«People Matter: A hermeneutic exploration of reflective practice and facilities management Melanie Bull A thesis submitted in partial fulfilment of ...»
I get bored quite easily as it is. Change direction a little bit. So the opportunity was there to change direction. I have never had a job because I've always wanted to do it; I have always sort of floated in different directions. I sort of got bored in what I was doing and then moved on.
Synopsis, observations and reflections on Girl Friday
Girl Friday had a finance and more secretarial/admin background and fell into FM by accident through taking on a refurbishment in the hotel industry. She expressed needing permanent challenges, and I got the feeling the current role was not giving that and now the degree has finished – she is aiming for the next challenge, whatever or wherever that may be.
It felt like reflective practice had allowed her to let go of the control more and learn to share and trust staff. Actively engaging her no.2 in reflective practice again recognised a safe environment to discuss what went well but also what could have been done better. There was definite increase in self-awareness and how they react “in the moment” and this was noted as a change and improvement.
Interesting discussion about reflective practice being important in working life, but in her personal life she does not always want to learn from mistakes. (I didn’t explore this further as the individual felt quite closed and I didn’t want to put them in an uncomfortable position.) She also reflected on the difference between reflective writing and practice, and recognised they didn’t like to engage in “writing it down” again I wonder if this is because it may make her feel more vulnerable seeing it in black and white.
I will try a potted history. I left school at 15 and I joined the army. I wanted to join a particular regiment and my dad said you can but you have to get a trade first. So I went to boy’s service in Chepstow and then I went to the Parachute Regiment and then from there, then I met my wife and then the excitement seemed to go because I wanted to be with my wife and then I left the army and joined the police. I did 27 years in the police. I have always done building in my background and I have half built my own bungalow and I thought I would start my own business as like a jobbing type builder doing odd jobs. It is very busy and I suddenly thought you know do I want to be doing this for a while. A friend of mine said there is a job coming up as a building type surveyor – they called them premises advisors – now they call them regional building surveyors.
Essentially, you were dealing with schools and public buildings, making sure the repairs and maintenance were managed. So, I went for an interview; obviously said the right things and got the job and then I suddenly thought well I know I can do this but I felt as if I needed something on paper to say, well he can do the job but he has also got this to say he knows the methodology and the background to the role. I think on paper, I always thought the job would only be for 2 or 3 years and when I moved on I needed to take something with me. So that is essentially the first bit. Now, I started off with – it was [one organisation], then I got TUPE’d over to one firm [who have had several different names] The first job was as the regional building surveyor. The second one was like a soft FM manager dealing with big budgets and that sort of thing and then from there when we TUPE’d over I continued and I am still doing soft FM now. The role has changed and I don’t know how far you want to go into it but we could possibly discuss that as we go through. Essentially, I am a soft FM manager within [my current organisation].
It started off at [the organisation] I was the soft FM manager. I did all sorts, I had about half a dozen regional building surveyors; they did all sorts of jobs. So we used them as soft and hard FM managers out there. I would basically manage the budget of about £5.5 million and I would have a budget of about £100,000 to say well if I can improve the building or improve the service or improve the facility, I could spend it up to about £5,000 without permission.
When we TUPE’d over, it is a very commercial environment as you can probably appreciate and all that stopped. The budget was kept by the regional director. I have a budget to work to but I am not sure of the bigger budget because they keep that very close to their chest. In 2015 the contract ends and we have to reapply and they are concerned that if people know what the budgets and the profits are then that will give them an advantage that we have already got. So I am basically, I feel a bit like a bin man, all I am looking after is soft FM and it does get very tedious and a bit sort of from what I used to be – not so much the power, but it was interesting keeping on top of budgets, keeping within the variants, making sure my terms were right. It was – I enjoyed doing it. Now, I think I feel more of an administrator.
I can do the job but I quite enjoy managing it where you do the specification, you get the tender drawings done up or you do them yourself, whether you go into a school and do a £60,000 toilet refurb or something like that. You go in there, you are managing it; first fix, second fix, you know. I quite enjoyed that and you would see an end result and then the teacher comes in and says ‘oh that is nice, great, thanks very much’. Whereas now, soft FM is more, I don’t know – it is more of a complaint culture with people ringing up ‘my bin has not been emptied’ or ‘my grass is too long’. The drawback with the situation we are in now is that before it was done to a high spec because the money was there, if you like. They had a budget and I could say ‘right, it is going to cost x amount of money for doing the grass cutting once a week’, and I could get it all planned and everybody would be happy and I knew exactly what I was doing. I would have this budget behind me and if something didn’t go particularly right I could throw in an extra cup of something. Whereas in the commercial environment I am in now we are working to a very tight specification. For instance, they only cut the grass once a month. Now you know as well as I do, I know you live in a flat, but grass does grow. Rain followed by sunshine, it is a full 18 inches tall, people are moaning and you are battling. At the moment we are in partners with [an organisation] and [that organisation] is in partnership, public private partnership with the County Council. We are not allowed to go direct to the County Council, we have to go through [the partnership organisation] like a postbox. So unless we get told by [the partnership organisation] by variation, we stick to the specification because that is what we are being paid for. So it is a very, very, - I get complaints all the time and it is annoying because I am saying ‘I only cut it once a month’ and they take it out on us as if it is our fault, but we are sticking to a spec. So, I suppose I prefer the public side as opposed to the private enterprise which is more grief to be honest.
