International standard ISO 41001:2018 Facility Management – Management Systems has been in place for two years, but its adoption has been limited, says Brian Atkin.
The ISO 41001:2018 Facility Management – Management Systems standard distinguishes between the organisation that receives FM, referred to as the demand organisation (i.e. the client), and the organisation that delivers FM (i.e. the FM organisation) when specifying requirements.
The FM organisation can be internal to the demand organisation or an external multi-service provider under an outsourcing arrangement. If the distinction is not clear from the outset misunderstanding is likely to arise. Could this be part of the reason for the standard’s limited adoption?
Commitment from the top
A key requirement of the standard is leadership and commitment from senior management of the FM organisation to guarantee “compatibility with the strategy direction of the demand organisation”. This could be a stumbling block if there is doubt about the intended meaning.
In practice, this means demonstrating understanding of the demand organisation and its needs, which is achieved by documenting its business strategy, objectives and FM requirements – then using them to define the FM objectives, FM policy and operational plans.
An external multi-service provider under contract to two or more demand organisations would have to prepare documentation on each organisation. As one set of plans is not going to suit all situations it will be necessary to adapt them to the respective demand organisation’s individual needs and objectives. In all cases, evidence of the resources that are planned for this purpose will need to be provided and, later in audit, the resources that were actually required should be disclosed, indicating whether these were appropriate or not.
Implementing the FMS needs more than enthusiasm; it demands real resources to align (or realign) existing arrangements with the requirements of the standard.
Determining the gap between existing arrangements and the requirements is essential as it quantifies the work that has to be done to achieve alignment and conformity with the standard.
Any thought of deviating from the standard’s requirements to accommodate existing arrangements should be discouraged. If realignment is too much in a single step, it makes sense to plan smaller steps to close the gap over three to six months.
A faciliities management system (FMS) thrives on attention to detail and the data and information that are appropriate for demonstrating its effectiveness and, therefore, conformity with the standard. Lack of attention will create problems during auditing when reasonable questions cannot be easily answered.
Interpreting the requirements of the standard does not have to mean drafting procedures and practice guidelines. An FMS manual along with forms already prepared for this purpose can be used to document and support the FMS, as well as help in gathering, analysing and presenting evidence for auditing. Manuals and forms can be obtained as part of a consultancy project or from an audit and certification service.
Time and expectations
Expectations about the ease with which the FMS can be implemented and embedded into day-to-day work can be easily underestimated. Six to 12 months is right in most cases. In the smallest organisations it will still take several months to implement and embed in daily work. It is right to be sceptical of any organisation that claims to have performed and certified an FMS within a month.
Implementation projects often fail because people forget things. A schedule based on realistic estimates can help to counter the optimism of impatient managers. It is better to complete implementation early than report a delay or make a vow that is unlikely to be kept.
Brian Atkin is a member of the BSI FM advisory group and ISO FM systems working group