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Facility projects succeed with team approach.

If anytime in the past few years you've been to a job interview, you've probably heard the question, "are you a team player? " It seems every project in the business world starts with the selection of team members. In The AMA Handbook of Project Management, Paul Dinsmore writes: "Teamwork enables organizations to be nimbler, more flexible, and better able to respond swiftly and creatively to the challenge of today's competitive business environment."

Facility managers are especially familiar with putting together a team. Whether renovating the corporate headquarters, constructing a new regional office or placing a computer system in a department, facility managers constantly strive to coordinate the physical workplace with the people and work of an organization. The sheer magnitude of many of these projects calls for assistance. Teams often include the facility manager, an interior designer, a construction manager and an engineer.

Because of the nature of their profession, facility managers are particularly adept at dealing with a variety of team players and assuring that management's goals and objectives are met. So while upper management may be concerned with the bottom line and employees worried about their comfort, facility managers strive to find the balance.

The international Facility Management Association(IFMA),anon-profit,professional association comprised of more than 12,800 facility-related professionals, has defined nine major functions of facility managers; three of the functions - interior space planning, work specification, and installation and space management; architectural and engineering planning and design; and new construction renovation and/or renovation work - directly relate to the work of interior designers, engineers and construction managers, respectively.

Choosing the Team's Quarterback

In this age of "downsizing" and "rightsizing," it's rare to find an organization with an array of in-house specialists to complete every facility project. However, you are likely to find a facility manager on staff to provide a productive environment and keep things running smoothly. When a project presents itself and calls for the gathering of a team, the facility manager often takes a leadership role. Acting as the liaison between the team and upper management, the facility manager can assure that costs are in line, that the job is getting done within the determined time frame, and that the team works as a group toward meeting specific goals.

Much has changed in the past decade. Not too long ago, it was common to find firms with a specific service. An interior design firm might specialize solely in space planning, and an engineering consultant might deal only with electrical applications; however, today, those same firms offer a variety of services. In fact, you may meet with a firm and find out they offer interior design, engineering, architect and construction management. The facility manager must determine what services are needed, who should supply them and what price should be paid for those services.

How often are facility teams needed? IFMA's 1993 Corporate Facility Monitor, an annual survey to gauge happenings in the facility management industry, asked those surveyed about relocation and renovation. The majority of respondents (87 percent) stated that their organization had remodeled/renovated its existing space in the last 12 months. Of all the respondents, 51 percent reported relocating facilities.

Designing the Play

Arthur Gensler, founding partner of Gensler and Associates, one of the most respected architectural and interior design firms in the world, said in a book titled Office Design, "Architects and interior designers must work closely with clients to gain a true understanding of their businesses, to actively support their strategic plans and to help them increase their productivity and image."

What role does the interior designer play on this facility team? According to the Foundation for Interior Design Education Research, "The professional interior designer is qualified by education, experience and examination to enhance the function and quality of interior spaces."

When selecting an interior design firm or consultant, the facility manager looks for designers who have experience with the type of project being undertaken, can work within a set budget, can review corporate standards and assure selections fit within those standards, and have respect for costs, schedules and the true function of the office.

Tackling the Construction Side

A construction manager on a team is there to assure that the construction part of a project gets built in accordance with plans and specifications; stays within budget and on time; meets all local, state and federal regulations; and has safe, acceptable techniques performed at the actual construction site. The construction manager's main role is to work with general contractors and trades at the site. Contact with the facility manager usually is reserved for team and individual meetings.

In large projects or sometimes government contracts, a number of construction contracts will be awarded. The construction manager then acts as the liaison between the construction firms and the facility manager. Construction managers are expected to keep construction on schedule and within costs; however, smart facility managers select team members early enough so that they can help develop realistic timelines and budgets.

Engineers Execute the Play

With the advent of highly-automated mechanical systems, the engineer has become a needed, respected member of the facility team. The engineer primarily deals with the facility's mechanical and electrical systems, plumbing, and structural analysis and design.

Successful engineers on a facility team make sure that selected systems fit in with long-term goals and corporate standards; assure systems are safe and installed to code; verify material is cost-efficient without sacrificing quality; and report on progress and financial considerations to the facility manager.

A Few Notes of Caution

At most service firms, there are staff members with a variety of training and experience levels. The facility manager, while selecting the firm, evaluates the personnel assigned to the project to assure that capabilities match up with the work scope. The importance of this may not immediately be understood. However, there have been instances where a service firm presented its high-level employees at pre-selection meetings and then had less experienced staff actually work on the account. It's up to the facility manager to assure that "what you see is what you get."

Also, there are many "standard" contracts used when dealing with service firms. Keep in mind, standard does not mean that the exact same contract is used with everyone. It is merely a starting point. The facility manager should tailor the contract to the project. In addition, at the starting point, try to get as much information in writing as possible. This "in-writing" policy is in the best interest of everyone, since the consultant has plans and goals laid out before him or her and the client has such information as planned strategies and fees on paper.

Winning the Game

Every facility project, or any project undertaken by an organization, is unique and requires its own plans and rules. Responsibilities of the team members will be dictated by the scope of the work, not by pre-conceived notions of what each specialist must handle.

In any team, members must be allowed latitude to produce the best work possible. A positive and cooperative environment should exist so the team can work together to solve problems and take advantage of opportunities. In facility projects, you'll often see a facility manager as the project leader, assuring that corporate goals are met, end users are satisfied and costs are kept within check. As a leader, the facility manager strives to keep the lines of communication open and work with team members not as a dictator but as a facilitator.
COPYRIGHT 1994 Hagedorn Publication
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1994, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
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Title Annotation:Building Management & Maintenance
Publication:Real Estate Weekly
Date:Oct 5, 1994
Previous Article:Changing alliances in corporate real estate.
Next Article:The changing role of management services.

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