In the first of a series of interviews with key players in the development of the facilities management profession, facilities management consultant Anne Lennox Martin, one of the first people to take a Masters degree in FM, talks to Bev Nutt, who led the course at UCL in the early 1990s
30 September 2010
Anne Lennox Martin: When was the first time you heard the phrase 'facilities management' and what did it mean at that time?
Bev Nutt: I'd like to twist that question a little. The first time I heard 'facilities' was in the internal DEGW publication which Jane Bell edited. Right from the start, I and others didn't like the word. You had to speak it in an American accent for it to sound good. It was pre-1988 and I was at University College London, as a senior lecturer in the faculty of the built environment.
I trained as an architect and architecture was going in a direction I didn't like. When I was educated in the profession, user requirements and user participation was critical to the briefing and the design of buildings. It was all about making sure that the future users of buildings are able to adapt what they inherit and manage it into the future. But that changed.
A: I know that you and Frank Duffy were saying to architects "look, this has to change."
B: Architecture was returning to its roots, that is a very egotistical, 'I'm the great creator' type. I know it's not like that now, which is fantastic. At the time I thought I've either got to take this on the chin or I've got to do something else and so I did. I was granted a sabbatical and one of the things I did was to think through what I might do on the education side and that lead into a Masters proposal in FEM. I must stress facilities and ENVIRONMENTAL management. It was there from the start.
A: And that was when David Kincaid got involved?
B: I'd never done facilities management, so we had to have someone twinned with me who had vast practical experience so their skills would complement mine, not compete or duplicate them. David's name came up. He has an engineering background and extensive North American experience and UK experience with IBM. So we matched together well. David came to us initially on part-time appointment because that's all we could afford but luckily, having come from IBM, money was not a concern. Later on he became a full-time member of staff and is now an honorary reader at UCL.
A: When you made the decision to get heavily involved in facilities management and the Masters, what was the key that decided, 'this is where I'm going to focus my career?'
B: Well I didn't. It was a part of my career but not all of it. One thing I missed out was that before I directed the intellectual property business for UCL, I'd been deputy director for the Joint Union for Planning research - between UCL and the London School of Economics. This was 30 people, a cross-disciplinary group. It was from urban management to what I know from DEGW, workplace management which are the user requirements. It was a very large spectrum of interests. What brought me down to a good clear focus was the Association of Facilities Management, which was tremendous.
A: How did you get involved in the Association of Facilities Management?
B: It was Geoff Gidley who was looking for someone to be on the board of the AFM who could have wear an educational hat. Frank Duffy contacted me and that's how I joined. Geoff wanted me to set up an education committee at the AFM, which I did. In the early days, everyone was giving their time for nothing so we had big ambitions but between meetings we were continuing with our paid jobs so it was very distributed and continued to be like that when it became the BIFM. Geoff was the godfather. Always. He has a superb ability to bring people together and help them to resolve, in a positive way, any differences. And he was very useful to us in establishing the MSc because I needed an external examiner with academic credibility and he's got a chemistry PhD.
A: How did the BIFM committee appoint John Crawshaw?
B: It was scale. The membership was growing and growing and there were just a few people and you really needed something to organise this effort. John, with his military background, was superb. The beginning of the AFM/ BIFM's conference programme, he was the person who pushed it from the start. There was a group of people in the AFM who were very senior. There was John Jack, Marilyn Standley, Roger Reeves; these people had little time to contribute but my goodness did they contribute. At that time they were very excited, they saw FM as a new profession, alongside the Riba and the Rics. There are some issues of definition and I believe that BIFM have adopted the European definition of FM. It's probably a very sensible line to go down but it's very limited and I hope they (the BIFM) realise it's so limited.
A: Let's go back to John Jack, who to me is the godfather of outsourcing. He used to talk about outsourcing and I used to talk about building the in-house team and we ended up talking about virtually the same thing - 'it's all about the people.' Is that your memory?
B: It wasn't when I first met him. John and his people had been with IBM but were now separate. They said they didn't want FM in house but to be dealt with separately and that's what happened. I was invited down to Waterlooville to do a presentation about the central nature of FM, what it did and didn't encompass in America and Europe. I went down and all the people were amazing, of exceptionally high calibre. We had a great meeting and from then on we had a working relationship. John gave a huge credibility to the early days of FM because people knew what he'd done, knew where he'd came from and they respected him.
A: What do you think is your greatest contribution as you look back now?
B: Two things, not to sound arrogant. Before we ever met I had done my homework looking at library sources, meeting key people, I had perhaps approached over 50 senior people to try to get to grips with what FM was and what it could be. I was trying to develop a model curricula for FM courses. That became quite a seminal paper. We had a working party on core competencies in AFM. One of the contributions I think was the notion that you ought to start defining what you're about. The other thing is FM research. It proved to be hugely successful. One of the reasons for UCL respecting my area was because of the money I brought in. Money speaks at the university. Once you talk about millions coming in, they love it. I think the research was important.
