Strategically aligned or going nowhere boldly?

by Rodney Timm
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Aligning and delivering facilities and property outcomes with organisational strategic priorities continues to be a challenge for the industry. This includes trying to engage with enterprise leaders to understand and prioritise property as being a strategic enabler for success while their attention is focused on numerous other competing business decisions.

Being able to convince these leaders that facilities decisions, while being perceived as non-core to the business processes, are complex needs a different approach. By its nature, property usually results in long-term commitments and lumpy capital commitments, with significant gestation periods. The next challenge for the industry is to ensure that the facilities management capabilities are aligned to organisational requirements and able to deliver the facilities outcomes needed to support the business strategy.

Rodney 2 400x500

Property Watch’s Rodney Timm.

Barry Varcoe is a leader in business operations thinking who has emerged from the corporate real estate industry. He has mapped out a simple framework to test a company’s strategic and operational alignment, as reported article in recent Harvard Business Review (HBR) article. This framework is adapted in this article as an approach to test how aligned the facilities strategic and operating planning is within an organisation.

Is this planning able to provide the support needed to deliver corporate strategic outcomes and structured to deliver the facilities needed to position the company for success?

This framework approach considers two complementary but different focus areas in delivering facilities outcomes:

  • How aligned is the facilities strategy to support the company’s purpose?
  • How well does the facilities team support the delivery of the operational needs?

Facilities alignment to support the company purpose

The company’s purpose is the enduring reason why it exists. This is the focus for the company to achieve success in the future and be able to deliver the outcomes expected by the key stakeholders.

Without a defined purpose, which may evolve rapidly in a changing world, the company is unlikely to survive over the longer term. This purpose needs to be the primary focus for the facilities leadership when planning and developing the facilities strategies. But without knowing and understanding the company purpose and its likely future, it is unlikely the facilities team will be able to deliver the outcomes that the company needs to be successful. Too often facilities strategies are an aggregation of events as catalysts for actions, and not proactively planned manoeuvres.

Organisational capability to achieve the facilities strategy

The organisational capability and structure of facilities delivery is all about the processes, the systems and the resources, internal to the company or in the form of contract arrangements and partnerships, that together enable the delivery of planned facilities outcomes.

This capability is reflected in the group culture, the service commitments and the future development initiatives of the facilities team. If this team is unable to deliver the support that is in alignment with the business purpose, it is likely that this will severely curtail the business’ ability to achieve its purpose.

With these two focus areas mapped onto a matrix, the symptoms and problems in facilities service delivery offering, whether internal or outsourced, will become more evident, as demonstrated below:


Excellence in process delivery

There are many examples of facilities organisations, both internal and outsourced, that have great records of delivering service excellence. Working off the foundation of great corporate knowledge and committed service delivery ethos, these facilities groups tend to be well-organised with processes well-documented and treating the client as king.

This engineering-type focus of delivering efficiently, has served the industry well as a trusted operational provider of business support. The approach has thrived by doing the same things, but doing them well. Incremental change and planned corporate growth can easily be accommodated and crises responded to by going beyond the call of duty and being available at all hours.

In the current changing business environment, however, can this approach support the emerging business needs? Future facilities needs and accommodation solutions may be totally different from the past.

Recommendations that focus on efficiency and past process solutions may be the undoing of the business being challenged by new emerging disruptive business model. The future of this process-orientated approach to facilities management, not being a key enabler to the future success of the business, is not assured.

Enlightened neglecting Operational Capability

Many facilities managers have come to the realisation that the future will be different. Working along-side the business leaders, focused on the business challenges and the new disruptive opportunities, these managers tend to embrace the uncertainties of the future. They are constantly thinking up alternative facilities and accommodation solutions to provide business flexibility and agility, as the platforms to deliver the business purpose as it evolves.

But with the focus on the future, the delivery of the on-going facilities outcomes still required to support business-as-usual operational needs, tends to become neglected. Work-flow processes are no longer adhered to, critical decision-points are missed and the more mundane business needs are not prioritised. Those business leaders still driving outcomes to ensure the cash flow continues to be generated to survive, are often disappointed. Buildings that are no longer compliant, cleaning standards are compromised and operational break-downs causing business interruptions, are more frequent.

These operational problems will impact the business’ confidence in facilities team capabilities and question their abilities. Even if their focus on the future results in the ideal business facilities platform to respond to discontinuous change, alternative facilities operational delivery options may be sought from others.

Departure lounge

There is not much hope for salvation or many things that can be said for those facilities organisations that are operationally inept and also show no commitment to understanding or planning for a new future.

Without providing the business-as-usual operational efficiencies to remain competitive or displaying an ability or interest to envision what the future facilities solution may look like, these groups are likely to be on the way out. Business leadership will soon be looking to plan their replacement with an alternative solution to the corporate facilities support team.

Winning platform

More than ever, in a time when business changes are no longer incremental and new competitors are constantly emerging from unrelated sources, understanding the business strategy and possible futures, no matter how these may evolve, is key to planning and providing facilities solutions that can cope with major disruptive change.

Co-creating new flexible and adaptable future-focused workplace and facilities solutions by working closely with the business unit leaders is essential for survival and achieving sustained success.

But this approach must not neglect ongoing business requirements and must continue to have the operational alignment with the more mature business streams that continue to deliver the cash flows needed for the organisation to survive. This is the platform that sustains the business over the short and medium term, while moving to new emerging business models is the foundation for the future.

In the current business environment, with most enterprises constantly challenged by emerging disruptive business models, facilities management leadership needs to constantly engage with the business leaders and understand the industry trends and what success may look like in the future.

But just as important is having the facilities policies and operational capability that will continue to support the business-as-usual needs. This combination is the winning platform that will ensure that facilities continues to be relevant and able to cope with the future – no matter what this may look like.

Rodney Timm is a director of Property Beyond Pty Ltd. This article also appears in the August/September edition of Facility Management.

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