Design and Construction, Training

10 Ways to Make Facilities Decisions Stick

Facilities management professionals need to find ways to communicate effectively with those they are working with.

“Having a process to help executives make decisions in an informed way is very important to everyone,” said Kurt Neubek, a certified facilities manager with the International Facilities Management Association (IFMA), an architect, and a Firmwide Healthcare Practice Leader with Page, during a recent session entitled “Getting Facility Decisions to Stick: 10 Decision-Making Techniques Backed by Psychology That Stick!” hosted by Facilities Management Advisor and sponsored by Avetta and ABM.

Neubek, who has over 30 years of experience helping facilities managers make informed decisions, further explained that “getting decisions that stick is more about facilitating informed decisions than it is about FM [facilities management], design or construction.”

Additionally, Neubek is also an instructor for the Lean Construction Institute, which uses research, education, and psychological principles to help improve the construction and design industries. Specifically, it prides itself on developing and managing projects through “relationships, shared knowledge, and common goals.”

There are 10 ways facilities managers can help make decisions stick:

1. Communicate in their language.

Facilities managers should determine what is important to their audience. Most decision-makers will consider one or two of these aspects the most:

  • Practical—functional, reliable, safety
  • Performance—comparison to others
  • Lifestyle—image, perception
  • Relationship—the advice of others, rely on experts

2. Provide information needed for informed decisions.

Facilities professionals can help customers make informed decisions by learning how to tailor their message using a variety of learning styles and personalities.

Learning Styles

People have different learning styles, including:

  • Visual—graphs, diagrams, and symbols
  • Kinesthetic—moving, touching, and doing
  • Auditory—listening

Personality Types

Facilities managers should understand the Myers-Briggs personality types, specifically the following elements:

  • Extroverts (outgoing) vs. introverts (shy)
  • Information: sensing (practical) vs. intuition (possibilities)
  • Decisions: thinking (logical) vs. feeling (harmony)
  • Structure: judging (planned) vs. perceiving (flexible)

3. Selection matrix may help.

Facilities professionals who clearly spell out all options in a selection matrix, including the advantages and costs of time and money of each option, can best serve their customers.

“People make the best decision they can when given the information and options available at the time. If additional information becomes available or new options become known, the decision may change,” Neubek said.

4. Develop decision protocol with customers.

Ways to Make Decisions

Customers may have a different protocol based on their default decision-making style. For certain decisions, one style is better when looking at experience, knowledge, goals, and whom the decision will most impact. Customers may decide to make their decisions in one of the following ways:

  • Autocratic—The leader has needed information or experience.
  • Consulting—Asks others to evaluate, and the leader makes the decision.
  • Delegating—Authority is given to a group or an individual.
  • Group process—Finding a solution acceptable to all.

Determine if someone, such as a spouse or an outsider, could undo a decision later. Involve those people early in the process, and be sure to make rules regarding the process.

What to Make Decisions On

Facilities personnel should help customers make decisions on the following when creating a new facility or doing facilities renovations:

  • Overall scope, schedule, budget
  • Building core and systems
  • Department and user areas
  • Equipment

5. Explain the process to participants.

Answer Questions

Facilities personnel should ask their customers questions regarding the project, which could include:

  • What are you trying to accomplish?
    • What are your options?
    • Which solution is the best fit?

Cost-Benefit Analysis

Factors that facilities professionals should explain to customers include:

  • Effective: meets functional needs;
  • Aesthetics: what it looks like;
  • Economics: the cost;
  • Time: how long it will take to complete;
  • Flexibility: how the plan will anticipate change and how space could be used in multiple ways; and
  • Value judgments: issues regarding morality, sustainability, and political acceptance.

6. Facilitate decisions.

Facilities professionals should ensure that everyone’s input is gathered. Others can review, edit, and override that input later, but whoever ultimately makes the decisions should be present at planning meetings and sign documents allowing construction to proceed to the next phase.

The phases of construction include:

  • Preprogramming: The vision, concepts, and costs are identified.
  • Programming: The scope, schedule, and budget are defined; a space list with quantities and room sizes is broken out; and technical requirements are discussed.
  • Schematic design: Site and floor plan layouts are established, and major equipment and building system locations are identified.
  • Design development: Building materials, ceiling plans, lighting layouts, and building details and specifications are identified.

7. Does this decision need to be made?

Facilities professionals should work with customers to determine whether a decision must be made now and whether it is a decision that needs to be made at all.

Other considerations include:

  • Doing nothing is the default option.
  • The laissez-faire approach: hope the problem goes away or solves itself.
  • Ask if the pain or reward is enough to motivate the change.

“Don’t force people or try to get the committee in your group to make a decision if it really isn’t necessary or if it’s not going to be something that will influence the solution,” Neubek said.

8. Go to Gemba (where the work is done).

Facilities professionals need to learn how things work by going to the place where the work is done to see what is happening so the group can make an informed decision. Doing so improves communication and decreases the chance of plans changing later.

9. Only ask questions you want to be answered.

It’s important not to ask questions no one is authorized to decide. Also, keep in mind that detailed questions about the construction process (like how big the ductwork should be) often cannot be answered at an early stage due to necessary logistical planning.

10. Help your customers answer difficult questions.

Facilities professionals should be aware that customers can only tell you about their experiences; they can’t provide adequate answers to information they are not familiar with.

Therefore, facilities managers should work with customers as a team to come up with answers to difficult questions such as:

  • How the industry versus an individual workplace accomplishes a goal.
  • What are the trends in the marketplace?
  • How will furniture and people look and interact in the facility?  
  • How to use raw data and make it actionable.
  • How to use real-time option analysis with blocks on a diagram to help visualize the use of space.
  • How to evaluate design alternatives.
  • What are the consequences of making design changes too late?

Neubek recommends that facility professionals actively work with customers to make not only informed decisions but also an action plan. To watch the session for free on demand, click here.