Does FM need to ‘Jump the Shark’?

September 14, 2017 § Leave a comment

While reading a technology article earlier, I came across the phrase ‘Jumping the Shark’. Intrigued, I switched to Google to find out what the expression meant. If this was something that I could use as a means to baffle and frustrate colleagues it’s worth the effort, right?

Jumping the Shark’ – let’s just say JTS to save my thumbs the effort while typing this on my phone – relates to a scene from season five of the US sitcom Happy Days, where the main character Fonzie, while water skiing, jumps over a shark. The scene was so extraordinary and misaligned with the main theme of the sitcom that viewers determined the scene to be purely a ratings ploy and an effort to get people talking about the show.

From that point forward, JTS has been used to describe an effort made to disrupt a decline in performance, popularity or presence.

While reading the definition, I considered that the term is highly relevant to the Facilities Management sector. FM is an essential requirement for the ongoing upkeep of the built environment and, like Fonzie, is really cool. But even Arthur Fonzarelli needs a bit of a boost now and again to keep his popularity going.

The FM sector has jumped the shark a handful of times in the past. From energy management and asset based maintenance through to BIM and the latest initiatives on workplace configuration, these are all minor leaps into the unknown to avoid the pending bite from what lurks beneath.

But what next?

The industry is suffering a bit of an image crisis just now. The City is pushing for reform of some sort and a number of industry players are feeling a little bitten around the ankles; if not completely chewed.

As an industry, how high must we leap and over what, so that we remain as important as ever in the eyes of our customers?

That is the billion pound question and one that I very much look forward to tackling in the months and years ahead as I seek to keep FM cool.

What do you think?

Chris D Payne is an FM professional, focused on Work Winning, Innovation and Enhancing the Customer Experience. The views expressed within these blogs are personal and not attributable to any organisation.


Thomas Jefferson and innovation

September 8, 2014 § Leave a comment

During a recent visit to the Thomas Jefferson Memorial in Washington, D.C., I read a quote made by the third President of the United States. Recreated from a letter he wrote to author Samuel Kercheval in 1816, the words below stood out from everything else I read or saw during my visit.

“As that (the human mind) becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, new truths discovered and manners and opinions change, with the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also to keep pace with the times”.

A full copy of the quote can be read in the image below.

While the original words were written about the law and the constitution, the sentiment with which it was written equally applies to modern organizations and institutions.

As knowledge grows and expands, we must collectively advance our options, ideas and approaches to adapt to new ways of achieving similar or better outcomes. This is the basis of innovation in our modern world and essential to our ability to continue to remain competitive in our chosen industry and profession.

Again, as Jefferson eloquently put it, without a willingness to evolve, “we might as well require a man to wear still the coat which fitted him when a boy“.

I don’t know about you, but I certainly need a bigger coat.

Can you outrun the competition?

March 20, 2014 § Leave a comment

There is an old joke about two lion hunters in the African plains. While preparing for the pursuit, one of the hunters witnesses the other putting on a pair of running shoes. “You’ll never outrun a lion, even with running shoes on” says the hunter. “I don’t have to outrun the lion” comes the response, “I just have to outrun you”.

Outrun the FM lion

I’ll pause here a minute for the laughing to stop (or start).

This joke reminds me that, when bidding, you don’t have to be the fastest or the best in the world, you just have to be good enough to beat the competition.

I appreciate that it’s very difficult at times to understand where you need to be better than the competition, but the art of finding out is incredibly valuable when preparing a strategy for your bid. Taking time to understand the strengths of the competition can identify areas where you require to bolster a response or provide compelling alternatives.

Here are 8 things for you to consider to get you a head-start:


  1. What relationships do your competitors have with the potential client?
  2. What’s the strength of these relationships?
  3. What case studies can the competition provide to support their offers?
  4. Where can the competition offer scale of economies that you cannot?
  5. What are your competitors operating models?
  6. From a geographical perspective, who is best placed to support the potential client?
  7. Are there synergies with different businesses and organizations that could bring advantage?
  8. What ‘pain’ is the potential client experiencing and how can the competition relieve it?


And remember, it takes exercise, practice and strategy to be the fastest runner.

If you need a coach, let me know.


Publish your documents through PowerPoint. Yes. I said PowerPoint.

March 11, 2014 § Leave a comment

Author and communications expert Nancy Duarte ( has published a guide about Slidedocs; a PowerPoint  approach to document production and presentation.  And the best news? She’s made it available for free download. 

According to Duarte, “Slidedocs help you spread your smart thinking by combining visual communications with short chunks of written copy. Their scannable nature makes them great pre-read, reference, and leave-behind materials. Their modularity makes it easy for people to incorporate your ideas into their own communications. And these features together make slidedocs the perfect companion to both written documents and presentations.”

