• Anthony Wong

What success will look like for Facilities Leaders in 2021

Updated: Nov 17, 2020

The pandemic has meant that international schools have started back with many new policies and procedures governing how they must operate on a day to day basis. Most of this process is owned by the Facilities Director or Manager. On top of this, some schools are faced with a falling enrollment and the Facilities and School Services departments, which normally account for approximately 25% of operational spending are having their budgets squeezed. Facilities leaders are being asked to defer maintenance and services and cope with existing or fewer resources.


The action of deferring maintenance and/or services are akin to setting off a ticking time bomb that will surely bring painful consequences later. Unsympathetically for most facilities teams, “Success” may be just getting through this difficult school year. On a more optimistic note, facilities leaders can confidently and successfully meet these challenges. At Sage, we would encourage that facilities leadership focus on the following key processes in their school:


a. Strategic asset management planning - the purpose of which is to ensure agility and a timely response to changing school needs. A Strategic Asset Management Plan establishes guiding principles and provides a sound basis for decisions on the procurement, management, utilization and disposal of facility and other assets in alignment with the school’s strategic and operational plans. With clear policies and good work processes, this plan will arm the facilities leadership with the information needed for any discussions on cost reduction or defense.

b. Implement a facilities audit. Set up all the auditing functions that you will need to support your decision processes and help with gap analysis. Review your key performance indicators. Track the data on your wastage to make sure you understand your inefficiencies and what this costs the school. Examine what your in-house costs are and compare those to possible outsourced solutions.

c. Become an environmental leader! Environmental leaders are those who promote environmental sustainability and bring their desire to protect the natural environment into their decision-making and action processes. For the facilities team this maybe a focus around energy management. However it means you will need to determine methods for designing and implementing studies to assess the environmental impacts of human activity. You will need to be involved in stakeholder mapping and engagement (as these are collaborative projects in a school community) and you will need to understand statistical techniques for analyzing environmental data.

d. Formalize or implement a work order management system. With the limited resources at their disposal the facilities team must have a transparent and well-managed work order system in place. This will not only capture the reactive work but also the tasks to be scheduled or assigned to someone in the facilities team, thereby giving visibility to which resources are free or underutilized as well as enabling management to review and control what resources should be assigned to a task.

e. Ensure that the facilities and school services team are set up for customer service and that there is a lens of service excellence when appraising employees. The foremost objective of the facilities team is creating an accommodating, safe, school environment. This work however serves other broad school goals, including attracting and retaining new students, improving efficiency and productivity, and creating a positive campus culture. Facility Leaders provide community support in many ways, including:

  • Coordinating classroom arrangements

  • Managing employee access

  • Facilitating moves and space utilization

  • Organizing emergency planning

The Facilities Team serve as a bridge between the campus and the community within it. Whenever issues of optimal space utilization, safety, or comfort arise, it is up to the facilities team to solve them. The facilities team needs to have the empathy and people skills to be known as champions of customer service.


f. As the rate of change in workplace processes accelerates, facilities leadership that does not empower their staff who are closer to the work process which is undergoing review, will suffer the consequences of sub optimal solutions and unmotivated staff. Facilities leaders must champion the changes that need to take place and empower their staff to ensure it is done for the greatest positive impact on the school. This means successful leadership will focus more on the organizational and cultural aspects and the facilitation of purpose rather than providing a solution.


g. Creating and maintaining a safe learning environment is essential for students of all ages, for facilities management it is assumed that safety has the highest priority driving leadership decisions. Within the current environment of pandemic issues, cost-cutting and deferment of maintenance, the facilities team cannot lose sight of this value.


h. Many school facilities leaders will have access to longitudinal cost and usage data from their plant. This may be used to track the effect of improvements as they are implemented. However, most facilities teams do not work collaboratively with other schools that would give them access to comparable data to benchmark their performance. As comparable benchmark data may be difficult to organize for facilities teams, Sage Consultancy is planning to survey schools and share back benchmark data to help support them as they strive to improve.

As this school year gathers pace facilities leaders will certainly have their hands full. We trust this article helps affirm the work that you are doing now and focuses your attention to think strategically about what other changes you should be leading.



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