The first 100 days of a facility manager

Posted Sept. 7, 2020

How can FMs ensure success in a new job? Jack Crutzen offers a detailed how-to guide - but to succeed you must make your mark in that crucial first 100 days.

In 1933 when US president Franklin D. Roosevelt took office during the Great Depression, he promised to lay the foundation stones for a new prosperity within his first 100 days in office. Since then actions within the first 100 days have become the yardstick by which presidents are judged. Roosevelt knew that he had to make his impact within that first 100 days or risk failure, and facility managers embarking on a new job face exactly the same challenge – you are judged by your early deeds and your future advancement within your new organisation may depend on them.

So what should a facility manager focus on in the first 100 days in a new organisation to ensure a successful start? This article offers a practical how-to guide and distinguishes between strategic and tactical/operational areas.

Before you join

A successful start begins with the preparation of the entire application and your performance during the selection process. During this process you must be able to take note of the state of the facilities, assets and the facilities “management” organisation. Ask whether you may look into documentation and whether you can spend a day working on site and have orientation interviews with decision makers, end users and your future employees. Find out whether you can contribute to the development of your personal competences, the parent organisation and the facilities management organisation. It is important that you have taken your goals and the associated key performance indicators into account, so that you are aware of the areas that you will be assessed on.

Check the organisational culture

An indicator of your success within the new organisation is not only how well you carry out your job but whether you fit into the organisational culture and have the right feeling for the (in)formal organisation and the extent to which you are able to work with other people.

For the first 100 days you can make use of “management by walking around”, communicating with both the higher and lower ends within the organisation, meet people, observe and analyse, and have conversations with your suppliers, customers and clients. Find (other) members of the board of directors and use an informal approach to learn more about the agendas, personal goals and motives of the people you will be closely working with.

Try to get in touch with a variety of stakeholders within the organisation. Classify your impressions and ideas.

Start: strategic analysis

You must understand the long-term strategy of the organisation and in particular the “facilities plan”. Are the strategies and plans up-to-date and are they embraced within the (facility) organisation? Research the priorities within the (facility) organisation. Bring the added value of facility management as soon as possible to the attention of the board of directors and your own employees, colleagues, and staff. Have a customer-oriented approach and deliver where possible (un)solicited positive advice to colleague managers.

Try to get insight into matters that have the highest priority and pick them up in a professional manner and solve them, think in solutions rather than in problems. Gather as much information as possible, talk with your key staff and suppliers, check personnel files, talk to procurement, study the contracts, and know your facts and figures. What are the main objectives that are aligned with the strategy and mission of the parent organisation and determine how you can make a contribution?

Daily facility management

By this I think of the “management” of tactical/operational aspects of facility management that contributes to an efficient and smooth-running facility organisation. This list is not inclusive but gives a helping hand. A useful inventory list is that of the IFMA (International Facility Management Association[1]) or the more recent competencies of a facility manager by FMANZ. Through IFMA a facility manager can be certified as “certified facility manager”. A facility manager is then tested on his knowledge and skills in various fields. This is also a list that you can check regularly during your first 100 days and where you can ask yourself those critical questions: where am I and how is this arranged within my facility organization. The CFM area: facility competences, management and maintenance, real estate, personal and environment, planning and project management, organisational management, quality and innovation, communication and ICT.

During the first 100 days, the facility manager can pay attention to the following points and form a pragmatic overview of possible critical questions that can support a smooth start.

1. Financial planning and budgeting

By talking to your controller, you should soon be able to have a clear insight in the (operational) facility costs. You can use the NEN 2748 methodology and available indicators. In addition to operational budgets, you need to understand investment and project budgets. Are there funds allocated for the medium-term? What does the planning and budgeting cycle look like, how can the facility manager influence (controllable costs), and what is the reporting cycle and what ways of consultation are important?

Analyse your budget, expenses and income pattern; perform historical analyses; indicate the observable trends; and find out what the fixed and variable costs are. Determine how budgets were managed and monitored, what systematic tools are available and what improvements you can make to this. To whom do you report and what are the requirements? Are costs passed on to customers (basic and additional services – SLA) and in what way are agreements between the customers and the facility organisation made and recorded?

Every FM must have financial planning and budgeting knowledge otherwise there is no place for you at a senior management level. Therefore, it is important to find out what financial culture is present in the organisation: speak the “financial language” of your organisation!

2. (Corporate) real estate management / Property management

Is there ownership of properties, rental and/or lease? Study your (corporate) real estate documentation and how the cost structure is built, for which services and/or building services may you be or not be responsible? Try to benchmark the organisation’s indicators with those of similar organisations. You can also make use of the many reports of real estate companies and brokers on various websites. Research the expectations of your decision-makers, stakeholders and end-users with respect to the available real estate and whether this is consistent with the strategic objectives of the organisation in the (middle) long term.

If there is no strategic property management plan, create one and research opportunities to renegotiate parts. What are the requirements on departure and internal relocations and/or renovations, are there regular meetings and which critical timeframes you need to bear in mind? Research the local real estate market for possible alternatives. Does the organisation have relocation- and renovation plans and is there a project team/resources available?

3. Management and maintenance

Find out as soon as possible the approach to maintenance planning: is it preventive or reactive? With reactive maintenance planning you will often see (automated) maintenance systems. Examine the associated key performance indicators and information carriers such as specifications, drawings, inspection reports, and maintenance contracts.

Make a risk profile as soon as possible, analyse available investment and maintenance budgets and the knowledge of your employees and/or maintenance contractors. Analyse the process of reporting a fault/defect to the operational solution/repair team. Analyse the number of work orders given in one year and make a Pareto analysis or the top 10 problems.

