Create a Culture of Planning: 10 Characteristics of Proactive Equipment Management
Dale Carnegie, author of the best-selling self-help book “How to Win Friends and Influence People,” once said, “First ask yourself: What is the worst that can happen? Then prepare to accept it. Then proceed to improve on the worst.”
If this isn’t the mantra of a property manager I don’t know what is.
Much of a property manager’s day-to-day responsibilities involve preparing and predicting for the unknown. Whether analyzing hypothetical “what if” scenarios to identify potential gaps in preparedness, running exhaustive internal audits to ensure the accuracy of asset data or coordinating the efforts of disparate organizational departments through training, a property manager is always looking towards the future in an effort to prepare for today.
In essence, effective property managers create a Culture of Planning.
A Culture of Planning is defined by the way an organization, or in this specific case the asset management team of an organization, views and executes the task of planning. Yet, there are many types of planning. In some cases organizations may embrace strategic planning but eschew a commitment to continuity planning. In the property manager’s case, planning refers to emergency / continuity planning, or a formal contingency plan – tested, proven and documented – for the protection and accountability of valuable assets.
A Culture of Planning ensures that when disaster strikes, management will know exactly what to do to safeguard employees and assets, secure the building, protect data, and reroute communications. Essentially, a Culture of Planning ensures that, no matter the scenario, an organization will have the collective competency to persevere.
An organization with a well-developed Culture of Planning:
1. Emphasizes flexibility and leverages creativity to foster recovery efforts. This could be better thought of as resilience. Resilience must be a pre-existing quality rather than a reactionary effort. Resilience implies that the management, asset managers, and all other decision makers have accounted for a degree of failure and have taken the steps to account for it. Consequently, resilience, flexibility, and creativity are woven into the fabric of the organization.
2. Understand the appropriate responses. Organization that promote a Culture of Planning will neither under-plan, which renders employees and assets critically vulnerable, nor will they over-plan by developing strategies that are entirely too complex and offer little, if any, practical value. Management’s confidence in their asset management team’s ability to mitigate a crisis scenario allows that team to focus on just the potential problem and its solutions.
3. Look into the future and embrace the inevitable potential for disaster. There is no room for naivety in business yet some organizations, like some people, think that if they ignore a potential issue or incident, it will either go away or never manifest. A mature organization — an organization with a Culture of Planning — seeks out and engages the hazards before they occur, thus allowing the organization to better react when a crisis situation arises.
4. Leverages experience. Mature organizations will learn from both their mistakes and their successes, and place value in each. Experienced decision-makers improve the organization’s culture by skills by:
- engaging in deliberate practice
- compiling an extensive experience bank
- obtaining accurate, timely and diagnostic asset data
- reviewing experiences to derive new insights and learning.
5. Does not rely on experience alone. Effective organizations never confuse the distinction between “frequency” and “probability.” Organizations need to understand that no two emergency scenarios are alike. So while the experiences learned from dealing with one situation are invaluable, they cannot be used as the be-all, end-all of disaster protocol. Organizations that rely only on past experiences (or lack thereof) leave themselves vulnerable to future disasters.
6. Roll with the punches. The threat to an organization’s assets is constant; catastrophes, both big and small, will hit every organization despite maintaining a well-developed asset management plan. However, organizations that are prepared to react to these situations will absorb the loss productively. In this sense they will roll with the punches and grow from the experience. Ignorance arises when organizations could and should have foreseen the disaster, yet remained unprepared for one reason or another. Unfortunately the culture that gives rise to opportunity for ignorance seldom recognizes itself as such. They are, therefore, prone to repeat their mistake.
7. Has a high tolerance of ambiguity. Ambiguity lends itself to uncertainty; uncertainty implies a lack of control, and incremental lack of control is one pervasive characteristic of an emergency or disaster. Acceptance of this lack of control comes from understanding that the organization has a plan designed to return control to decision makers during an emergency scenario. This calmness of an organization during a crisis situation is dependent on their ability to think about problems from all angles, not just the nuts and bolts of solving them. Once the process is mastered, problem solving becomes the application of a variable-yet-iterative process.
8. Embraces, emphasizes and values testing, training and exercising. Arranging training sessions is possibly the least enjoyable but most necessary assignment an asset manager can undertake. Resistance from executives and staff members alike makes training and exercise sessions a real problem. However, property managers working in a company with a developed Culture of Planning will be given the benefit of the doubt; after all this culture inherently values the dress rehearsal for the “big one.”
9. Constantly scans the environment and has a conversational/technical knowledge of threats. A conversational technical/knowledge of threats means that the emergency manager not only knows what is “out there” to put the organization at risk, but also knows enough about the threat to understand why the threat is real.
10. Resists the “urgent” in deference to the “important.” A key vulnerability exhibited by far too many organizations is that more time and attention is spent on important matters, and less time is spent attending to urgent matters. Though the work indisputably expands to fill the time available for its completion, the nature of the work in which we engage is entirely under our control.