You can view her publication below or directly from:


Intelligent questioning; knowing the right things to ask

March 10, 2014 § Leave a comment

Hidden away in my list of qualifications and experiences is a certificate in Neuro-Linguistic Programming – or NLP for short. NLP is a method where an individual’s response to external stimuli can be determined based on the physical reaction they give. As a toolset, it’s commonly used by therapists and those who work in the communication sector as a means to establish how ‘people tick’. It isn’t an exact science but as part of a wider skill-set, it’s a useful bit of knowledge that can support things like facilitation, communication, bid writing and intelligent questioning. 

The latter of these, intelligent questioning, is predominantly about listening and asking questions that are relevant to the individual. As no two people are the same, their interpretation of the world around them can vary and so questioning must be tailored to the specific individual. What resonates with one person may entirely be ignored by another. You only have to watch a broadcast of Question Time to see this in effect.

listeningIn broad terms, people are more comfortable communicating using their senses. These senses can be categorised into three primary areas: auditory (what they hear), kinaesthetic (what they sense and feel) and visual (what they see).  Often, when you listen to people talk, they may give verbal cues as to how they think. For people who are predominantly auditory in nature, they may say things like: “I hear what you’re saying” or “listen to this”. For those with a visual preference, they may say things like “I see” or “picture this”. Finally, those with an kinaesthetic predisposition  may focus more on their feelings and how they “like” one thing over another.

Communicating successfully with individuals is normally about having something meaningful and interesting to say. Where many people go wrong though is in communicating content and messages in a manner that they themselves believe is impactful. In some instances, where the person you are communicating with has a similar thinking style, then this may not be too much of an issue. Where you communicate with another person with a different thinking style, i.e. you give visual phrases to an individual with auditory bias, your message may be diluted or at worst, ignored.

To become a better communicator, practice listening for these cues. Ask open questions, encourage the other person to talk more and consider how you wrap up your messages in the right language so that they are interpreted more successfully.  Some examples are below for information.

Intelligent listening

It is widely accepted that good communication is mostly about listening. As the old saying goes, you have two ears and one mouth, which means you should listen twice as much as you speak.

I’m listening. Are you?

About the author

Chris Payne works within the facilities management, maintenance and support services sector to deliver savings, improvements and innovations. The views of this blog are personal and not attributable to any organisational. 

Libraries and how a study into their use influences facilities management

December 12, 2013 § Leave a comment

In the late nineteen-nineties, an English town library was faced with declining demand. Like so many other library facilities, an increasing proportion of users were choosing to buy books cheaply from discounters, online booksellers and supermarkets. Early Internet users were also obtaining more content online; a trend that would later evolve into a flourishing market for electronic books and the proliferation of the electronic reader.

Budget cuts were also taking their toll. Reduced funding from the local authority meant that there was less investment in new books and on expanding services into new areas such as video and DVD lending. The limited investment that was available would have to be spent wisely, in the correct areas to return the maximum benefit to the community it serviced. But where would these investment areas be?

To find out, the library organised an experiment.

They would arrange for survey-takers to stand outside the library and capture the opinion of people leaving the library. The survey was designed to cover things such as the range of books available, the layout of the library, cleanliness, lighting, noise levels and customer service. Users were asked to rate each of these areas on a scale of one to five, with one being the lowest.

library experiments facilities management

Unbeknown to users, library staff were also briefed to behave in a particular way while the surveys were being collected. In the first half of the experiment library staff were asked to have minimal contact with users. They would be polite, but would not establish eye contact or engage in small talk. During this time, the survey results indicated that the physical library facilities were average or below average. The range of books was generally poor, the environmental conditions inadequate and the layout difficult to understand. Customer service was also marked as average.

During the second half of the experiment, library staff were instructed to behave differently. They would establish eye-contact with users and smile at them. They would ask them if they enjoyed their book or make recommendations to them based on choices made. Where appropriate, they would refer to the users by name and use a touch on the elbow or forearm to establish physical contact. On leaving, users were again asked to complete a survey. This time, even though no changes had been made to the physical environment, ratings were higher, with results showing average or above average marks for the environmental conditions. The range of books was considered better, the layout and lighting too were marked higher. Interestingly, the mark for customer service was only marginally higher.

A large amount of investment in the library was then channelled into training and informational services focused around the library user.

This extended impact of customer service is something known as the ‘halo’ effect; the influence of perception on particular attributes as a result of exposure to another, separate one. Other examples of the ‘halo’ effect may be in the classroom, where an attentive and well-behaved student may be evaluated more positively than their peers or where a well turned-out candidate is more likely to get the job.