What happened, probably about fourteen or fifteen years ago; they decided on this public private partnership. The County Council outsourced to various people and at that particular time it was [one organisation] and [they] got taken over by [another organisation] and then essentially the contract finishes at the end of March 2015, so they are stuck with their partner until then. Because what they did from May 1st or go back before May 1st; they used to have what they called accommodation sites, which are about ninety properties. It was more of a TFM [total facilities management contract], you did everything for those sites and that is what I looked after. I was like a TFM for ninety properties.
The remaining hundred up to about five or six hundred properties; the budgets were given to allotted departments like Adult Social Care or Children’s Services.
So those have their own budgets to procure their own services, so come May 1st they decided to do a TFM, so they would incorporate all the properties within the County Council. The accommodation site I used to look after blended in with the five or six hundred properties that we have got now. The drawback with that is when we picked it up nobody knew how long the contracts were for or who they were with. So it is a case of going round every single property and doing due diligence to find out who is your bin man, who does your windows.
There was no information and so it had to be gathered. The drawback is that the first year it was essentially going round and round and taking complaints and trying to glean as much information as you could. It is only about now that we have got on top of it. It was awful, but the annoying thing is they said to me you will have six staff, you will have six regional managers and they will do – I have me and one person as they said they couldn’t afford it. Obviously, they undercut everybody else but they had no money and that was the problem with it. I got very frustrated and at one point I did put in my resignation and said I have had enough of this because they were saying I need this plan by Monday and it was Friday afternoon, and I was working weekends. I don’t mind working, don’t get me wrong, I quite enjoy grafting, but they were taking liberties. From TUPE regulations we are supposed to transfer over to basically a similar role.
The role was similar but I had five times as many properties with less staff. It wasn’t a comfortable time and I was thinking I must find another job.
Synopsis, observations and reflections on Little Boy Blue
Having joined the armed forces at a young age he then moved on to join the police. The interest in FM came from a personal venture of building his own property. His first job being more hard services and the next role more soft services focused than hard services. I felt there was some resentment for the current role, and after being TUPE’d it feels like there is a limited lifespan on this current position. The role had changed and the responsibility reduced.
He has reflected on how they have changed as a person over the years, but also how the role in the police led to a “different character” due to the type of job.
Recognition of improved relationships now in the workplace and at home.
Reflected on issues of poor communication and blame culture, again this came across as quite negative.
He drew on changes in behaviour but also the practicalities of reflective practice to aid improved service delivery, quite practically focused. He liked to draw on theory to illustrate the changes in approach and it felt that his learning across the course has made the difference to his working practice. He also recognised how he has used reflective practice to work with his line manager who he felt was reflective… he stated ‘sowing a seed and coming back to it’!
In his current organisation he recognised a lack of reflective practice generally, and a feeling of blame culture. Strong recognition of knowledge, and the impact this has, and feels reflective practice should be taught on a “knowledge basis” and that reflection is one aspect of knowledge, and other key areas such as communications are just as important.
I felt that throughout the interview, he answered his own questions as opposed to mine, he seemed to move away from a direct response to talk about a broader picture but this almost appeared to be avoidance at times.
I left school and I went straight into work, I went into a youth opportunity scheme so I didn’t really think at that time that I was going to do anything academic. I was always going to get a job. I have worked for [an organisation], I have worked for the Health Authority for three years in personnel and it was when I went to personnel that I thought about further education and what career path I wanted to follow. I worked for a fantastic woman, who left, and I was devastated when she left because she used to inspire me and she was the one who told me that I really needed to go to college and develop myself because I had a lot of skills that were suppressed and so I went and did a training course.
I did a year at CPD? IPD now? Human Resources, personnel type qualification and I did a year Training and Development Certificate and then I did a foundation in personnel and I then started to think about what do I want to do?
It was always probably my career was going to be about people and working with people and doing customer related type service activity.
I left the Health Authority because she left and the new boss, we didn’t get on at all, we clashed. I applied for a job that I didn’t get it and that was it, right I am going and I sort of fell into the university in desperation and this is where I have been ever since, for twenty four years. With the change of what was resources, twenty four years ago, where we had room bookings, maintenance, all of those kind of activities followed telephony, again people and customer service type things and then probably about seven years ago [Jane], who has now left and now gone to be Head of Estates or Director of states at [a] Uni, who was my boss at that time, just said you need to develop your skills more away from telecoms as telecoms were changing and it was moving into a whole new technological arena and so I was back at a crosswords. It was like follow the data sort of area and develop or follow the people side of it and broaden your skills that way and that is how I fell into FM.
I was Telecoms Manager for a number of years but then I took on different things as they were reviewing it. I had stores, I have had mailroom, I have had office services. As they have reviewed them I have handed them back, so I have sort of caretaken a lot of areas. I think by doing that I have had a taste of what I could possibly do and I have a bit of experience from there. I have been Telecoms Manager but caretaking other areas and I then went into operations in Estates where I kept telephony and I had maintenance and grounds and I had that for two years and then we have had this recent restructure. Despite the experience of maintenance and grounds, now I am in this role I realise I didn’t particularly want that. I am glad I have had the experience of the two years, but it is not really what I want. This is much more me and utilising my skills because now I am in an area where I can influence systems. I have been in post since March.