Don Briselden is director of physical plant at Phillips Exeter Academy in Andover, New Hampshire. In addition to serving as a member of APPA's K-12 Task Force, he is the dean for general administration and management for the Institute for Facilities Management.
A Helpful Vision: What is it all about
I am trying to imagine how it must be to manage the facilities of a school or school district without the benefit of the network, shared knowledge, and access to technical resources that most of us within APPA enjoy. Perhaps it is like accomplishing a single-handed ocean sail, or climbing a rock wall without the technical gear; rather lonely and perhaps risky.
Early on in our task force discussions, it became clear that facilities managers in K-12 settings needed access to a network that could provide current and helpful information. That understanding then developed into our objective which is to provide a sustainable resource of current core benchmarking and best practices information to all K-12 facility managers.
It may be helpful to address each of the highlighted items in that objective sentence.
- Sustainable: The time and resources required to support the resource model may be hard to obtain, as resources often are. The model must have a home, have a dedicated caretaker, be as simple in structure as possible, and be funded and supported at a reasonable cost over a long period.
- Current: If the resource model is to be useful, users must be able to extract timely information. The intent is to have the model updated continuously and to review the database to evaluate data that is over one year old.
- Core Benchmarking: Benchmarking is defined by one of our knowledgeable committee members as "using standards to see how well you are doing." The more formal definition is: "The continuous and systematic process of measuring and assessing products, processes and services for the purpose of achieving superior performance." Because benchmarking comparisons can be applied to any process and would include the widest range of applications, it is necessary that we clearly define the types of benchmark data that will be provided. Benchmarks can be focused on strategic comparisons as operational measurements. Our intent is to provide a model that will provide useful information in both areas. The resource model will include a well-developed set of core benchmarks. We intend to arrive at the list of core benchmarks by soliciting the needs of the users through a benchmark survey.
- Best practices information is defined as "capturing, disseminating, and sharing of work methods, processes, and initiatives to improve effectiveness." The resource model will provide the opportunity for participants to find out what is working in other schools and to share their proven best practices within the wider education community.
- All K-12 facility managers: If we are to fulfill our charter, then the model must be available to all K-12 schools and institutions. While some hard copy information may be available, our intent is to provide the products through the Internet.
Obviously such an undertaking will require support and a commitment of resources. Is it worth it? That conclusion will ultimately need to be made by the users and those who provide the resources. Benefits of Providing Current Benchmarking and Sharing Best Practices Information We know that the model will identify the costs and support that will be required to sustain this resource opportunity. Yes, it will have a cost side, and a significant one. What are the benefits? At this stage, we have not included a formal cost-benefit analysis. However, our view is that the long list of intuitive benefits has great appeal and pursing the model at an affordable cost is worthwhile. Here is a partial list of the benefits that could accrue.
- Improve facilities planning
- Assist with budgeting for operations and capital renewal
- Assess strengths and weaknesses of core processes
- Identify needs for changes in organizational methods and practices
- Identify areas that are candidates for cost saving changes
- Identify processes that can be moved to a new benchmark level
- Establish quantifiable goals for continuous improvement
- Minimize reinventing established practices
- Motivate positive change
- Promote facility managers' networking
- Improve practices, processes, and services
- Provide practices education
- Provide methods to measure effectiveness; to find strengths and identify weaknesses
Developing Implementing Strategies
Fine you say. Having an intention and an outline plan is commendable, but how will the model be developed? Well, the task force committee has identified these implementing steps:
- Identify the strategic and operational benchmarks that are core to K-12 processes and which the processes will maintain.
- Set the expectations for the K-12 Task Force and understand the expectations of our clients, the K-12 community.
- Provide the necessary awareness and education so that the K-12 entity knows and understands the availability of the benchmarking and best practices resource.
- Focus our energies so that we are delivering the resource in an effective and efficient manner.
- Develop a resource delivery process that is sustainable over the long run.
- Determine optimum related facility costs, utilities and services to support public education.
So, with that as a summary, I can now say that you have read what it is all about. We expect to develop a working model within a year and have it available via the Internet. As the development process moves forward we will use APPANet and the K-12 listserv to ask for feedback and suggestions. We will be back in touch.