Maintenance & Operations

Sometimes, It Just Has To Happen

Successfully managing facilities in a climate of change

Change can be the most unsettling of life’s experiences. We’re aware of its presence, uncertain about our role in it and doubtful of its outcome — even during the best of circumstances. Robert Kennedy said, “Progress is a nice word, but change is its motivator. And, change has its enemies.”

Enemies? Because those who show fear, uncertainty, paranoia, resistance, doubts, and are a bit cynical, are the apparent enemy of what (they believe change) will modify or amend in their lives.

We’re preoccupied with survival techniques to help us function during these economically challenging times, when the only thing certain for facilities professionals is that the change will impact their continuing role as service providers.

Economically challenging situations can have far-reaching effects in the maintenance and operations climate. We’re called upon to redefine the customers’ perception of our obligation to serve in spite of uncontrollable change.

Never before has change been more constant, more widespread, imposing greater challenges and impacting organizations.

Management has had to define and redefine their teams. Facilities managers are needing to utilize new change definitions to successfully reshape staff attitudes in order to create a functioning team molded to achieve the organization’s shifting goals.

Unified and consistent facility maintenance work groups are the key to successfully managing change within organizations affected by the impact of work-group behaviors. Whether in lean or challenging times, transitional managers play a critical role in communicating organizational change, especially during a time when the economical roller coaster reeks havoc on business practices and services rendered.

There is mounting pressure on leaders and managers to lead the road to organizational change; a duty that extends far beyond measuring performance and managing facilities. Managing and controlling change are requirements delegated “in addition to”, rather than “instead of”, the already multifunctional, multi-tasked duty roster defining each management/leadership role within the organization.

Organizational change, especially in these economic times, has much to do with closing the gap between where we are and where we want to be.

Eric Allenbaugh said it best — “When coasting in our comfort zones, we don’t grow. We continue to do more of the same …. Maintaining a comfort zone can, paradoxically, lead to discomfort in the long run. If, by being comfortable we avoid important life issues, internal tension accumulates, eventually, as both internal and external pressures for change persist, the ‘comfort zone’ ceases to serve us.”

There should be change. There will be change. And employees probably can sense it early on. People should know what to expect.

They should be given the news “straight.”

  • Deal in honesty and truth.
  • Focus on short-range objectives.
  • Make certain each employee knows his/her job, expectations and accountability level.
  • Address negative/non-productive behaviors.
  • Don’t try to tackle change alone.
  • Observe, rebuild and address morale.
  • Do not “under-manage” change.

Whatever the crisis, change will have its day. However, keeping a grip on the situation is possible when the following is considered;

  • understanding a clear perspective of change,
  • knowing where change came from and deal with it,
  • getting through the change,
  • changing perception about change,
  • understanding major change is difficult to assimilate,
  • comprehending why organizational culture is important to the success of change,
  • acknowledging organizational roles most critical to change,
  • perceiving why powerful teamwork is at the heart of achieving change objectives and
  • recognizing the “unseen” — “unpredictable” — “unrealistic” aspects of change.

Remember, the previous way of doing business may no longer be operable. A new approach and new quality of service will surface. Something in the old system did not work, so trying something different may be the answer. Behaviors must reflect acceptance of, and an ability to perform positively in response to, change. One must be hopeful, but realistic when responding or reacting to change, which is for everyone; not just a few. Be prepared to change even the most fundamental elements of an operational plan, as necessary, in order to help adjust to and commit to change.

Finally, when resistance is too high, there will be casualties — people quit, productivity is crippled, and so forth. If resistance is virtually nonexistent, it may mean your organization is over stabilized and too complacent.

This article originally appeared in the January 2014 issue of School Planning & Management.

About the Author

Alyce Honore’-Hubert is the supervisor of Facilities Maintenance and Operations for the Houston ISD. She won the National School Plant Manager of the Year award for 2011 from the National School Plant Management Association (NSPMA.)

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