Lander Medlin is APPA's executive vice president. This is her first Executive Summary column. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
"All things change." Few would argue with the Greek sage Heraclitus pronouncement. And the majority of us would also agree that, in the world of higher education, all things are changing much faster! As I assume the responsibilities of Executive Vice President in the midst of this exciting time, I feel I am truly blessed to have the opportunity to serve the facilities professionals that make up APPA. I am grateful to APPA's Board of Directors for the confidence they have placed in me, and I look forward to meeting the challenges that lie ahead to advance the facilities profession and articulate its importance to the education community and the private sector.
My experiences as both a facility professional (11 years in physical plant with the University of Maryland) and an active APPA volunteer (both on the Educational Programs Committee and elected as its Vice President), heightens my own passion to continue to move the association successfully into the 21st century. I want to share with you my thoughts to help to reinvent our association as we approach the new millennium.
I use the word "reinvent" because by all accounts, the associations of tomorrow will be radically different from what we know today. In order to maintain their roles of leadership and to continue to respond proactively to member issues and needs, associations must maintain their focus while striving to offer greater diversity and specificity to better serve our members.
Fortunately, when it comes to focus, I have the enormous advantage of inheriting an association strategic plan developed in concert with the membership and the Board. This strategic plan, which outlined our vision to become a "global partner in learning," focuses on five key strategic initiatives: 1) increase the effectiveness of education, 2) forge stronger links between APPA and its regions, 3) expand the use of electronic services, 4) promote awareness of APPA among senior higher education officers, and 5) establish a process for stakeholder feedback.
In creating these initiatives, the volunteer leadership and staff have done an exceptional job in outlining the framework for the delivery mechanisms so important for the association to deliver products, programs, and services to meet the future needs of the profession. These initiatives have served as an invaluable roadmap over the past three years and have led to profound changes within the association.
Readily visible signs of these changes are found among all of APPA's programs and services: the newly redesigned Institute for Facilities Management; the ever-expanding information and services on APPANet; our closer relationships to our regions; strategic partnerships with relevant outside groups; our daily staff operations here at the office headquarters; and, perhaps most ambitious, the Professional Leadership Center, of which the new Leadership Academy programs are just a small part.
The association's strategic plan, however, represents only one side of the coin. The other side of that coin is the facility profession's strategic plan. The facility profession's long-range plan, originally established in the late 1980s, needs to be revisited. With the 1990s considered to be the decade of the arrival of the future, it is time to review that long-range plan with our eyes on future trends and impacts.
A good body of knowledge on this future already exists within APPA. In developing the Professional Leadership Center, a group of APPA volunteers with special interest in leadership issues in facilities resulted in invaluable insights into the future of the facilities profession. By defining the specific needs of the profession for the future, the efforts of this leadership group provide the focus our association needs to meet our combined mission "to support educational excellence through quality leadership and professional management."
Their ideas are outlined in Bill Daigneau's article entitled "The Future of Facilities Management" (Facilities Manager, Oct/Sep 1997). This group identified, through a scenario planning exercise, several key conditions or driving forces were identified which are expected to affect the nature and state of higher education in the future. These driving forces are: 1) information technology, 2) resource scarcity, 3) societal needs, 4) governmental rules and regulations (intervention), and 5) the environment.
The group further discussed the effect these conditions would have on the facilities profession and the roles the facility professional will be expected to play to be successful in the future. These roles are: 1) operations expert, 2) information technologist, 3) partner, 4) strategist, 5) asset manager, and 6) executive.
Building on the work of this leadership group, APPA can chart a course for continuing change in order to assist its members in meeting their expanding needs and their new roles previously identified. The question is, how do we prepare facilities professionals to live and work creatively, productively, and successfully in such a world?
APPA must exercise due diligence on behalf of the membership to ensure value, and correspondingly explore mutually beneficial partnerships with those entities whose specialization and customization best fits our members specific technical needs. Our industry, like others, is becoming increasingly specialized. The facilities professional is barraged daily with information by one group or another targeting various areas of specialization within the profession.
Ultimately, our institutional members want assurance that both the technical skills training and the managerial/supervisory education needs of their managers and supervisors who possess specialized expertise are being met. Directly, APPA can approach its own delivery differently. Some examples might be distance learning courses provided via the Internet in areas like safety compliance and basic supervision techniques, or a speaker's bureau available online for use by both the regions and local/state chapters in delivering short courses locally.
Beyond these few scenarios, there are other areas of concern in which APPA must be willing to think differently, in more innovative ways. They center on "value." Is APPA membership of value? Membership is increasingly transactional; people join for the specific value they get from it. Membership must become increasingly meaningful.
APPA can enhance this meaning by, for example, 1) using technology to offer personalized services; 2) involving volunteers more fully and in different ways beyond the traditional committee structure; 3) using both personal and electronic means to continue to foster a sense of community; 4) gaining specific knowledge about representative groups with the goal of providing more personalized service; 5) and increasing the awareness and understanding of the staff about facilities information and then improving upon these sources of information to create a rich information stream. We must create an association that would evoke an enthusiastic "Yes!!" to the question: "Would you recreate the association if it disappeared today?"
Granted, the future is uncertain, full of chaos and discontinuities. But it is within these discontinuities that opportunity exists. We must be poised to seize these opportunities, to actively look ahead and let go of the past, take on risks to forge a new path. In a book entitled Rethinking the Future, Charles Handy states, "The way you make sense of the future, in organizations and in societies and in your own life, is by taking charge of the future. Not by responding to it."
APPA is actively rethinking its future and the role the association should play in training and developing future facilities "knowledge workers." Yes, all things do change, and I look forward to working with APPA to unleash our collective energy to stay ahead of the change curve. Through the synergism of members, volunteers, Board, and staff, APPA can redefine the profession, create new opportunities, blaze new trails, and challenge the status quo like never before.