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Posts Tagged ‘facilities management’

on the fail fast principle


For most of us we have become used to the fail safe way of working. I am old enough to remember a time when air brakes failed off leaving you with the best way of stopping being to find something soft to drive into. We don’t allow that these days.

Failures are things to be avoided and we work hard on our processes to find ways of doing it right first time, every time. If you are failing your KPIs it is career threatening, a thing of shame. No wonder that so many people are afraid of failure.

Yet we all know that we learn more from our failures and something that I adopt is based on a way of thinking that is called fail fast. The principle is to have something monitoring the system that warns of potential failure somewhere and puts things into a safe mode. It is similar to the Limp Mode that you may have found on your car. Some engineers are using it to push for failures, to encourage them to enable their eradication and this type of thinking is used in high pressure areas like Grand Prix motor sport to find and eliminate potential weak spots in any system or component.

Forty years or so ago we were doing something like this with software testing. The classic test was to take historic data and run that through the program to check that it was doing its sums correctly, but we mixed in erroneous inputs to see what happened. We would also overload the software beyond its specified capacities again to see what it would take, or otherwise.

With more manual processes this approach can also be tried and it will tend to show where the flow starts to fail. Critical Path Analysis is a good companion tool here and using the two can show how the CP can change user different circumstances.

These things can start as desktop exercises, but there is no substitute for doing them in real time because the the working environment will often through up things that would otherwise be missed; the story of my old boss and his M1 traffic jam has been told here before, but it was a classic case of the real world making a bugger’s muddle of what looked like a great plan.

The key message here is to always look at what other people in unrelated industries are doing. It is time rarely wasted because everyone has a need to make things happen as efficiently as possible. How they do it and the way that they think about their problems can often through up an idea that you can adopt or adapt. Take time to look around; you never know what you might find.

on mob rule


We are living in a strange time and one where rampant mobs seem to be more tolerated than dealt with. Peaceful protest is one thing and I will always support the right of people to gather and march in support of a cause regardless of whether I agree with their point of view. But violent protest and damage to property are criminal acts.

For those involved in workplace management (or facilities management as we called it for a while) a plan of some sort is required to deal with the mob should one be encountered. It should be part of the organisation’s risk and crisis planning and taken seriously.

It is a while since I have had to worry about such things, but through the eighties and nineties into the noughties it was my problem and there were times when the biggest problem was not the possibility an unruly mob at the gates, but the unruly mob of senior managers clamouring for action.

There is a notion that the people in the upper echelons of an organisation have qualities above those of the people that they employ. This is basically true, but there are times when all sense of proportion is lost and stupidity takes over.

One example was a building that was under the flight path to an RAF base, our location, given the prevailing winds, normally being under the landing path. Within our disaster plan we had allowed for a normal major emergency evacuation of the type where we would hand over to the emergency services, but the personnel director insisted that we should have a specific plan for an aircraft crashing onto the site. I took the existing plan to the Fire Service who had no comment and then to the liaison officer at the airbase. Over coffee he solved my problem; “Why not just extract that bit of the plan and have it as an appendix with a title like “In the event of an Air Crash” he suggested. I did that and my problem went away.

Another piece of lunacy was the dreaded Millennium Bug. As the nineties ground to a close the threat of computers crashing and all sorts of problems occurring at midnight on the dreaded day were being bandied around. It was thought that there would be widespread civil unrest and that rioting and looting would ensue. This we considered with regard to the city centre properties in the portfolio that I was managing. We would have the normal small teams of security guards in each of these sites and my plan was that these people had a way of safely evacuating themselves in the event of trouble.

The idea was that we would keep the people safe and if a building got trashed then we had business continuity and recovery plans in place, but the likelihood of trouble seemed very remote. My own experience of computer programming and software design from the previous decade was that the century roll-over was covered.

Late one evening just before Christmas I got a call at home from one of the directors based in a City of London site. Effectively they wanted me to be at their building overnight on the 31st December in case of trouble. Quite what I was expected to do if faced by a rioting mob I was not sure, but they were insistent. I was equally firm about not going and I didn’t. Nor did they. Nor did the mob assemble.

Today though it is not a joking matter and there are real threats from mob behaviour that need to be addressed. How you deal with that is up to you if it is your responsibility, but my advice is to think first of the safety of your people. Then brush up on your business continuity and recovery plans so that the relevant people are aware and thinking about what they will need to do. Be realistic and think about what you will do if any part of the plan does not work. Contigency plans for your contingency plan? You had better believe it.

I hope that you have not problems, but good luck if you do. Just remember the golden rule; people before property.

Musings front the facilities front #5


Timing is everything; when you get it right life is good, but the margin between hero and twit can be very small indeed. Luck plays a big part of course, but Lady Luck is a fickle companion and sometimes experience is what you need to avoid landing in the smelly stuff. Read more…

an FM Christmas Carol


This public holiday’s attempt at a little humour sees a stab at a Christmas carol for those of us in the FM world. You should know the tune, so feel free to add your own verses: Read more…

Musings from the facilities front #4


The Case of the Vanishing Bog Roll is not one that you will find amongst the cases of Mr Holmes nor, perhaps, is it likely to crop up as a plot on Midsomer Murders, but it has kept us amused for a day or two and has added to the range of memories I have of this mundane, yet essential, consumable. Read more…

Musings from the facilities front #3


Life is never dull as an FM; I have heard or read that so many times over the years. People expound about how great it is not knowing what you will face at work each day, but I do wonder if that is the best way to be working. Read more…

Musings from the facilities front #2


Service Level Agreements; where would we be without them? A lot better off in the case of most of those that I have inherited and I would like to tear them all up. Read more…

Musings from the facilities front #1


As regular readers may have spotted I have been back in an operational FM role for a few weeks now and that is one of the reasons for my not having been writing so regularly here. That’s not to say that I haven’t been writing at all, but I just don’t seem to get the time to write the regular blogs. Read more…

Knowing the other party


After my last blog I took some stick from a colleague over my using the term “Know your enemy” in the context of colleagues. In this PC world maybe they have a point, for the phrase as used more than forty years ago was one that we all, at the time, applied a different meaning to. So here I am going to change it to “Knowing the other party” which is more neutral. Last week I was talking about site visits in general and one that we had coming up in particular and I want to carry on that theme to consider things from both the view of the host and their visitor. Read more…

“Prato” and the Site Visit


One of my tenants has a VIP visit coming up and they are looking to create the best impression that they can. Much depends on their own efforts of course, but as the FM team for the site my colleagues and I can make our contribution. The question is how far do we go to help? There is a service level agreement in place so we could just do what we are contracted to do, but I am not comfortable with that route because there is a time to do what you need to and there is a time when you do it right. Read more…