10 min read
Put together the best players in the world, and you might still lose the World Cup. Talent alone does not make a team! Smart coaches know that, which is why they often do more with less. Likewise, if you’re a manager or supervisor, team management is a big part of your job.
Facility and maintenance managers often complain that their departments are understaffed and underfunded. There are two main drivers for this scenario. One, maintenance is still viewed as a “necessary evil”, rather than a strategic area. Two, even when maintenance is valued, they have to contend with a maintenance technician shortage.
Either way, team management is a major antidote. If higher management doesn’t value maintenance, you can’t risk making it worse with poor team management. If you simply can’t hire new talent, then team management is the lemon you need to make lemonade. Also – bonus point – it plays into talent management and it’s a great way to reduce technician turnover.
When you’re trying to solve a conundrum, chances are that a manager told you to “think outside the box”. It’s an effective move to end the conversation, but it’s about as helpful as the advice you get from a fortune cookie. Speaking from experience, the only way to think outside the box is by questioning everything. You need to question the box, or you won’t find a way out.
Start from the ground up, what makes a team? It sounds like a question a 6-year old would make, but there are powerful answers in that naivité. Generally speaking, we think of teams as a group of people working together. Except facility management teams are usually a patchwork of smaller units, and some technicians might even work alone.
When maintenance technicians are out in the field, it’s not football. It’s more like a relay race, running towards the same goal. That’s what binds them together, and that’s what makes them a team – a shared purpose. Every company states its mission and values on their website, but it’s your team who needs to know them best.
If we assume “effectiveness” is delivering on that purpose, it’s time to look into the 6 Conditions framework. Harvard researchers Erin Lehman, Richard Hackman and Ruth Wageman proposed 6 conditions that are responsible for 80% of team effectiveness. Let’s start with what they considered the “3 Essentials”, without which the team will struggle:
A team is real if the group is bounded, interdependent and stable. This means having a clear leadership, a stable membership and members that count on each other to reach their goals are all drivers of effectiveness.
Where do you want to go? What should be the first thing that comes to mind when your clients think of you? Every single team member needs to embody that. Are you a low-cost player, a reliable choice, or a trailblazer using cutting-edge technologies? And they also need to know it themselves, to get a sense of what they’re going, and experience self-realisation when they accomplish them.
Don’t make it too easy. Your direction should be clear yet challenging at the same time. It should also be consequential, which is to say it should impact your organisation, your clients, and the life of every stakeholder.
It goes without saying that all team members need to have technical skills to perform their work orders. But they also need to have the ability to work in a team and team spirit.
Once “the essentials” are set – a real team composed of the right people going in the same direction – it’s time to cover your bases on the next 3 conditions. These are called the “3 enablers” because they empower your team to do its job.
Like a family, a team needs structure. Otherwise, how do you prevent each member from going their way? Establishing norms of conduct or operating guidelines, as well as staying “on page” (instead of assigning tasks that should be performed by another department, for example) provides a better work structure. If you have a large team, structure different working groups.
It might be someone inside or outside the team. An expert opinion enables improvement over time and can advise on the best way to use the available resources.
These 6 conditions are valid for every industry. However, effectiveness is “only” accomplishing a goal. Facility and maintenance managers need to accomplish it with the least amount of wasted time and money. That is efficiency. Adapting the 6 conditions framework, we believe these are the best practices for efficient team management in Facility Management and Maintenance:
A real team has a shared purpose, so team members should lend a hand to each other. However, instead of encouraging collaboration, some managers incite competition. While competition among employees can sometimes lead to better performance, it can also become toxic. Workers may become anxious, and sometimes resort to unethical practices to reach their quotas.
Again, we would like to take a concept that is common in sports – fair play. Even if you have several teams on the field and compare their performances with KPIs, nothing is more important than making your “compelling purpose” come true. In a pandemic, collaborative tools and even virtual get-togethers with other technicians, calls, webinars or micro-learning sessions can spur a common bond and cooperation.
Transparency is always a good policy. We’ve already shared how you can improve transparency with your clients, to make them aware of the positive impact you have on their businesses. Now it’s time to look in the mirror and boost transparency on the home front as well. How can team members work if you leave them in the dark, without explaining the broader vision for the project?
FM works towards wider goals, so be crystal clear about what management is seeking from your team. Be straight-forward regarding deadlines, workflows and staying on budget. Plus, since your “compelling direction” should be consequential, we encourage you to share relevant indicators. Transparency builds ownership and enthusiasm.
Managers: more than 50% of facility management is outsourced. If you’re outsourcing work to third-party FM providers, make sure you’re transparent with them. Outside companies and freelancers are not mind-readers, so you need to offer them a direction. Once they share your purpose, they are as much part of the team as anyone else.
Making sure every technician has good technical skills is one of the “essentials” we discussed before. This means they’re prepared to do their job and don’t need constant supervision. In fact, this might make them uncomfortable and undermines the ownership you should be trying to build. And micromanaging won’t help you either.
Autonomy makes workers happier and more satisfied with their jobs, which increases engagement and productivity. Having a supervisor that can pitch in or advise is helpful, but you can do this from afar. Mobile technology enables clear communication wherever your technicians are, and real-time tracking will soothe the micro-manager in you.
Providing a sound structure implies organisation. FM is not an assembly line, so the main issue here is letting technicians know what happened before they arrived. Thorough, well-prepared work orders are a great start, but you can save even more time with a maintenance management system that stores all the data, safety regulations and documents related to each asset.
It’s worth noting, though, that organisation goes both ways. Managers also need to know what’s happening on the field. Which work orders remain open, who’s closer to a client when a new failure is reported, ETAs, etc. Using the same software to relay what’s going on in the field is a smart solution to keep everyone in sync and organise work orders effectively.
Teams thrive in a supportive context. In FM and Maintenance, this ties in with the organisation we already talked about. You can’t send technicians out into the world without providing safety, proper tools, and remote support of some kind. Otherwise, they will forget they’re a part of a team, and improvise when something unexpected happens.
Aside from that technical aspect, a supportive context should also take into consideration work/life balance. Do your technicians take enough breaks? Do they feel like they are working too many graveyard shifts in a row? Are they happy with the type of work they’re doing, or would they like to change teams? To retain the best talent and motivate technicians, don’t dismiss these questions.
Too often, top management only calls on maintenance when something fails. So it’s up to you, the facility or maintenance manager, to make up for it. Everybody likes some recognition, and you can reward them if they’re on the right track. If you’re using intelligent software, you can track each technician’s performance and give even more incisive feedback.
Let’s not forget, however, that everybody makes mistakes. Sometimes, you may not reach your KPIs. Negative feedback is also necessary for improvement but one should handle it carefully for the sake of team management. Never offend anyone and strive to counter the negative with some positive. Start with a compliment, move on to the negative feedback, and close on a high note again.
Team management is a pillar for more efficiency, better supervision, and clear communication. Arguably, facility and maintenance managers don’t have it easy. They need to deal with complex teams spread across different assets, react swiftly when a failure happens, and make sure someone is always on call. It’s challenging, but not impossible.
If you provide these 6 conditions for effectiveness – with the right technology by your side – we’re sure you will see an improvement. Plus, your technicians will be happier at work, which helps with talent management and retention. Everyone wins: you, your team, and, of course, your clients.
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