Benchmarking Through the Pandemic

Why is benchmarking relevant during the pandemic and reopening?

In the movie Moneyball, manager Brad Pitt as manager Billy Beane tells his staff this brutally honest assessment of their situation and limited resources:

There are rich teams and there are poor teams.
Then, there’s 50 feet of crap.
And then there’s us.


In a way, that is how many facility managers felt as this pandemic got underway Everyone was feeling woefully under-resourced on how to respond to keep essential functions in operation, providing a safe work environment, segmenting the FM staff in case of incident, supporting remote workers, and generally responding to a new set of guidelines or situations every day.

Here we are one year later and many organizations are still limited to essential operations on site. The timeframe for re-occupancy is just taking shape for many organizations.  Government requirements continue to evolve along with thinking about the nature of the future workplace environment.

This is not a simple “fix it and move on” situation.

The media has been obsessed with the masks and case numbers, but as facility managers we need to understand that the pandemic accelerated the fundamental underlying evolution from the industrial age to the digital age. As we re-envision our facilities, it is time to question why we have facilities and what benefit they provide for our organizations. This will help us position our organizations for success in the new business and social environment that is emerging.

Like Billy, we will need to use creative data-driven approaches to re-shape our “team” (facility operations) within the realities of our situation.

Benchmarking is playing the long game in this – you are unlikely to get from the old normal to the digital facility in one big step.  It’s going to take planning, investment, testing, evaluation, redesign, and change management to adopt and refine new work processes (for the business), and revised FM practices and technology.  Meanwhile, we will experience many bumps and detours including economic, challenges, staff transition, and changing regulations.

The opportunity in front of us is unique in our lifetime.  We have a pre-pandemic normal from 2019, we have a baseline of “essential” operations for 2020, and we will have our new evolving operations in 2021 and beyond.  While it is unclear what the lasting impacts will be from the pandemic, they are likely to be broader than expected.

2020 is a good baseline since we were operating facilities with essential functions and basic service levels.  Benchmarking lets us see how we quantify where we started, and then leverage our peer group to accelerative our progress in the next few years:

  • What is the best performance that others have accomplished?
  • What measures have they found to be most useful?
  • What are the lessons learned in implementing new standards, practices, and technology?

We live in a time of “models.”  At Facility Issues we like and use models and they are powerful tools for Strategic Facility Planning. But they rarely do a good job of including some of the messiness of real world conditions and complications.

A key value of benchmarking is it shows the real performance that can be achieved.

Benchmarking (both internal and external) is a practical way to see where we stand now, and assess progress as we implement changes.  It will be important to make course corrections as we go – the evolution to digital facility management will be a complicated journey.  The comparison to our internal targets let us see how well we are meeting the objectives of our model. The comparison to our external cohort demonstrates that our progress is keeping up, and the shared lessons learned help us all advance more rapidly.

Benchmarking can help us use the collective wisdom of the group to move past this pandemic. As we move to be more proactive, it will help show our leaders, facility users, and our team, quantifiable progress of our evolution to the next era of facilities.

Leave a Reply