12 March 2015
Here's something about FM that doesn't get said much. Done well, it demands of its practitioners a great deal of creativity. Indeed, creativity is at the heart of good FM - in how FMs deal with crises, in how they plan to avoid them, in the way they negotiate and liaise with multiple stakeholders. Innovative dealings with day-to-day issues is part and parcel of an FM's skill set
In fact,creativity in everyday business life is not always about introducing new ways of working, or in revolutionising how we think and work. It can of course be each of these things, but the need for creativity of mind is more routinely manifested in something far more prosaic, identified for example in the nature of a response under pressure, perhaps when moving workers in an emergency from building to building.
The problem, as ever, is in the public's perception of FM. The sector's famously low profile means that the world beyond FM isn't likely to consider the work of facilities managers as in any way creative - they continue to assume that it operates in the shadows, its teams comprising dull grey men keeping their buildings going.
How much further from the truth could that be? For a start (and with the recent International Women's Day in mind), it's worth pointing out that at least as many women have been voted Facilities Manager of the Year as have men - more women than men have won it in the past five years. As for grey and dull, it would take a matter of moments at any FM networking event to dispel that absurd myth.
The fact that FM is now very much all about people is what confirms the need for a that creative mindset. FM's move from being principally about property performance to people and their productivity appears unstoppable. An organisation's CRE portfolio has only ever been the product of its people requirement, but the much closer attention to productivity and team structure that today's financial demands (and IT systems) allow means that those property determinations - location, size, form and function - are under almost constant review as the size, shape and make-up of an organisation's people resource fluctuates to accommodate ever more agile ways of working.
Of the speakers who provided insight this week into their forthcoming ThinkFM presentations, perhaps Monica Parker's was most illuminating. FMs, she argues, are increasingly being asked to determine the behaviours that management can expect to deal with. "It's part of FM's evolution," she says, "now you are behaviourists too."
Dealing with all those day-to-day deliverables and becoming behaviourists too? You'll definitely need to be creative to cope with all that.
It's a strand of thinking that came to mind after a series of meetings recently with FMs who have adapted to fundamental changes in their organisations' circumstances. In Newbury, the FM team at a hospital with a unique charitable PFI; in Bristol, a manufacturing facility in which the FM team has overseen the re-mapping of an entire site. The people overseeing these projects didn't wear snazzy red-rimmed glasses or sport sharp haircuts - they just went about their dazzlingly creative work behind the scenes.
Martin Read is managing editor at FM World