June 10, 2015 § Leave a comment

@StephenBallesty highlights his top 10 trends affecting #facman during #fmccworldfm virtual conference http://ow.ly/i/becX2

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 (www.duarte.com) 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: http://www.duarte.com/slidedocs/

If you don’t have time to read the publication in full or need some help to turnaround a document for a client, get in touch with CSS Consultancy for a FREE document appraisal and some suggestions for improvement. 

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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. If you need help to communicate better with your stakeholders, get in touch with him today to see how he can help you.

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Complex bid support without the drama

March 7, 2014 § Leave a comment

At CSS, our approach to bidding is focused on understanding the culture and specific needs of each of our customers, helping us to develop a solution that is advanced, comprehensive and intelligent. It’s also about our personality. We work hard and look for every opportunity to leave lasting tools and techniques with every one of the teams we work with. And we do this without drama.

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

[1] http://psychology.about.com/od/socialpsychology/f/halo-effect.htm
[2] http://www.economist.com/node/21541063
[3] http://www.theguardian.com/books/2012/dec/10/uk-lost-200-libraries-2012

About the author

Chris D. Payne is an  interim FM brain, available to support your business or contract. If you need help winning work, improving performance or innovating more effectively, get in touch with him today to see how he can help you.

Join Chris on LinkedIn
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Skype Chris @ chrisdpayne
Email Chris
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