The role of the real estate, facility and IT manager is a supportive one in many organisations. A role in which often existing assumptions are fulfilled and not in which these assumptions are established. In an accommodation project, however, this supporting role is not sufficient.
The real estate, facility or IT manager must profile himself and be able to discuss organisational goals from operational to strategic level and translate these into learn/work environment consequences and back into relevant management information.
He must know the factors that determine whether the learn/work environment will work for the organisation or not. For that, data-driven decision-making is required to bridge the gap and achieve alignment at a strategic level instead of lagging behind the facts.
Helping to describe the desired (measurable) outcome in experience and performance and to give feedback on learn/work environment consequences of a proposed policy or educational practice change. In order to gain insight into the extent to which supply and demand match, both quantitatively and qualitatively to involve, inform or convince the stakeholders. This is unknown territory for many real estate, facility or IT managers.
A lot of clarity is created with the Real Estate Six-Pack Model©®. It provides the right tool to monitor, interpret and improve performance. The Six-Pack Model enables the real estate/facility/IT manager to gather meaningful organisational data about strategic considerations and starting points of the primary process. Organise them in a framework that communicates in business language, thus understandable for the management.
It helps to obtain consensus in advance with the management and employees about the desired level of ambition in order to formulate (for the layman) understandable, complete and consistent learn/work environment requirements. In this way involvement (informing, participation or co-creation) of management (executive board and faculties directors) as well as end-users (employees, students) can be created and decision-making about the learn/work environment becomes more clear and transparent.
“When we ask the right questions about the results that matter, we can more easily find the right data and information for evidence-based decisions that improve those results faster and with less effort.” (Stacey Barr)
Be aware that measuring stays a tool to support feedback-feedforward loops for continuous organisational performance improvements and does not become the objective for exclusively accountability and blame. It is about measuring the results of the underlying systems and processes, rather than teams and the people themselves. Don’t hold people accountable for what they can’t control. Although hard to change, the focus should be on safeness, trust and learning not judging and control. This will ultimately create an organisation with a high-performance culture and more intrinsically engaged people.
The business management framework ensures that the desired ambition level is safeguarded and progress can be reported in the meantime. The real estate, facility and IT manager can also use it to manage the progressive insight and expectations of management and end-users. Support them with formulating what quantity and quality learn/work environment they need to support the (long-term) dynamic didactical process, the number of expected students and the employee and student satisfaction. By doing so being able to make the consequences for the budget and planning clear in value cases so that management can make an informed decision.
In addition to hard accommodation criteria such as floor area, indoor climate, and occupancy costs, it is now also possible to monitor and map more refined characteristics, such as look & feel, behaviour and experience. This enables addressing the main question: ‘Is the learn/work environment desirable and adding relevant value?’ by answering the following four sub-questions.
Information and data have become one of the most important organisational means to reduce environmental uncertainty and improve decision-making. Data-driven decision-making means that decisions are based on the analysis of the well thought through data instead of intuitive action. Data-Driven Performance Improvement is not only about gathering and integrating the right data but also about leadership and culture change.
The whole is elementary and should be primarily focused on instead of solely on its parts. Challenges cannot successfully be addressed piece by piece, but only by seeing the system as a whole.
Don’t get intimidated by the unknown possibilities that come with being aware of the whole.
It is the alignment of the underlying supporting system and process parts with the organisational objectives that create continuous improvement in achieving the strategic goals.
Before you look for measures, think first about the outcome you want to create. This is the only way to get the measures that give the evidence you need. The real reason for gathering any kind of measuring data and analysing it is to make informed decisions about interventions for improvement.
The purpose of the Real Estate Six Pack dashboard is to monitor hard data (area, building, money) and soft data (users), in both a review and a preview.
It not only focuses on the easily measurable hard results from the past but communicates across the full spectrum of the accommodation/facility cycle, past, present and future.
Insight into the actual use, perception of users and the performance of the accommodation are preconditions for optimally matching supply and demand. Only then can the right relationship between price and quality be realised.
In order to make more informed decisions, a data-driven approach needs a baseline measurement. To draw up a roadmap to the desired situation and to measure the extent of improvement after an intervention in the learn/work environment. (Post Occupancy Evaluation) The user’s needs are dynamic so performance measurement should be repeated to adapt the learn/work environment in a timely manner.
The dashboard is a representation of the most important performances of the integrated learn/work environment that can contribute to the organisation’s broader strategy, objectives and optimize systems performance. They are inseparable from each other connected and influence each other structurally and directly. Only goals that are described in a specific and detailed way make meaningful measurements possible.
