Maggie Kinnaman is director of business administration and support services for the Office of Facilities Management at the University of Maryland/Baltimore. She is APPA's current President and also serves as chair of the Strategic Assessment Model Task Force. She can be reached at

Webster's defines accountability as the act of being responsible for your actions and able to explain those actions to another party. Remember the good old days when your word was all it took to convince the campus that your physical plant was both efficient and effective? Today we are asked to be accountable--to convince our stakeholders that we are good stewards of the scarce resources entrusted to us.

In order to do this, and to do so in a compelling way, we must first understand our customer base and the way in which they make decisions. Higher education is heavily involved in research, and research is dependent upon data. In order to communicate effectively within this environment, we need to come to the table with more than just our perception of service. That perception needs to be grounded in comparative data--either our performance over time or our performance in relation to the performance of others.

Another dilemma faced by facilities professionals is confusion over what to measure and then how to collect comparative data from our peers. Perhaps APPA's evolving Strategic Assessment Model (SAM) presents a solution. Let me share with you how this tool is evolving and how it can be used within your environment to tell your story to your campus stakeholders.

Task Force Charge

In early 1999, the APPA Board of Directors established a task force to breathe new life into APPA's Strategic Assessment Model. The charge was articulated as establishing an inventory of reliable and meaningful performance indicators that would greatly increase the credibility of the facilities management professional, who provides stewardship over his or her institution's greatest and most costly resource.

What Sam Is and Is Not

The SAM Task Force first met in May 1999 and tackled the hard question right up front: "Just what are we trying to achieve by developing the Strategic Assessment Model, and how do we envision our members using this tool?" After much deliberation we came to rest on the following:

It is our hope that any of these endeavors may lead to more effective organizational performance which in turn could lead to added value for an institution. It is important to note that after much discussion, the task force members agreed that the SAM model is a collection of performance indicators for the facilities profession that could be used to drive more effective organizational performance. SAM specifically is not an example of the process of benchmarking.

SAM and the Comparative Costs and Staffing Report

Some may ask how the Strategic Assessment Model differs from APPA's Comparative Costs and Staffing Report for Educational Facilities. Aren't we duplicating efforts? The SAM Task Force sees CCAS as an effort to collect data that is primarily operational in nature. Users can pick and chose which elements are important to them for comparison purposes. SAM, on the other hand, is a strategic tool that looks at specific performance indicators that are indicative of overall organizational effectiveness within the facilities profession and brings them together in a model that captures the performance of a number of institutions.

Why is SAM Important?

We think SAM provides facilities professionals with a tool that helps to get the attention of and bridge the communication gap that often exists between the facilities manager and our campus decision makers. The model helps to tell the facilities story in the language of business by collecting data in such a way that an institution can see at a glance how their facilities performance fares with the performance of others within the profession.

What Has Happened with SAM to Date?

The current model and the story of what has been achieved to date can be read in the recently released handbook, The Strategic Assessment Model. The book is filled with valuable information, and I encourage you to take a look. [Ed. Note: see sidebar for contents and ordering information.] The 1997 SAM survey results were forwarded to the original 100-plus survey participants. The consultant, Constructive Concepts, Inc., indicated that after data scrubbing, our survey results were quite solid. In their opinion, and based upon their broad knowledge of benchmarking and assessment, SAM is one of the best performance measurement tools in the industry.

What we have learned from our first survey results is that we still have work to do. We need to ensure we have the appropriate performance indicators that are truly indicative of our profession's overall organizational effectiveness. We need to ensure that our definitions are clearly presented so that folks understand what they are collecting. And we need to survey every other year and get the results out to our members in a timely fashion. With our new business partner, Constructive Concepts, Inc., we're confident that this is possible.

What Still Needs to Be Done

What we see in the crystal ball of SAM's future is a great deal of activity and attention. First, we've talked about the new handbook. Second is the establishment of the new SAM Task Force. We've heard from our members over the years that SAM is an important project, and the APPA Board has responded by showing a level of intense support so that we can firmly establish SAM as a valuable APPA resource. Next, we need to integrate this model into the fabric of the facilities management profession by creating a cycle for conducting a survey and sharing the resultant information with our members. Finally, we need to identify a strategy for capturing and sharing case studies that describe how others have effectively utilized the model to add value to their operations and in turn to their institutions.

Project Success Defined

So one may ask, "How will you measure success for this project?" The task force sees three major indicators of success. First, when we're able to collect ranges of performance for the facilities profession through use of the model's performance indicators, we will have experienced success. Likewise, when SAM becomes a critical and credible tool that can track facilities effectiveness over time, success will be ours. And finally, we can consider our efforts a success when we provide our members with a collection of performance indicators that can serve as a platform for initiating a process of benchmarking.

Task Force Approach

I'd like to take a moment to share with you the detailed thought process that is being used by the task force in approaching this project. Remember our charge, to establish an inventory of reliable and meaningful performance indicators that would greatly increase the credibility of the facilities management professional, while providing stewardship over his or her institution's greatest and most costly resource.

In order to achieve the charge and capture ranges of performance for the facilities profession, the task force felt that we must review SAM's current structure as well as its content.

To do that we needed to review the column headings and use of the balanced scorecard concept. We then reviewed the use of levels of effectiveness and decided that these were best suited to the qualitative description of organization effectiveness. Next we wanted to make sure that we have the right performance indicators. To accomplish this we decided to review each of the profession's four core competencies: General Administration; Operations and Maintenance; Energy and Utilities; and Planning, Design, and Construction. And finally, we need to ensure that our definitions are clear and easily understood by our members.

Task Force Accomplishments

First, the SAM Task Force has been able to review and validate the use of the Kaplan-Norton Balanced Scorecard Model for SAM's column headings. They are still appropriate. The Kaplan-Norton Balanced Scorecard Model suggests that organizational effectiveness can best be determined by connecting financial indicators of past performance with drivers of future performance. These drivers include internal business processes, organizational strategy, innovation and learning, and customer satisfaction. The model strives to give a well-rounded picture of an organization by utilizing both quantitative as well as qualitative performance indicators.

Strategic performance indicators have been identified under each of the four column headings that address each of APPA's four core competencies.

The Strategic Assessment Model will consist of two components, a data collection piece and a self-assessment tool that will allow our members to self rate using a qualitative scale, rating organizational effectiveness 1 through 5. We believe that by using the combination of trending quantitative performance indicators and the qualitative criteria for determining levels of organizational effectiveness, SAM has truly become a strategic tool. SAM can help you determine your current level of organizational effectiveness, recognize what is required to move to the next level, and develop strategies and action plans for improving in each of the scorecard perspectives. To review the current status of SAM, please visit We invite your comments and questions.

The following activities have been or will be accomplished this year:

In Summation

We know this is an aggressive schedule, but we feel that any project that's important needs attention and focus in order to make it happen within a reasonable time frame. As chair of this task force, I am confident that our milestones will be met given the commitment of the APPA Board and the support and commitment of our fine task force members. I'm confident that in July of next year, we'll be standing in front of you sharing the results of our new survey.

Success Redefined

I'd like to digress for a moment and refer back to the indicators that will help us know when this project is a success. We said that success would be achieved when SAM became an integral part of the fabric of our association, when we were able to deliver a credible tool for our profession, and when SAM became part of our member services. I'd like to add a fourth--when SAM is integrated with other APPA programs.

Gazing into the future, it is easy and logical to see an opportunity for SAM to be incorporated into APPA's Award for Excellence, as well as the Facilities Management Evaluation Program. True success for the Strategic Assessment Model will only be achieved when we can weave the SAM thread throughout all parts of the fabric of our facilities profession and our association programs.