally, Hewlett-Packard had a traditional in-house facilities management set-up. In May 1999, the company switched to a virtual model with a small staff managing facilities remotely through outsourcing. “We were right in the middle of some fairly dynamic changes and our organization was changing,” says Kniery. The newly developed team of four provides support for Hewlett-Packard’s U.S. Field facilities, which have a churn rate of about 30 percent annually. The team uses continuous process improvement to increase efficiency.

“I call where we wound up uncharted waters. I remember one of our managers saying we need to be thinking outside of the box. Several weeks later, I asked him, ‘Is it okay if I can’t even see the box?’” recalls Kniery. The team contributed to development of a call center and coordinated with Trammell Crow Corporate Services, Woonsocket, RI, to contract out 100 percent of the facilities management. Kniery defines the way his team works as “exceptional management,” because they oversee the vendors’ performance, detect their successes, and manage the exceptions or failures. He adds, “The reason this works is based on the premise that if you select good vendors, you are at about an 80-percent success rate already.”

Kniery has served Hewlett-Packard since 1989. Before Hewlett Packard, he was project and staff manager and a director of building operations, managing an extensive research campus expansion project. Kniery’s facilities management career has been filled with highlights and challenges. “What has been rewarding is to see myself 30 years down the road and still be excited about it, still be interested in change,” says Kniery. He is inspired by the chance to do creative work and appreciates the opportunity to help others be more successful.

“The asset I value the most is a natural inquisitiveness and a passion about making things work better,” says Kniery. He values creating an environment of truth, and dubs it “working in the light,” meaning dealing with a situation openly and honestly. Kniery believes it is the only way to tackle problems.

Although Kniery has had his share of trouble with technology, he credits a high degree of connectivity with allowing his far-flung team to collaborate more effectively. He has a wealth of praise for his staff, especially his administrative assistant, citing both the group’s commitment and their passion.

From economic downturns to the specter of Y2K, the facilities management team has weathered numerous storms. Despite all the trials and tribulations, the reorganization has been a success. The reorganization has saved Hewlett-Packard millions of dollars and not one incident has prevented employees from being able to work.

Essential to the success of the program is a “failure tolerant” management team, which produces a liberated work environment. This team’s success is also credited to the solid partnership with Trammell Crow Corporate Services, which shares Hewlett-Packard’s flexible and straightforward business approach.

Last year, the International Facility Management Association (IFMA), Houston, honored Kniery and his team with the 2001 IFMA Facility Management Achievement Award. He has come full circle from his early experience in hands-on facilities management to virtual management. Proud of his past accomplishments, Kniery is looking forward to new challenges, seeking success, and learning from failures. Still passionate about his work, Kniery encourages others to seek careers that challenge their abilities. “If you are not passionate you need to be somewhere else!” he says.

Regina Raiford ([email protected]) is senior editor at Buildings magazine.

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