Therefore leadership should involve and support their employees in contributing to the choice and defining of meaningful and understandable measures, measuring, getting reliable integral system feedback data, knowing how to interpret it if an intervention is required and having the autonomy to initiate improvement action. This is all part of the daily work in order to be able to self-correct, collaborate and align better to the strategic objectives.
The Real Estate Six Pack dashboard gives a tailormade informative overview with prioritisation and explanation of the progress of the activities (360° feedback performance review). It gives a benchmark with the organisation’s own policy objectives and spearheads. It is specifically designed to see at a glance what is happening (in outline), in order to maintain an overview and insight. In a single image, it supports decision-making based on consolidated and ordered objective data. Not aimed at blaming, but on continuous growth, learning and improvement.
At the strategic level, global management information about trends is in general sufficient. At an operational level by definition more specific management information is required. The level of detail of the dashboard, therefore, differs per decision-making level.
Management by objective works – if you know the objectives. Ninety percent of the time you don’t.
(Peter F. Drucker)
The Real Estate Six Pack provides an outline for an evidence-based geomancy stress test of human habitats. We are humans who live in habitats and those habitats profoundly shape what we think, how we feel, what we do, and how we communicate with each other.
As an organisation, dare to think big, but start small. Without experimentation, innovation is impossible. Experiment and gradually find out which form and speed of implementation suit the organisation best. Have faith in the process. Like anything new, it takes a bit of trial and error before you get it right, but the payoff is worth it.
A lack of knowledge is a lack of power.
Constant feed-back feed-forward processing is what enables every system to thrive and be sustainable. Be it a biological body, an organisation, or the ecosystem of the learn/work environment. The learn/work environment is always in flux due to changing demands and circumstances.
Planning weekly, monthly and quarterly meetings in which the right people come together to see if you are on the right track and adjust according to the big picture, makes the learn/work environment ecosystem self-organising. A structure in which each point is learning from the whole, and in turn, the whole is informing each point. Making it a more stable steady-state structure.
The Real Estate GPS is a systematic process for measuring the learn/work environment’s performance, once the accommodation has been occupied for some time. It provides feedback on how successful the environment is in supporting the occupying organisation and addressing the individual requirements of the people.
Understanding the complex interrelationships in the learn/work environment ecosystem supports better decision making. When using the learn/work environment as a management tool to create value, Simon Sinek’s Golden Circle concept of Why-How-What applies.
- WHY (purpose) – To know to which organisational goals and ambitions the learn/work environment should contribute and what the intended measurable effect/result should be.
- HOW (process) – To know which properties of a learn/work environment (location, floor area, functional/technical/esthetical quality) influence the intended effects.
- WHAT (result) – To archive collected meaningful information on learn/work environment performance in a standardized manner so that it is (timely and fully) accessible and transferable for operational, tactical and strategic application.
This improves communication, coordination, cooperation and promotes continuous learning and improvement from each other. It provides a more holistic approach towards eco-system effects of an integrated physical, digital and social learn/work environment. Focusing more on wholeness and process rather than on analyses and parts.
The Real Estate Six-Pack offers a unifying perspective using a feedback/feedforward loop of awareness and insights so that it becomes clear if you are getting closer to or further from the objectives. This reciprocal loop integrates strategy and operations into a supporting learn/work environment to add value. It supports post-occupancy evaluation after completion of an intervention to ensure the building is performing as it should and can be fine-tuned in use.
The monitoring process via the ‘Six Pack’ dashboard creates a context-focused approach and has three consecutive steps: first, scanning the big picture to get an overview and then zooming in on important specifications that require attention to understand whether an intervention is necessary and why. If additional information is needed to make an intervention decision, there are links to supporting detailed information.
“If you try to remove cheating by creating a cheat-proof measurement system, you waste a lot of time. If you remove the need to cheat, then cheating will be much likely to happen, and it won’t cost you anything.” (Dean R. Spitzer Ph.D.-Transforming Performance Measurement)
The monitoring of performance gaps is context-related, therefore it is a must that an organisation designs its own meaningful performance measures. Know and understand your goals, and design the right measures that are the best evidence of your goals. Understand the results you are most needing to measure.
Maybe get inspiration from what others measure but certainly don’t copy them blindly. That’s because you want the right consistent and objective accommodation performance indicators (API), facility performance indicators (FPI) and IT performance indicators (IPI) that will matter and fit your specific situation with unique goals and strategic direction the best. Adopting someone else’s performance indicators is also adopting their strategy!