It’s also a concept widely used in marketing and branding. Take for example the ‘Virgin’ brand, or ‘Apple’. Either of these organisations routinely launch new business ventures or products on the basis of their past reputation and the ‘halo’ effect. And what about the gym? How often do you see obese gym instructors?

For facilities management, the concept influences opinion in many ways.

Staff who are smartly dressed, well-presented and courteous tend to project an overarching air of competency and efficiency to users. Articulate engineers instil confidence that the facilities they look after are well maintained. And, clean cleaners clean better (sorry).

These may seem illogical and outrageous statements, but the impact of the ‘halo’ effect influences our bias and impressions subconsciously. Investing in uniforms, communication and customer service training does make a difference.

Sadly, many customers and providers have cut back in these areas, choosing instead to focus on core activities to reduce cost. This ‘Ryanair’ approach gets the job done, but often at the sacrifice of user and occupant satisfaction as well as the positive perception of associated brands.

Interestingly, according to Which? magazine, Ryanair was voted as having the worst customer service out of Britain’s 100 biggest brands. There have also been significant concerns voiced about passenger safety based upon media coverage of the way they treat their pilots.

A real example of the ‘halo’ effect in action?

Further reading


About the author

Chris Payne works within the facilities management, maintenance and support services sector to deliver savings, improvements and innovations. The views of this blog are personal and not attributable to any organisational. 

How cognitive maps influence the way we see the world

November 22, 2013 § Leave a comment

Cognitive maps are our own interpretation of the world around us, built up over our lifetimes to make sense of the things around us. They are unique to each one of us, based upon our experiences, our learning and our interaction with people and things around us.

Our own cognitive map helps us, based on our experiences, to filter out apparently irrelevant sensory data and to enable us to recognise stimuli that are meaningful. The brain it seems, can only cope with so much information at one time so this filter prevents us from becoming overloaded with information and encourages us to focus instead on new and unknown issues within our environment. Research by Starbuck and Milliken (1988) affirms this and they suggest that cognitive maps “help direct behaviour by providing scripts or recipes from a repertoire of problem solving responses”.

If we have a past approach that we perceive has worked, then we will have a tendency to repeat that approach where the stimuli is similar.

The challenge with cognitive maps is that they are based on our own individual past interpretation of information to enable us to intuitively look at things in a particular way. Our maps are also unique to us, and may even be in conflict with others around us.

Let me illustrate by way of a true story.

In 1974, a British Airways flight into Nairobi made contact with aircraft control to advise of its approach to landing. The air traffic controller instructed the pilot to reduce to a height of 7,500 feet in preparation. In error, the flight crew dialled 5,000 feet into the altitude selector, having misheard the radioed instructions. Nairobi Airport has a height of 5,327 feet meaning that the Boeing 747’s glide slope would have resulted in a collision with the ground. Two of the three flight crew had corroborated the height instructed of 5,000 feet, so when warning signals started to go off on the cockpit to announce the aircraft’s close proximity to ground, they were dismissed entirely. The third member assumed that everything was okay and failed to notice or challenge the incorrect altitude dialled into the flight equipment. All crew members had established a ‘cognitive map’ of the situation, corroborated between them and no cockpit alarms would alter their collective view. Everything was as it should have been based on their ‘map’. It was only when the aircraft cleared the cover of the clouds, some 200 feet above the ground, did they take in additional stimuli from the world around them (i.e. the rapidly approaching ground) and change their actions. The aircraft came into 70 feet of impact, narrowly avoiding an aviation disaster. Official accounts of the incident ( cited the failure of the crew and the air traffic control tower to acknowledge the proper and clear instructions. They ‘assumed’ everything was as it should be based on their past experience. Recommendations following the incident included a greater distribution of duties amongst the flight crew to enable the pilot to monitor the environment (and challenge the cognitive map), changes to the altimeter select function of the aircraft and improved training and log keeping.

learning from flying disasters

The disruption of cognitive models is now a key part of training for flight crew. The assumption that everything is okay based on past experience is actively challenged within today’s cockpits, despite many of the functions now being automated. Flight crew are encouraged to positively interact to check, review and respond to their surroundings. Psychology and behavioural training in aviation is now commonplace in addition to technical training, encouraging an environment where interaction and questioning is the norm.

Cognitive maps, while incredibly effective, clearly have limitations. Consider that there are always alternative approaches that can be taken or that someone else’s map may be better attuned to respond to an issue. The old analogy of ‘boiling a frog’ is also appropriate. Where minor changes in the environment do not raise concerns or alarm bells, the aggregated effect over time can be catastrophic.

About the author

Chris Payne works within the facilities management, maintenance and support services sector to deliver savings, improvements and innovations. The views of this blog are personal and not attributable to any organisational. 

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