Author’s Note: With the launch of Hillsborough County Public Schools in Florida and Houston ISD in Texas, the 7th and 9th largest K12 school districts in the U.S. respectively, Facilitron now partners with over 200 U.S. school districts across the country to manage facilities, schedules and use requests.
What we’ve learned through our experience supporting over 3 million events in the past 5-years has helped us become experts in facility use management.
There are two components to successful change: The first is to begin, and the second is to persist.
That’s the concept articulated in a brief published by the Army Research Division of the RAND Corporation, a non-profit that conducts research projects on behalf of the U.S. Army. The brief focuses on the methodology behind “Velocity Management” a concept that the U.S. Army adopted to achieve continuous performance gains in logistics.
For facility operators, transforming a facility use program into a well-performing enterprise that maximizes the utilization of buildings and grounds, generates revenues to recover costs, and works efficiently with administrators and the public also requires successful change.
Change is easy, the challenge is persisting.
“It is relatively easy for an organization to begin change,” according to the brief. “However, most improvement initiatives that are undertaken without sufficient preparation either end inconclusively or quietly fail once the initial enthusiasm passes.”
We’ve all seen it in our everyday lives—a big weekend organizing the garage, a New Year’s resolution to improve fitness…. After the initial enthusiasm for change wanes, without persistence the old ways return.
At organizations like school districts where so many different stakeholders can be involved in facility use, getting everyone pushing in the same direction requires more than just change, it takes a lot of persistence. The key to success isn’t changing, it’s persisting.
That’s where Facilitron makes the difference. Facilitron’s data-driven partnership is designed to help facility operators overcome resistance, utilize tools and resources needed to succeed, and persist.
The Army's Define-Measure-Improve Methodology
In order to change AND persist, the Army adopted a methodology based on three simple and readily understood steps: “define, measure and improve,” or D-M-I, for short.
- Define the process
- Measure process performance
- Improve the process
Progress is made perpetually repeating this process over and over.
Define the process
“It’s surprising how many policies or processes are undefined in a typical facility use program,” said Jared Wagman, Director of Implementation at Facilitron.
Jared should know. When his team onboards an organization onto the Facilitron platform, he inevitably encounters unclear or undefined policies. Undefined policies lead to exceptions or ad hoc decisions that then become the norm. Adherence to policy becomes lost in the shuffle. Adherence actually becomes the exception.
Examples of exceptions include those based on long-standing precedent such as allowing certain groups to benefit from waived fees or paying fees post-event. Many of these exceptions haven’t been reviewed in decades or remain unknown to those other than to the parties directly involved in the arrangement.
Defining the process is important when moving to a digital workflow so that the system can be configured to calculate correct rates for requestors, set payment terms and insurance requirements according to policy, and to guide requests through the proper administrative approval hierarchy. It’s an essential part of the Facilitron implementation process. Settling on those policies, even the ones that weren’t previously determined, is step one in the D-M-I methodology: “Define the process.”
Measure process performance
Facilitron can help organizations with best practices but no matter the policy, the platform allows organizations to define the process and apply those processes uniformly across its user types.
Determining the policy and applying those policies uniformly across users is one of the advantages of the digital workflow. The system documents facility use activity but can allow exceptions by manually overriding the policy configured into the system. In doing so however, the exceptions come clearly into focus.
“It’s often the first thing we see after getting everyone on the system,” said Facilitron Director of Accounts, Jenn Ford. “Requests come in based on the system configuration and then edits have to be made to accommodate the exceptions.”
Facilitron’s platform tracks all the system activities—including fee changes—which aggregate up to a suite of executive reports that, in essence, reveal the exceptions.
That’s step two: “Measure the process performance.”
“It’s amazing what the data we collect reveals about what is going on in a facility use program,” Ford said.
Facilitron’s reports were designed so that administrators can easily dive into the anomalies to reveal what actually took place through an exception. Having that information can start fact-based discussions which can address deviations from policy. In some cases, it is the policy that needs to change. In others, it’s the process.
Improve the process
It’s not simply that policy exceptions are wrong per se, it’s that they’re inefficient.
“Each time an exception is made, it extends the approval process while the change is reviewed,” said Facilitron Account Manager Grace Vote. “Then someone must take the time to make the change in the system and communicate to the renter organization. That’s not an efficient process.”
Most programs remain unaware of all their exceptions and inefficiencies until they see the data. But the system allows facility operators to consider their policies and processes in order to make changes—changes that could include creating new rate categories to accommodate the exception, modifying the policy, or having renter organizations comply with existing policy.
That’s step three: Improve the process.
Policies can be too weak or too strong
Improvements to the process don’t always revolve around fee exceptions. Weak or undefined guidelines can lead people to come up with their own solutions. On the other hand, a policy that is too strong can become impossible to enforce and eventually ignored.
“We’ve seen organizations require a request be placed no less than 30 days before an event,” said Teault Marcille, a regional Director of Accounts for Facilitron. “That policy was probably implemented long ago, maybe during a time when there were few requests and the process was pen and paper. In those days, it actually took a lot of time to review and approve an application, hence the policy.”
The times changed, but the policy didn’t. With digital systems decisions can be made quickly, making antiquated policies, implemented for a different era, seem overly restrictive. And the problem with overly restrictive policies is that they are often ignored, again leading to policy exceptions.
“Using paper app policies in a digital app world just doesn’t work anymore,” Marcille said.
Among the most restrictive of policies are at school districts who still require any facility use by the public be approved by the school board itself. Since school boards typically only meet once per month, what’s more likely to happen is that only the highest profile events make their way through the official process. Meanwhile, administrators accommodate the dozens of relatively small requests as exceptions, justifiably concluding that requests of that nature don’t merit the full-blown attention of the school board.
Lather, rinse, repeat
Running an effective program clearly takes a will to change and persistence. Using data from the Facilitron platform along with leveraging Facilitron’s support and account management teams can help facility operators apply the D-M-I methodology. And that is often the only way many understaffed, under-resourced organizations can effect significant change in their facility use program.
To learn more about the journey to an effective facility use program, read our article “How to Build a Better Facility Use Program.” In it, we identify the 5 stages that facility organizations like school districts encounter, and how Facilitron helps them move through each stage on the way to a building an efficient, well-managed program.