Maintenance & Operations

Closing the Gap

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 to 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, with unprecedented change, when the only thing certain for facilities professionals is that the change will impact the 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 wide spread, imposing greater challenges than in recent years. Management has had to define and redefine their teams. Facilities managers are having to utilize new change definitions to successfully reshape staff attitudes, in order to create a functioning team.

Unified and consistent facility maintenance work groups are the key to successfully managing change. Whether in lean or in 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 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 has much to do with closing the gap between where we are and where we want to be.

Eric Allenbaugh says 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 national or economic crisis, change will have its day. However, keeping a grip on the situation is possible when the following is considered:

  • a clear perspective of change;
  • know where change came from and deal with it;
  • getting through the change;
  • changing perception about change;
  • why major change is difficult to assimilate;
  • why organizational culture is important to the success of change;
  • organizational roles most critical to change;
  • why powerful teamwork is at the heart of achieving change objectives; and
  • the ‘unseen,’ ‘unpredictable,’ ‘unrealistic’ aspects of change.

Is it possible that…

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

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 October 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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