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What are the issues in FM? (2 comments)

Author : Tim Fryer

02 February 2012

Interesting question. It was one bandied about at a round table meeting I was at this week. The trouble with ‘issues’ is that they are mostly seen in the negative sense.

In the same way a child with ‘issues’ is more likely to partake in shop-lifting rather than selfless acts of community service, the ‘issues’ with FM are less likely to been seen as ‘it’s a great job’, and more to do with ‘we can’t make any money on these margins’, or ‘legislation is killing us’, or even ‘no one understands – or appreciates – what we do’. All of which were among the topics of discussion at the round table unsurprisingly.

If there was one thing that became clear, is that the main trouble with facilities management is that it lacks clarity. There are a huge number of functions that can fall under the remit of the FM, but the role of the individual is very much tailor-made to their particular place of work. More importantly the standards to which each function is performed can be difficult to define, and that is because they are difficult to measure. ‘A good sandwich’ or ‘a clean floor’ is subjective, and for all that ‘a sandwich has been made’ or ‘a floor has been cleaned’ becomes objective, it gives no measure of quality.

This is at the route of most of the issues in FM. Whether it is about client provider relationships, the role of procurement in awarding contracts, or calculating the positive (and negative) effects of an FM’s endeavours, there are parts of the FM’s output that defy absolute measurement and this renders any apples-for-apples comparisons almost impossible.
Redecorating an office is an instance that is very much a case in point for me, as it is something we are undergoing at PFM at this moment, and only this morning I had do double-take in our reception before remembering to head for my temporary desk on the other side of the building. The general feeling is that a spruce up in the office is probably overdue and perceptually should increase the morale of the staff. However, in six months time if we were to analyse the business performance of our various magazine and exhibitions it is unlikely that any discussion will include the role of the new carpet in advertising sales revenue. Any percentage increase will not be attributed to the new blinds and if we have a bad half-year we are not going to point the finger of blame at the choice of furniture (with its excitingly modern curved profiles).

Is it a pointless investment then? Of course not. It may even be that there can be some correlation between staff performance or absenteeism and the office overhaul that can be used as justification. However, we are largely left with measuring the unmeasureable, and unless we can come up with a way of resolving this it will remain facilities management’s core ‘issue’.

Incidentally, if anyone would like to comment on this or anything else you read in FM Report, please drop me an email ( and where appropriate I will publish it on this web site.

Nick Parker, Managing Director, Bite Catering

An interesting read.

As you might guess I am in the workplace food business (a bit more than the sandwiches that you remark on!)

I do find there is a lot of whinging & negativity going on. Unfortunately it is the natural state of mind for adults (kids are delightfully different).

The fix for me is for individuals, or an individual, to take personal responsibly and become a leader. By becoming a leader they can set a vision and others will follow. Followers can choose to follow leader A (vision A) or leader B (vision B) depending on their views. Both visions can be correct because their audiences/markets/followers are different. When there becomes space for only one vision, in a democratic world vision A may be in play because the number of followers is greater than vision B.

The issue is that we don’t have enough leadership, or leaders. (This becomes particularly acute in economically tough times).


Luis Manickam, Vice President, FM Strategy & Development, United Engineers Singapore

I have always preached to my team and clients alike that FM is "Intangible" and it is indeed a challenge for all of us in the FM industry to bring about "Tangible" solutions to the clients we serve. Those who have what it takes (People, Process, Passion) in the FM industry will experience the success they have brought about in the line of their duty. And that is manifested through 1. Keeping and Creating Great Clienteles and more so a Great Team. 2. A Brand that would be synonym in the Market you are present as an FM Player.

I watched a short video in - Malcom Gladwell speaks about Howard Moskowitz and how he created Spaghetti Sauce. Yes, you might be wandering why spaghetti sauce. But Malcom has a great story in it. Watch it and you will understand what I mean by that.

In short I would interpret that story to FM in this way: That under no circumstances the market will witness a ‘generic’ FM player / service program offered and delivered (this is a huge misinterpretation among the users - they believe all of us are the same), but they will witness many FM players with many ways of delivering solutions. We may have similar business offerings and target market but no FM company will represent the exact same formula to that of another. Customising solutions seems to be the buzz word everywhere. And that speaks for itself.

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