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Finding the foozle factors - eliminating roadblocks to efficiency.

For those of us in the real estate industry, tonight will be another night awake, wrestling with our concerns. Only time will lessen some problems, such as the recession and overbuilding. But as we wait, we can improve our current results and prepare our company for a strong future by uncovering and eliminating those dreaded "foozle factors" - roadblocks to effective action which lurk within all companies, large and small.

If your first reaction is, "We don't have any of those, it's all because of the market," think again! What about the excess paperwork? The endless conflicts between staff and operating groups? Employee turnover? And the lost income when we fail to secure and retain tenants? The impact on the bottom line can be enormous!

When we think about it, either as managers of our companies or as clients of someone else's, each business has developed these "foozle factors." Often, it is easier for us to see them in another company. But, if we are going to be successful in the new real estate game, we had better start looking for them in our own.

"Foozle factors" develop for many reasons. Employees have differing personalities, concerns, and objectives. Consider the classic comparison of sales to accounting personnel, or computer operations to line management.

Time, also, contributes to these roadblocks. Procedures which once had a purpose now act as sponges for time and energy. As companies grow, so do the organizational layers, paperwork, meetings, and confusion. Whatever the reasons, if we are not careful, we can be our own worst enemy.

Historical practices often create roadblocks and impediments to people taking effective actions. It is not so much that employees do not know what must be done. Rather it is our own policies, procedures, and paperwork that make it difficult for them to do it. As companies grow, problem-solving for one department becomes problem creation for others. In the worst cases, people take effective action in spite of, rather than because of, the organization.

As managers find acceptable results elusive, symptoms are often treated. To provide adequate control, layers of supervision are created. To limit expenses, paper handcuffs are placed on personnel. To insure that everyone has access to information, we create mountains of reports. And, still, the satisfactory results prove elusive.

Today, we recognize that the old game simply is not working, not only in our industry, but for other businesses as well. Times and results demand a new design.

But, how do we go about implementing strategies for success? What can we do to compete efficiently? For those managers who are attempting to design effective strategies in today's complex environment, a new approach, critical relationship management, may provide much needed clarity.

This approach views business from a different perspective. Rather than looking at a business as pieces, it is seen as a whole. The focus is on people, not things; on the ends, not the means. By identifying, evaluating, and enhancing relationships, we can design for success.

A plan for the future

Critical relationship management focuses the organization on fulfilling its mission. Those relationships which are crucial to our objectives are continually reviewed and enhanced. Relationships or activities which do not move the company forward are eliminated.

The starting point for implementing critical relationship management is a clear statement of company purpose. It is not uncommon to find that workers are unclear as to the mission of the enterprise. In this environment, objectives of departments or individuals become paramount, resulting in an organization that competes with itself. Successful businesses have a clear focus, a vision or, stated differently, a legacy that it is intent on creating.

Critical relationship management will build on this mission and will always be grounded in the fundamental purpose of the company. As strategies and objectives change, critical relationship management allows the organization to respond, creating an ongoing program of designing for effectiveness. Over time, satisfactory results will no longer be elusive.

Launching critical

relationship management

Focusing on our mission, we can identify, evaluate, and enhance our company's critical relationships.

To identify critical relationships, it is perhaps easiest to think in terms of internal and external customers. During this stage, we are determining which relationships, both inside and outside the company, are crucial to achieving our goals.

A few of these relationships are obvious. Leasing, on-site management, and maintenance personnel are critical to our tenants. Vendors relate to our property management staff, asset managers to investors, and accounting to management.

Throughout the organization, each relationship that contributes to corporate goals must be examined. If a person or group does not serve a customer or its contribution is difficult to measure, activities must be modified or eliminated.

In this analysis, static and dynamic relationships will become apparent. Static relationships are those that provide consistency, efficiency, flexibility, and support for the organization. Static activities employ fairly stable practices and include administrative functions such as accounting, personnel, and payroll. These functions often act as the "providers" of services to internal and external users (Figure 1).

Dynamic relationships involve those people who interface with the changing environment and who, very often, are the "customers" in the static relationships. Again, there are the obvious dynamic relationships: leasing personnel to prospective tenants, management and maintenance to current tenants, and so forth. In this category we may also find finance, public relations/advertising, and other departments that relate outside the organization.

The outcome of this phase is the identification of relationships which are directly involved in achieving the objectives of the business.

