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18 January 2019
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Facilitation management

30 September 2015 | Martin Read

A new Labour leader so divisive that many fear a party split, people crowding the streets to protest intractable international issues, and a government operating with a small and vulnerable majority.

It’s a scene that sums up both 2015 and 1981 – and for a number of politically obvious reasons it’s felt a lot like the 1980s in recent weeks. Of course, FM has a particular tie to that decade – during which, by common consent, it was first identified and structured as a distinct business activity.

What strikes me is how, 30 years later, an entire political epoch appears to have come full circle without FM’s value to organisational performance yet maturing into a clearly accepted and measurable form. At which point you’ll doubtless be shouting for me to change the broken record, but bear with me. Because while today’s politics has given us cause to compare then with now, they’ve also opened up another opportunity for comparison.

Take the Prime Minister’s recent keynote speak about seeking a ‘smarter state’. Now there’s an interesting choice of phrase – and one which immediately brings to my mind FM’s equally powerful phrase, ’intelligent client’.

It gets more interesting when you read Cameron’s words. Again, there’s something naggingly familiar. Comparing government with business, Cameron argues that “businesses are constantly adapting and changing, using new technology or new methods of delivery, to improve both their products and reduce their costs”.

Remind anyone of the typical conversation between client and providers to bake ongoing service innovation into contracts?

Or how about this: “What energises many markets are new insurgent companies who break monopolies and bring new ways of doing things.” In 30 years, a slew of FM providers have first defined, created, operated in and then completely ’disrupted’ their market.

“The best businesses would never shy away from allowing their customers to shape the way they improve their services,” continues the PM. Well, all the best FM case studies talk of FM moulding itself to the core aims of the end-user customer.

OK, so many of these parallels apply equally to other professions. But if government can bang the ‘smarter state’ drum, perhaps FM can resuscitate ‘intelligent client’ at the same time. There’s been less ‘intelligent client’ noise in recent years, and more’s the pity; piggybacking off government’s smarter state quest might yield some particularly helpful publicity for FM.

One other change since the 1980s is that FM’s focus has gone from optimising premises performance to optimising organisational performance, or at least a more nuanced combination of the two. If government seeks to facilitate a smarter state, perhaps FM should campaign on how it seeks to facilitate better organisational performance. Hey, how about facilitation management instead of facilities management? He lights the blue touch paper and retreats…

Martin Read is managing editor of FM World