Without strategy a business is aimless and blind. Strategy is an articulation of vision and element of success. Out of competitive fear many businesses consider their strategic documents top secret. “For your eyes only” makes for a great Bond movie, but frankly your competitors already know your strategy. For the most part they have you figured out. They see how you’re competing. They are watching your moves, and have enough information that even reading your strategy document likely wouldn’t help them.
Beyond the cloak of secrecy, what’s really behind being a best-in-class company? Is it superb strategies and strategic thinking, or is it because they know how to operate, manage, and execute their business? Or are they equally important?
If we are choosing between having a superior strategy that has an average execution, versus an average strategy that is flawlessly executed, the latter wins every time. Strategy is always easy to develop but hard to execute. This is the magic. Facilities Management is no different.
The Aberdeen Group found that 77% of the best-in-class companies looked at FM more strategically rather than just a cost centre or a necessary evil; plus they had executive sponsorship for FM across the enterprise. For “average” companies this is less than 50%, and for the “laggards” it is only 30%
Strategies for the facilities management function are important. On one hand they are typically driven by the organizations strategies and goals, but on the other hand they are not always fully aligned with them. In this sense they are perhaps less “strategic” departments or functions, but more driven by initiatives or tactics that line up with the organization’s goals and strategies.
Day-to-day facility operation is often one of crisis management. It’s easy to be buried by immediate needs and lose sight of the company’s long-term goals. With this in mind, it’s often best to use the pareto principle (put 80% of effort and time on the top 20% of key strategies and initiatives) to stay focused and to keep energy in the right places.
The Aberdeen Group research study doesn’t suggest that thinking about FM more strategically means developing elegant FM strategies per se. It’s more about making sure the goals, initiatives, and metrics align with corporate strategies. This process needs executive support and attention so employees understand that the FM function is strategically important, and to provide clear direction for it’s execution.
The most common main goal or market pressure for FM is “reducing operating costs” (no surprise), and improving ROA. Addressing costs is the number one concern, followed by safety and tenant satisfaction. Our research of best-in-class FM management point out that they are “best” not because they have elegant strategies, but rather their FM group has:
Goals and metrics that are fully aligned with corporate strategies
Executive sponsors across the enterprise
Good communication about how FM ties to corporate goals and objectives, thus giving employees a deeper sense of meaning. They can also see how their actions are contributing to the company.
Execution is the difficult part of strategy and if you look at “best practice” companies, their best strategic elements essentially tie into executing better. We believe this is where Best in Class companies differentiate themselves the most – the ability to execute is the hardest but the place where if you get it right can make the most difference.
“Perception is strong and sight weak. In strategy it is important to see distant things as if they were close and to take a distanced view of close things” — Miyamoto Musashi, legendary Japanese swordsman