Assessing relationships

Knowing the various provider-customer relationships, we are now in a position to evaluate their effectiveness. In this phase, we will determine how well customers feel that their needs and concerns are being addressed.

We identify, through direct contact with the providers and customers, how effective people are in supplying the products or services for which they are responsible. We seek input from customers on quality, quantity, timeliness, levels of service, courtesy, and follow-up. We learn from providers what they need to perform better, what prevents them from reaching new levels of quality, and how well they "hear" what their customers really want.

This phase requires much homework. Interviews, surveys, questionnaires, reviews of current procedures and practices, and other means of collecting information will be employed to produce valid results. This review is invaluable in determining the needs of our customers and our current level of effectiveness.

To facilitate this stage, continually ask, "Why?" "Why do you request this report?" "Why do we need this additional approval?" "Why does it take so much time to respond to a prospect?"

And, for each answer received, do not be hesitant to ask" why?" again! It is surprising how many of our rules do not have a solid foundation, and how many times we hear, "Well, it has always been done this way."

Finally, when it appears we have a clear picture of our current level of effectiveness, bring the customers and providers together to assess the results. Not only can this review validate findings, but it can uncover other roadblocks and begin a strong partnering to improve effectiveness. During this phase, the "foozle factors" will emerge. It may be very surprising to see how much of our collective energy is not directed toward serving any customer.

Streamlining critical paths

Having completed a thorough, objective review of our critical relationships, we are now in a position to enhance overall effectiveness. Through partnering of employees, our remedies may be as simple as reducing paperwork or changing practices. Conversely, technology may be introduced to automate or enhance the actions of people.

Fortunately, many of the obstacles are easily overcome. First, the fundamentals of the business must be strong. Initial energies should be devoted to insuring that our primary, external customers consistently receive quality products and service. Again this will focus the organization on its mission. To a great extent, it will bring the company together as people collectively seek ways to place the customers first. Parochial concerns will fade as the vision becomes clearer.

Throughout this process, our focus is on the corporate mission. By recording our findings, we will begin to see that our efforts will increase the effectiveness of the entire organization. Figure 2 can serve as our blueprint.

The important point is that whatever decisions are finally agreed upon, they are not made in a vacuum. The decisions will be based upon a complete view of the business in which changes in one area can be evaluated in the context of the whole. Only from this perspective can an ongoing process be developed in which change is perpetually grounded in the effective pursuit of corporate goals.


An assessment of critical relationships will take time, patience, and skilled coordination. It is not a quick fix solution. For those businesses that are committed to the ongoing pursuit of excellence, the payoffs can be great.

The time has come for critical relationship management. Historical business practices have, to a large degree, failed. Our focus in the future must be on those business processes that are based in human relationships.

Too often, practice, procedures, and technology have been introduced as "final solutions." In far too many cases, the solutions only served to create more problems. Critical relationship management will place these technologies and procedures in proper perspective - as tools which support people in building a successful enterprise.

Why Critical Relationship


* To define our business objectives in clear,

measurable terms. * To remain focused on business objectives. * To constantly and continually improve the

quality level of our products and services. * To view our relationships with others as

critical to the success of the organization. * To see those relationships as provider-customer

relationships; as customers,

demanding the levels of quality needed

for us to achieve superior results; as

providers, seeing our customers, whether

internal or external, as our most important

business relationship. * To forge partnerships which will allow the

entire work flow to be enhanced, enable

everyone's role in achieving business

objectives to be understood, and provide

opportunities for breakthrough thinking

to occur * To enhance relationships with people so

that dealings with others will reflect understanding,

respect, humor, and integrity.

Critical Relationship



* Communicate corporate mission or vision. * Identify critical relationships - customer

relationships which are based on mission. * Evaluate the effectiveness of supplying

products and services to internal and

external customers, * Enhance the effectiveness of provider-customer


Potential benefits:

* Logical expenditure of time and money * A customer-driven enterprise. * Flattening of the organization. * Partnering of employees who design the

most effective ways to perform their work. * Continual pursuit of quality

Joseph P Denny is senior vice president for Balcor Property Management, Skokie, Illinois. Based in Atlanta, he has played a key role in organizational development through the design and implementation of training, effective practices, and computer programs. In addition to his property management experience, he has served in the public sector as a mayor and an educator
COPYRIGHT 1991 National Association of Realtors
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1991 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Denny, Joseph P.
Publication:Journal of Property Management
Date:Sep 1, 1991
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