Archive for category Convergence

Musings on a Saturday morning…

I just had my first Saturday morning cup of coffee (okay, I may have had a Marlborough Light with it too). On this particular Saturday I had the bonus not only of a quiet household as both kids and fiancé were still quietly tucked up in bed, but also of reading the FMX interview with David Emanuel. In fact, it was the magazine landing on the mat that woke me from my own slumber.

I’ve always liked David, partly because I think he’s a good guy with an engaging personality, but also because he’s not afraid to rock the boat, or to challenge the conventional wisdom. I’ve been called both a maverick and an iconoclast myself in the past, so I guess it’s not surprising that I respect those who have the courage to question those things that disturb them and to seek the truth where others might just fear to tread.

In fact, I thought that the interview was fairly low-key (damn you, David). It did raise one or two issues about which I found myself nodding in agreement, however, and it prompted me to seek out my quill and ink in order to summarise those thoughts here. (I should really do this more often, of course, but life just seems to get in the way!)

On Chartership – personally, I just about side with the “it’s a discipline, not a profession” camp but to be honest I haven’t lost too much sleep dwelling on whether or not Chartership is the right thing for Facilities Management. What I do think is that BIFM now needs to make known it’s intentions once and for all, and either progress the issue of Chartership to a conclusion or put the matter to bed.

On qualifications – for far too long, I’ve listened to the argument that qualifications are a waste of time, and that in FM its experience that counts; almost always, those arguments are put forward by those without qualifications and who are unwilling, unable or just unmotivated to achieve them. For me, it’s a no-brainer; the higher the percentage of FM practitioners that are qualified, the more seriously we’ll all be taken. And by that, I mean taken seriously by those who are genuinely responsible for strategic decision-making; yes, the Board, where FM’s don’t sit and likely never will. (Don’t get me started on that one.)

On communication – BIFM, RICS and FMA need to understand the notion that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. All three organisations have a part to play in the future (and the future growth) of FM, and whilst it may be something of a pipedream to imagine them all working in harmony, and with common objectives, it’s a laudable pipedream. We need strong leadership from all three, but we also need forthright, honest and regular communication; many of us would say that this form of communication has been lacking in the past, and that’s simply not good enough.

On FM and property convergence – dear god, how long will we be talking about this before something positive happens as a consequence? I’ve been fortunate to work in an advisory capacity with some of the world’s largest corporates right down to SME’s, but one consistent theme is that there’s rarely enough concrete and accurate data on the property portfolio. Indeed, in every major outsource that I’ve managed getting consistent and reliable property portfolio data is always one of the hardest tasks. Yet without that, how are we in FM to identify opportunities; to provide the added value expected of us; or to properly define the services that will best serve the business? We need to be working hand in hand with our property cousins, and we need to be doing it now!

There… I’m now going to make myself another coffee (I’ve let the one I was drinking go cold) and carry on reading.

Leave a comment

Wake Up and Smell The Coffee

coffee_aromaShortly after I returned from the holiday referred to in my previous post, I was intrigued to read i-FM’s mention of the Drivers Jonas report about workplace productivity entitled Property in The Economy, and soon set about downloading a copy for later consumption. After all, we in FM have been pushing the convergence agenda for many years now (and long before we were talking about sustainability) and I was therefore looking forward to some leading-edge thinking from the property side of the fence; that said, I wasn’t altogether encouraged by the fact that the report’s subtitle was in the from of a question; “Workplace design and productivity: are they inextricably linked?”

Hmmmm… one could only hope that it was rhetorical and that all, perhaps, was not lost.

Anyone interested in the history of management theory might enjoy the some of the earlier sections, covering the Scientific Management of Frederick Winslow Taylor, Elton Mayo’s infamous Hawthorne Experiments of the ‘30’s and even Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. This is all very interesting (at least, to historical theorists) but is it relevant to the needs of the modern-day corporation? That’s debatable… technology and other factors have rendered today’s workplace almost unrecognisable from that of the 50’s (let alone the 30’s) and frankly this isn’t exactly ground-breaking stuff. There is some good content in the report, however, when it comes to justifying the push for a more efficient environment for the people that work within it. How about this:

  • inefficient buildings cost British business £135bn per annum and a better designed workplace could improve productivity by 19% (Gensler, 2005);
  • the economic loss to the US of poor indoor environmental quality was worth approximately $60bn in 1989 and the average productivity loss for all workers in the US due to poor internal working environments equates to approximately 3% for all white collar workers (US Environmental Protection Agency, 1989);
  • the self-reported productivity loss for UK workers in a survey of office workers was, on average, 3% (Raw et al, 1999);
  • US studies suggest that a 1% improvement in productivity has a larger economic return than a 100% saving in energy costs (CIBSE, 1999); and
  • productivity improvement of a fraction of 1% would be sufficient to cover the cost of necessary infrastructure improvements to enhance the indoor working environment (Clements-Croome, 2003).

Compelling stuff, for sure, but look at the dates of the research – 1989, 1999, 2003 and 2005… not what you’d call latest news! And some of the conclusions are equally worrying, not because they’re disputable (because I don’t believe that they are) but because they’re so obvious. It’s the kind of stuff we in FM have known for years!

“…there appears to be incontrovertible evidence that the working environment directly impacts the health and well-being of occupiers, and exhibits a direct causal link to sickness and absenteeism rates. An implication is that real estate professionals and building designers should work closely with HR professionals to help ensure buildings are designed, and continue to be operated, as occupier-friendly facilities.”

“…workplace design must not be regarded as a discreet activity but a link in an integrated process that starts with understanding what people need of their workplace to do business, and ends with an understanding of how the design has worked in practice – there must also be a feedback loop to re-engineer aspects of the design to fit the changing needs of people and the business over time.”

Even more astounding is the “advice” given to FMs in the report, which leaves me almost speechless (almost, I said. I’m not actually speechless very often, as those who know me would testify.) Citing temperature, lighting, noise, air quality, (environment) controllability, workstation design and configuration as examples of the factors involved, the report suggests that there’s “a causal link between physical factors in the workplace and the productivity of employees”. As FM practitioners we would never have guessed that, of course, which is why conclusions of the report also include the following recommendation:

“…a move within the facilities management industry to treat occupiers as customers could lead to increased customer satisfaction with the working environment – to be followed by an increase in the productivity level of those customers.”

Now, I should probably make it clear at this stage that my roots are firmly bedded in the property sector and I’ve always felt an affinity with and for my surveying colleagues as a consequence, but sometimes I can’t help but despair, and this is a perfect example of why. In fact, if you take a look at the Articles page on the Edifice website you’ll see an entry entitled “Diversify or Die” – a lecture on this very subject presented to the RICS by a former colleague in March 2002. (Maths isn’t necessarily my strong point, but I make that about 6½ years ago.) So, here’s a little advice of my own to anyone who’s starting to believe that there might just be something worth thinking about in anything I’ve referred to above.

Wake up and smell the coffee.

1 Comment

%d bloggers like this: