The crucial role of the facilities manager in mission critical environments (part 1 of 2)

Posted by on Jan 6, 2012 in Facilities Management, Leadership | 2 comments

If asked to select one position that is most determinative of success or failure in mission critical environments, I would have to say it would be the facilities manager.  In my opinion, the facilities manager’s role is one of the most critical positions – if not the most critical position – within the mission critical organization.  Let me explain.

The facilities manager is responsible for the working environment of your equipment and personnel.  This not only includes the maintenance of power, environment (temperature, air flow, cleanliness, lighting, et cetera.) and safety, but also a myriad of other less visible but incredibly important aspects that affect your organization’s ability to perform.  And whether your product is software, high-tech electronics, pharmaceuticals, or food products, in a very real sense, your FM’s decisions materially affect your organization’s ability to meet customer expectations and to fulfill your legal obligations.  The fate of the organization quite literally rests in your FM’s hands.

In many situations, the facilities manager is also responsible for major corporate assets (manufacturing plants, corporate campuses, power plants, data centers, et cetera).  But the FM’s responsibilities go even further than that.  Facilities managers are often required to operate on both a strategic and day-to-day level.  In light of the full spectrum of responsibility vested in the facilities manager, is that position properly recognized in the organization for the significant contribution it makes?  Does the position also hold levels of authority commensurate with the level of responsibility undertaken?  Are the responsibilities and authority clearly communicated within your organization?

It’s obvious that the role of facilities manager requires top talent.  The FM must have the technical knowledge and skill to understand the operation, maintenance, and control of the equipment and assets in their charge.  Depending on the specific nature of the mission critical organization, the areas of responsibility may include specific knowledge of waste management, security, space allocation, permitting, and other legal requirements.  The list goes on and on.  But if you were to survey hundreds of job descriptions for facilities managers as I have, you would begin to notice that some of the most critical aspects of the facilities manager’s job are never even mentioned in their job description.  It’s because these qualities fall below the obvious – the less visible but still incredibly important aspects of the job I spoke of above.  These are responsibilities that every mission critical environment shares regardless of the specific nature of the operation.

Think of the less tangible qualities you would require your facilities manager to possess:   A reputation for safe practices, ability to communicate and to lead.  Every facilities manager’s job description lists safety as an area of responsibility.  But very few go on to assign a priority to safety.  In critical environments, it must be clearly understood what priority safety takes in the organization.

Nearly all FM job descriptions identify that the FM needs to be an excellent communicator; and yet next to none explain the importance of communication to the organization, how communications flow through the organization, or what role the facilities manager plays in the process.

Approximately half of the job descriptions I’ve surveyed in the past mention risk mitigation (uptime, continuous operations, 7×24 support) as an area of responsibility for a facilities manager.  Yet, as I’ve stated in this blog before – as well as in an entire chapter of my book – risk mitigation is the reason mission critical organizations exist.

Fully 80 percent of the job descriptions I’ve seen fail to mention the responsibility the facilities manager has to involve personnel in training programs or programs that support the need to continuously improve.  And yet this area of responsibility falls squarely on the facilities manager to accomplish.

Unfortunately, less than 1 percent ever even attempt to describe their support of organizational culture, how it contributes to the success of the organization, or how the facilities manager is expected to promulgate that culture throughout the operation.

The importance of facilities managers to successful mission critical environments is hard to overstate.  With that in mind, next week I’ll take the discussion further to describe the roles and responsibilities common to mission critical environment facilities managers:  safety, risk mitigation, communication, personnel development, continuous improvement, and organizational culture.  Then I’ll explore how you can make sure your organization incorporates these vital intangibles into its process.


  1. Excellent points

  2. Love this site

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *