Time to mothball facilities management’s stuffed shirts

Stuffed ShirtMuch hand-wringing and angst in the world of Facilities/Workplace Management at the moment. The usual existential paranoia about relevancy and the need for a seat at the top table; the search for differentiation when pretty much the whole industry does the same things in the same way; hoping to standardise as much as possible under the guise of best practice and looking for ways that add value that won’t put a further pinch on already tight margins. As ever, new legislative and regulatory frameworks will keep the talking heads occupied and BIM (and other new tools) will continue to keep the cash tills ringing at software companies.

Those with clients unable or unwilling to read the trade press or get on the internet will be able to demonstrate value by keeping them abreast of developments and helping them anticipate, and prepare for, future developments. To be honest, it’s all just a little bit dull and worthy with more than a faint whiff of mothballs. Without Marissa Mayer we’d have struggled to find anything likely to grab the attention of the mainstream media aside from the usual rehashed articles about “The Office of the Future” that seem required by law to include at least one mention of the word jetpack.

The stuffed shirts have had their day. I even heard this week that it is likely that there are providers out there who do not know what their clients value. I was gobsmacked. In all seriousness, if you are in business and you don’t know what your clients value then you deserve to fail. Mind you, not all clients are as savvy as they would have us believe and they aren’t always open to taking advice. As I once overheard, “Why would I want strategic advice from the company that cleans the bogs?” However, at least you can tell what that guy values and FM is in a position to ensure he gets it.

What this all reinforces for me is that there is a desperate need for new voices and a new direction in any debate about the future of the industry. Arguably a new figurehead has been found in the person of Ruby McGregor-Smith and  BIFM’s Women In FM group, where Liz Kentish and Julie Kortens are doing such sterling work, are making most of the running and driving the agenda in key areas that are vital to the future vibrancy of the industry, in particular in respect of diversity and in the promotion of FM as a career of choice. The face and nature of FM (or WM if you prefer) has changed and is changing. It is one of a few services that have the potential for a holistic view across the entire organisation and an accurate eye for how the business actually works and gets work done.

As an incubator for talent, it might be unrivalled. Social media highlights the numbers of young people out there for whom topics that currently exercise the industry are of incredible significance. We have the ability to harness the power of their convictions to real life scenarios where they can have a real impact. Whether or not Gen-Y go on to change the very nature of work, as some have suggested they will, the inescapable fact is that they will be the custodians of the future workplace in one shape or another.


Simon HeathSimon Heath is a freelance illustrator and commentator on workplace and facilities management issues and was formerly Head of Operations, Global Workplace Strategies at CBRE. For more of Simon’s worldly, wise and witty writing on all things work and workplace related, visit his blog at https://workmusing.wordpress.com.