Create a trend analysis of the past years per maintenance item and benchmark these with other buildings and/or companies. Are statutory audits properly implemented and what can you derive from these results, are assets regularly checked? Take personal knowledge of key installations and be advised by your services personnel. Do you have up-to-date building and system data (drawings, manuals, maintenance records, CAD system etc.)? Consider an independent consultant to carry out an audit

4. Service contracts and preferred suppliers

What products and services does the facility organisation offer and accept? Look at the service level agreements with customers and contracts with suppliers. How are these contracts established, what are the terms/duration and how can these contracts be monitored (suppliers management, procurement management)? Where are the opportunities for improvement? Benchmark where possible and invite suppliers to make cost- and quality improvements within the first 100 days. They can support a successful start by realising some quick wins during those first 100 days!

5. Work environment

The work environment is a primary indicator of the culture within the organisation. Look around you: what is the state of the indoor climate and lighting/fixtures, furniture and (innovative) office concepts, workstation configurations (e.g. IT). Does the work environment contribute to the image of the organisation, the primary business objectives, improved productivity, and job satisfaction?

Which indicators does the organisation use with respect to workplace design? Is there sufficient health and safety knowledge available within your facility organisation or is this part of the HRM department? How is the (digital) archiving or document management arranged? How does this support and enhance the work environment? How does the organisation identify (corporate branding)? How are shared services (mail, workplace supplies, multifunctional items etc.) offered?

From an account management perspective is there regular contact with other managers to map there requirements in terms of work environment, and do they have plans to move or are there other specific wishes regarding workplace standards within the organisation? What are the key ratios such as m2 per employee, the number of moves per employee or workplace costs per FTE for employee?

6. Technical infrastructure

What is the role of the technical infrastructure in the parent organisation? Think about data, cabling, telecom and electrics, for example. Is this infrastructure an integral part of the company (the products and services of the parent organisation make use of the technical infrastructure of the facility organisation) or has this infrastructure merely a supportive role? Answering this question gives an idea about the establishment of risk management within an organisation. What is the critical downtime of the technical infrastructure, what are the costs when this downtime occurs and what investments can reduce this downtime?

Create a risk profile of the technical infrastructure and the impacts of these risks on business continuity. How is the emergency response plan aligned to this and are there practical agreements between the FM and IT departments?

7. Policies and procedures

In addition to examining relevant policy documentation, you should also look at the emergency response organisation, risk management, the way the customer/supplier organisation is structured, what procedures are relevant in the field of HRM, facilities applications, procurement. Are there manuals with procedural rules available and are they supported by an intranet? Are your customers and employees aware of these procedures and are they applied? Get in contact with your emergency coordinator, your personal advisor or risk team to obtain this information.

8. Management systems

As facility manager, can you use several (automated) support systems in managing and administering assets and facilities? Think, for example, about a FMIS or traditional building-security-and installations management systems. Who is responsible for the management and maintenance of these systems, which (management) information supply these systems? These systems can give you a quick insight in the cost and quality profile of the management of the facilities.

9. Design of the facility organisation

Besides gaining insight in the tactical/operational management of all facilities (costs and quality), it is important to evaluate your facility organisation (structure, culture, processes, people). How is the facility organisation structured, what are the skills of your employees? Read the personnel files. Are these competences in line with the goals of the organisation? What products and services are offered, what is outsourced and how are these outsourced services managed? Are there benchmarking results available and what can you derive from them? The answer to these questions will help you to make a quick profile of your facility organisation.

10. Customers

During the first 100 days, you should meet as many customers (decision-makers to end-users) as possible. Listen to their complaints, requests, information and suggestions; and find out who you need to get issues resolved. Are there customer panels which could provide customer survey data or other performance measurements? Organise workshops or customer and supplier meetings. Aim for regular consultation with your customers. But also observe how customers respond to your employees and the services offered. Be visible and listen to your customers!

11. Board of directors / decision-makers

Bring your ideas and added value to the attention of the decision-makers and purchasers of your facility services. Provide solutions to problems and offer them opportunities to further concentrate on their core business. Speak their language (senior management, strategy, financial), provide clear reports with improvements, risk reductions, investment opportunities, and efficiency measures, opportunities in the field of increased productivity, employee satisfaction and brand image.

It is well known that the facilities account for a relatively large portion of costs and value within an organisation. Facility management also contributes substantially to more fun at work!

At the end of the 100 days

Once your first 100 days have passed, it is time for an evaluation. Try to make a Balanced Score Card of your own facility organisation, perform a SWOT analysis, the INK management model could help define positions (FM as executor, administrator or director) and where you want to excel as a facility organisation (operational excellence, customer intimacy or product leadership)[2]?

As a facility manager, it is useful to have some “quick wins” at the end of the first 100 days and for that you need knowledge of the issues mentioned above. Based on your inventories, you can now start with some improvements, reducing a number of risks and meeting the key requirements of the customers (end-users and in particular the decision-makers). Show confidence to your employees and customers, be positive and be of added value, communicate and have a positive attitude! Have fun and good luck with your first 100 days!

  • Jack Crutzen was chair of the FMANZ Education Committee and deputy chair of the FMANZ Board
  • This article first appeared in the leading Dutch FM journal Facility Management Nederland, in 2006. It has been translated for the FMANZ newsletter by Herma Schutte.

[1] : see information on the key focus areas of a Certified Facility Manager (CFM)[2] Zie ook Alkema, Judy, Judith Chin Kwie Joe, Bedrijfsvoering in klantperspectief, Arko Uitgeverij, 2005.

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