To determine the right evidence-based performance indicators for results, make sure that is clear Whose expectations, about What you want to meet, and Which expectations matter most? Addressing the performance indicators for all disciplines involved, Real Estate, Facility Management, IT and Human Resources, makes cross-dependencies visible and stimulates collaboration between the disciplines. This enhances the quality of solutions and decision-making.
The Real Estate Six Pack dashboard consists of two sets of three main aspects to monitor the APIs, FPIs and IPIs. The look in the rearview mirror and the view ahead through the windshield. Each should be SMARTI.
‘The look in the rearview mirror’:
The first three aspects reflect on the recent past. They test the performance of the learn/work environment against the objective policy goals and the subjective experience of the users. They answer the question: Is there friction between policy and the current situation?
- 1) Quality. 
- 2) Money/Time.
- 3) Satisfaction.
 Quality is understood to mean: geographical location, floor area and functional, aesthetic and technical performance of the accommodation. Quality and quantity are actually two sides of the same coin. This is e.g. shown in the trend towards less floor area that is more intensively used but with more quality (fit for purpose).
‘The view ahead through the windshield’:
In the knowledge that reality cannot be estimated as certainty. The remaining three meters 4, 5 and 6 enable dialogue and extrapolation to the future of the desired goals by exploring scenarios for budgeting and policy adjustments. They answer the question: Is recalibration of the accommodation policy required?
- 4) DESTEP analysis of the external environment.
- 5) Strategic accommodation policy.
- 6) Users needs, for places that work.
Part of a SWOT analysis is identifying external opportunities (O) and threats (T) that can influence an existing process from the outside. DESTEP is an analysis method to explore and map relevant external developments and trends that can change the context. The abbreviation stands for Demographic, Economic, Social/Cultural, Technological, Ecological and Political/Legal. Analyzing these factors provides a clear picture of the external context in which an organisation operates. This external environmental analysis is primarily about (inter) national developments (macro environment).
“An holistic approach of the physical, digital and social work environment is a ‘power house’, you can literally transform your organisation with an integrated learn/work environment.” (René P.M. Stevens)
These external developments cannot be influenced and are therefore a given for an organisational unit, but they do influence policy and must therefore be known in order to be able to anticipate. At a regional/local level, there may be deviations from these national trends – for one or more factors. A trend can be less pronounced or even contrary.
Periodically conducting an environment appraisal (user, area, building and money), with a 360° feedback assessment on matters that contribute to policy goals with their prioritization, is an essential input to assess the degree of being in control with the learn/work environment and to fine-tune. Not only measurement information is required but you need also values to determine what an adequate learn/work environment is for your specific national and local context.
Periodically measuring user satisfaction helps to timely identify a mismatch between the learn/work environment and the current organisational process. And to prioritise interventions based on the users’ perceived fit of their needs and abilities with the learn/work environment. It provides more customisation and more attention to differences between organisational units. Measuring hard and soft data provides feedback and a sharper focus in addition to gut feelings, experiences or observations.
In addition to measuring the hard objective data (area, building, money), the soft data (user) on user satisfaction and behaviour is also relevant. It makes the users co-creators of their learn/work environment and creates support, ownership, involvement and pride.
The performance appraisal should be holistic in nature and consists of two parts: determining the objective quality of the learn/work environment using for example the Real Estate Norm method and measuring the subjective user experience through an online questionnaire and in-depth interviews.
Advantages of a more data-driven decision making:
- Gaining more insight and control.
- A more efficient decision-making process.
- A better understanding of problems and issues.
- Better solutions/decisions through an iterative process.
Employee satisfaction with the learn/work environment, the interplay of Real Estate (RE), Facility Management (FM) and Information Technology (IT), is the degree to which the combination meets their wishes and needs.
To what extent does the physical (Bricks) and digital (Bytes) work environment support their work, well-being and health?
However, it is also closely related to satisfaction with the social (Behavior) learn/work environment and the work itself.
Besides the learn/work activities or tasks also the workers’ job characteristics and students’ learning styles, influence the perceived fit of the learn/work environment. As do behavioural patterns, psychological needs and demographic characteristics.
The figure shows how the four Strategic Alignment Matrix frames give constraints for the Physical (bricks), Digital (bytes) and Social (behaviour) components of a learn/work environment.
The periodic Human Resources (HR) review pays attention to the performance of the employees, but little or no attention to the environment in which they have to perform. A questionnaire about the learn/work environment in combination with the periodic HR performance interview offers opportunities to attract, better facilitate and retain employees.