Data Detail, Strategic Intent and the Facilities Assessment

Business educator and author Peter Drucker’s words ring true today as they did when he first shared them:

“There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all.”

How often have we all been engaged in activities or conversations in which people were consumed by the effort to improve a practice that, when considered objectively, was not in the best interest of the people it was intended to serve? How often have we sat in a meeting and thought, “But why?” Probably more often than we’d like to admit.

When confronted with the task of understanding how and where to direct precious resources in the care of facilities, particularly complex facilities, there is an inherent tension between the detailed, day-to-day demands and the long-term strategic horizon. A facilities conditions assessment (FCA) is a powerful tool for understanding capital needs that sits at the intersection of the tension between today and tomorrow. It can help organizations guard against pursuing detrimental practices.

Data Detail, Strategic Intent and the Facilities Assessment 1An FCA must contain enough detail to assure that it is realistic, competent and useful in defining the true demands confronting the facility stewards. It must be connected to not only the current campus but also the community’s future aspirations. A facilities assessment must be actionable, guiding decision-makers about where to direct inevitably limited resources.

While a detailed assessment provides an extraordinarily accurate picture of the challenges in every space on the campus, too much emphasis on perfecting the detail requires immense time and money. It also produces vast amounts of information that will never be utilized for those spaces which do not warrant attention in the foreseeable future. Conversely, too much focus on strategy without detail raises important questions about what data points drive the recommendations that institutional leaders make about how and where to direct tremendous amounts of money. It is important to find the balance.

Data Detail, Strategic Intent and the Facilities Assessment 2

Selecting the appropriate level of granularity helps provide sufficient information to credibly understand which pieces of the property are in the greatest need today. Exploring campus aspirations can reveal which are the most appropriate places to receive attention or investment for the future. Done correctly, a balanced assessment approach will minimize the financial requirement typically associated with a detailed understanding of all spaces. This will allow the bulk of the resources to be spent on the complex design and execution of the investment plan. Strategic decisions will be grounded in solid information about not only need, but programmatic fit, and long-term organizational health.

A facilities conditions assessment is at its core a technical document. Without the right balance between the level of detail, institutional context, and strategic intent, it won’t provide the actionable knowledge necessary to move the institution forward.