«People Matter: A hermeneutic exploration of reflective practice and facilities management Melanie Bull A thesis submitted in partial fulfilment of ...»
The concept of reflective practice impacting on organisational behaviour was a substantial area of this study, in that the majority of the respondents have actually reflected on their own working practices leading to changes in behaviour. To be able to change, people first need to have a level of selfawareness, as identified in the research and through theory (Stevens, 1989;
Atkins and Murphy, 1993; Bratton et al, 2011); reflective practice seemed to give them that deeper understanding but also allowed them to challenge their own behaviours, to recognise the limitations and what they could do differently.
This study has implications for organisational behaviour more widely than just facilities management, as the issues as discussed above of providing safe, honest and open working environments to encourage staff to feel engaged and motivated is a more generic issue. This study will provide a platform for further research to understand whether reflective practice could enhance this further.
I questioned why people engaged in reflective practice, and whether it was due to the learning journey on the course that had encouraged them to reflect more deeply on their own learning. The students interviewed have embraced reflection, but I do feel this is based on the journey they have been on, and the active engagement with reflection throughout, however as I have discussed in my contribution to practice in relation to teaching reflection, there are areas for development of the curriculum not necessarily just on our courses but also across the wider business and management courses across this university and wider.
The concept of whether organisations need to become more open to allow true engagement through reflective practice has been the biggest learning curve for me within this doctoral journey in that as human beings we need to feel safe and therefore this concept of organisational engagement is key to allowing their staff to engage in reflection but also to feel more engaged with the organisation overall. There are areas in this section that require further research, and will be areas that I will explore further in my academic research moving forward.
Reflective Practice and Facilities Management
At the point of conclusion I consider whether reflective practice is of consequence to the facilities manager, whilst the British Institute of Facilities Management are encouraging the ‘reflective FM’, their worlds are getting busier through “cost savings”, staff leaving and not being replaced, or simply more being required from contracts for less. FMs are constantly being pushed to innovate and discover new ways of working. As we move forward in this decade there is also a growing recognition of the strategic benefit of FM to the organisation and therefore there is a pull to be both operational and strategic, and this is all before 10 0’clock in the morning! So how can the facilities manager, with his many different hats on, take time to recoup, reflect and recognise the ways to improve using their reflective practice to challenge the status quo, if there is such a thing in FM!
As Osterman (1990) referred to in her paper on reflective practice and education, there is a need to encourage self-awareness in order for employees to pose questions on their own behaviour such as ‘what am I doing? Why? With what effect? Increased self-awareness along with the reflective process can lead to continued professional growth. This has been evidenced by the social actors within this study. Without a clear understanding of the workplace issues or problems, effective solutions are not likely to occur and reflective practice helps to engender a deeper understanding. As Brookfield (1987) suggested reflective practice can help to look for better ways of carrying out processes in the workplace by challenging organisational behaviour.
Høyrup (2004) focuses on the need to not necessarily define reflection but to distinguish between the levels of reflection, drawing on individual, interactional and organisational. For the majority of the respondents the focus has drawn more on their individual reflections and very little from an organisational perspective. Osterman (1990:145) stated that ‘effective organisations will be those organisations which encourage reflective practice both individually and collectively’, reinforcing the later work of Vince and Reynolds (undated).
Osterman also insinuates that to encourage reflective practice, organisations need to create an open and honest climate which allows open discussion of problems without “fear of embarrassment or retribution” (pg148). This refers back to the trust that is needed by the students within their organisations but also whilst on the course. There needs to be safe environments provided for reflective practice and whilst we can encourage this in the classroom, there is more work needed within organisations to encourage the same level of safety;
and the move away from the blame culture.
As the recent paper on Strategic Facilities Management by the Workplace Law Group (2014) for the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors stated the most successful FMs are those that recognise that their role is all about people. They also used a case study from MITIE which referred to them drawing on a 360 degree feedback process which encouraged the sharing of thoughts and best practice and for opinions to be shared and respected in the aim of improving working environments.
Alexander and Price (2012) focused their book on looking at new ways of working from not only a space perspective, but also more generally to encourage FMs to think differently. As Alexander (2012) argued that the FM function cannot be performed without engagement with the customer/end user.
If we are asking FMs to think differently and to engage them in different thought processes we can encourage them to do this through reflective practice (as discussed above) and also to engage in more productive communication with their end users, which as evidenced by this research, can be improved by FMs being more self-aware and reflective in their approach.
Facilities Management Education
Facilities Management education does tend towards the more formal, technology based routes, as Steenhuizen et al (2014) discussed. Their research focused on FM education within Europe with a focus on Portugal.
Their paper stated that in Europe there was no standard FM education. Their research focused on Portuguese professionals in FM to understand their definition of FM, how they deliver FM within their organisations and what education would be best for the Portuguese market. They recognised from their interviews that the majority of their interviewees discussed ‘place’ and did not acknowledge people or process and the managers had an in depth technical knowledge but felt that education needed to focus more on the soft skills in relation to management.