A: What's changed most since you've retired with where FM sits today?
B: BIFM membership has grown and grown, it's a very large membership. To a large degree as a quasi-professional organisation, you have to serve the membership, provide what they need, help them and I think the BIFM does a superb job in that position. But you are somewhat trapped by the membership, because things you may, at board level, think are important to FM are not important on the shop floor. If you go down the operational support services line, that's fine, that's your real core competence, the people based approach which is now common place. On the other side, if I had five years more work left, it's about operational strategy, to go into an organisation and in relation to the management support environment. Operation strategy gets over all this silly thing 'I'm operational' ' you're strategic' the class divide between the people doing the real work and the people on the board. If you start with what is the most appropriate operational strategy to this company you then can push down to the work and occasionally you can push up and see the business strategy.
A: What advice would you give to young people coming into the profession now?
B: If anybody wants to do it via a university education route, I would say get a good first degree in something semi-relevant and pursue it in the traditional way. But the majority of people come through the work place and this is where I do think that the professional development route we set up is really the exciting route still. Looking to the future it should be less cumbersome, it takes too long, very bureaucratic. I would concentrate on that route.
A: If you could do one thing differently in your career in FM, what would it be?
B: A very difficult question. Because we were the new kid on the block, I wasn't firm and strong enough in pointing out the absolutely essential contribution of FM in securing a competitive national infrastructure. In securing much better support services, a very important political point at the moment. I feel I did not push enough the management component. Today you get people talking about doing more for less. Do they realise that's impossible? You can, in a way do the same for less if there are gross inefficiencies in the system but I was thinking you can do it differently for less. That's the point. That's why in a way I'm sad to be retired because I think what's happened in Britain there's no better factors than those outside your control to act as a catalyst to let you push things through that you wanted to anyway but now you've got a proper reason for doing it.
History lesson: the FM journey
The BIFM has launched a project to create a comprehensive archive of the history of facilities management in Britain, including the institute's own development. The BIFM wants to hear from people who were around in those pioneering days. Of particular interest are those FMs with insight and knowledge of the two organisations that came together in 1993 to form the BIFM - the Institute of Facilities Management and the Association of Facilities Management. If you have any hard copy material about the early days of what we now know as FM, please get in touch with the BIFM. Information is needed on the development of the BIFM, or its predecessors, for the period prior to 2000, such as minutes of the association's councils, specialist groups, regional groups, members' newsletters, conference programmes and papers. Many of these documents may be tucked away in people's personal archive boxes in their store-rooms or roof space. Please contact Graham Briscoe at [email protected] with details of what you have. All material donated will safely deposited and catalogued for retention in the BIFM archives.
Bev Nutt career file
Name: Professor B.B.Nutt
Born: 1940 in Bedford
Lives: Milton Keynes
Education: Wolverton Grammer School and University College London
Qualifications: BA Architecture
September 2006 to present: Emeritus professor of Facility and Environment Management, University of London
1995-2006: Professor of Facility and Environment Management, UCL and
1992-2006: Course director, MSc in Facility and Environment Management
1995-2005: Board member of UCL council representing the Faculty of the Built Environment
1990-97: Director of Research and Application, Bartlett, UCL. Responsible for the promotion and co-ordination of applied research and consultancy work across the fields of architecture, planning, environmental design and engineering, construction and facility management
1992-93: Dean to the Faculty of the Built Environment, UCL and vice dean
1988: Acting head of department, The Bartlett, UCL and course director MSc in Environmental Design and Engineering
1997-78: Expert witness and subsequently official external advisor to the UK government's Committee of Enquiry into Motorway Services [The Prior Committee]
1980-87: Founding Director of UCL's Academic Services Unit (ASU), now (UCLi). Initiating and managing applied research and consultancy business for University College London as a whole, to exploit and apply UCL's expertise and intellectual property worldwide, through contracts with overseas clients, industrial companies, professional firms, research organisations, overseas clients and government agencies
1970-75: Deputy director of the Joint Unit for Planning Research [JUPR] responsible with Professor Cowan for the management of this joint University College London/ School of Economics interdisciplinary research unit. Personal responsibilities for the research programme into the causes and repurcussions of obsolescence with in the UK built environment, housing obsolescence and the development of failure planning methodology.
1975-78: Sub-dean and faculty tutor to the Faculty of the Built Environment and part time design tutor at the Bartlett
1968-69: Architect with the Ministry of Public Buildings and Works
1964-66: Architectural assistant with Llewelyn-Davies Weeks and Partners
Up next: Next month facilities management consultant and former BIFM chairman Lionel Prodgers will meet up another former BIFM chairman John Crawshaw