Seven strategies to enable FM innovation

by FM Media
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How facilities managers can empower their teams to proactively capture and share improvement suggestions as a natural part of their day-to-day work is shared by BRUCE NIXON of Holocentric.


As global competition intensifies, customer demand rises and the process and product life cycle shortens, the facilities management industry faces more pressure to respond to this changing marketplace.

It must improve its knowledge base and processes, and refine its service delivery and business models in order to increase corporate productivity and sustainability. Adopting a culture of innovation has become central to achieving this.

Innovation in the facilities management sector has traditionally been approached on an ad hoc basis and, as projects only, using standard methodologies such as Lean or Six Sigma. Such projects usually lead to progress, but the approach is short term, so the gains are usually temporary or else costly to maintain.

In addition, each project is usually looked at in isolation, with the benefits that can come from a holistic approach that looks at the whole company, the strategy, desired outcomes, regulations and duplication across the broader business often being ignored.


More precisely, the reasons why many innovation and continuous improvement initiatives fail include:

  • Reliance on external consultants – although these consultants are motivated to find savings, they do not own the business issues and processes and are not responsible for, or motivated to sustain the gains
  • A lack of long-term, consistent, dependable and maintainable documentation – this leads to a lack of integrity across the organisation as people generate volumes of documents of different formats and different versions, with overlapping content saved in different places, making it difficult for the people to find the right information they need
  • A lack of a corporate view – often initiatives do not take a broad corporate view and do not represent the corporate strategy, desired high level outcomes or policy and regulations
  • Absence of a meaningful structure and measures that foster the integration of a culture of innovation on an ongoing basis, and
  • Absence of process performers – these are those who understand the processes best and are often not involved in the project strategy that remains in the realm of managers and consultants.


As more than 80 percent of improvement suggestions originate at an operational level and are crucial to successful continuous improvement implementations, facilities managers need to be able to empower their teams to proactively capture and share improvement suggestions as a natural part of their day-to-day work.

For this to be possible, a field-based approach to continuous improvement is necessary. It must foster collaboration by involving executives, managers, employees and consultants.

There are seven steps facilities managers can follow to successfully develop a platform for innovation:

1. Record your baseline knowledge

Develop a baseline knowledge of your current systems and procedures by capturing and centrally managing information related to your people, systems and processes, and the relationship between them.

2. Record your role-based knowledge

Supplement this baseline with role-based knowledge from the experts in your organisation who know how your systems and processes are actually implemented. Using this information, create a model that represents all the processes, formal and informal structures and relationships within your facility.

3. Create an organisation wide system

To ensure continuity and integrity of your innovation and continuous improvement initiatives, create a business management system that will enable your team to recognise, initiate and build further improvement into your operations. This central repository or platform should capture all suggestions in a way that ensures improvement initiatives can be accessed, built upon and maintained.

4. Involve your people

When people see how their responsibilities contribute to business success, they are more likely to take ownership and embrace change because they better understand the purpose of change and their role in it. Performance improvement and innovation becomes something done with staff, not to them, giving senior executives greater buy-in and support. So make sure you involve your people by giving them the adequate training, mentoring and encouragement

to come up with and share continuous improvement initiatives. Promote the benefits associated with creating a culture where innovations are at the heart of it.

5. Foster collaboration

A key feature of human performance is how creativity emerges through cooperation. Therefore, managing individuals is not enough. Human performance must be managed at the group level as well. Review the model of your organisation that outlines the formal and informal structures (step two) and identify potential synergies and communities of practice where creativity could be leveraged.

6. Determine the impact of change

Your people’s innovation and continuous improvement suggestions must be assessed and modelled to determine the impact of change on your business. This impact should be clearly visible and measurable, so you can make an informed decision on the implementation of the initiatives.

7. Protect your IP

By owning and managing the platform where the ideas are stored, you will be able to own the initiatives and protect your organisation’s intellectual property. These ideas can be integrated with the operating model and provide a solid platform for further initiatives and improvements.


A field-driven approach to innovation that combines strategic planning, collaboration and tactical implementation of these seven steps will ensure facilities management professionals and their teams develop innovative processes and services that will enable them to be more competitive and productive.


Bruce Nixon is the chief executive officer of Holocentric.

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