Alexander (2009:6) discussed the role of education in FM as being paramount and recognition of the need for managers, researchers and educators to be aware of organisational issues and trends to which FM must ‘contribute and respond’. Roper (2012:191) also recognised the issues with more traditional technology based education for FM, and reviewed a need for the FM to be able to cope with the ‘complex social impacts that the workplace has on the worker and that the workers impart on the workspaces and the interactions of the users and space’ This approach is drawn from a social constructionism view and she feels that FM should be taught from this perspective. This would draw on a different way of thinking and this research suggests reflective practice has the potential to address these needs and engage FM students to see the world differently. Her ideas concur with our current course approach in using problem based learning, but we can further develop a greater understanding of how different people view the world from a different standpoint; as Roper suggested (2012:196) “more elaborate and thoughtful approaches to educating the fully rounded professional”.
As Coenen and von Felton (2014) discussed facilities management is a service based industry and therefore education needs to also focus on management in relation to process, the tangibility management (the brand of FM, including uniforms of the FM staff, logos etc.), personnel management and relationship management. This research has highlighted how reflective practice has led to a change in all four elements, from the improvements in decision making and therefore innovation (process), the raised profile of themselves within the organisation (tangibility), increased self-awareness leading to improved communication with staff and end users (personnel management) and their ability to flex their behaviours according to the situation has improved relationships. In Coenen and von Felton’s paper they have not drawn on reflective practice but I believe that using reflective practice, as evidenced within this research, can enhance service delivery and the four elements that they have considered to be key to FM education, leading to improved delivery in the workplace.
Facilities management is a complex working environment, which deals with operational, tactical and strategic issues and has numerous amounts of very different soft and hard services roles falling under its remit. Using reflective practice as an underpinning for all courses related to facilities can help the individuals to constantly challenge their values and beliefs in order to continually innovate in the changing world that is FM.
Contribution to Practice There are three key areas that this research has contributed to in relation to practice: these are teaching; management and organisational culture change;
and team development.
Reflective practice should be embedded into all facilities management education; and management education more broadly to encourage the more reflective practitioner to contribute to organisational benefits, such as improved service and innovation. In relation to practice within FM, the research has evidenced that there are benefits of using reflective practice and this knowledge can be imparted to professional FMs through the professional bodies, such as British Institute of Facilities Management and also enhance my own practice, and that of my fellow academics, in relation to teaching and learning within the facilities management subject area.
To encourage a lived practice (Dewey, 1933) we need to engage students in reflective practice from the start of the course, and after each block study (as per the earlier reference to our method of teaching in Chapter 3) we need to engage them in reflective practice in the workplace as well as reflection on their learning which is already actively encouraged through their assignments. King (2005) discussed adult education theory and suggested that learners may reawaken their intellectual side by their return to education and therefore in learning which encourages critical reflection may then be able to challenge their own values and beliefs as their level of confidence grows. Referring this back to our students you can see that confidence has played a large part in their journeys and therefore this has allowed them to be more critical of not only their own behaviours but also of their own organisational behaviour; and dependent on the organisational climate, the ability to challenge the norm.
There are benefits to managers in being more reflective in their working practice and this contributes to the wider discussion of management and organisational cultural change. As discussed within the thesis the research found evidence of blame culture within organisations that had been lessened by the use of reflective practice. This has great implications for moving on conversations within organisations to try to encourage a focus on reflective practice both from an individual perspective, but also from an organisational level. Organisations need to focus on creating a safe and trusting environments to allow reflective practice to become part of their culture in order to improve and grow. The learning from the research and the use of reflective practice can also be considered in team development. As evidenced by the social actors, they have taken the use of reflective practice to further develop their own teams and their skills to enhance working practice from an interpersonal and organisational perspective. As stated by Jane Cummings, Chief Nursing Officer for England and NHS England Chief Nurse (2014) a year on from the Francis Report "We need to embrace transparency and learning, unequivocally and everywhere, so as to build trust with the public and knowledge within the NHS".
Another area that this research contributes to is the concept of innovation in facilities management. In a fast moving environment there is a need to encourage FMs to be more open to reflection to allow them the time and space to think differently, to change the organisational treadmill and to make differences to the practice. As Raelin (2002) highlighted action is paramount from an organisational perspective, but this research highlighted that the ability to take the time to step back, and reflect on the delivery of FM services has led to improved ways of working. So whilst the decision or the action may not be immediate, the benefits outweigh the time of correcting or resolving problems.
Contribution to Knowledge
There are three clear areas that have arisen from the research in relation to my contribution to knowledge. Firstly, a greater understanding of reflective practice in facilities management; secondly, the concept of reflective practice and blame culture and the impact of using reflective practice effectively to address this; and thirdly the wider application of these concepts across organisations.