Toolbox for a Rainy Day

Posted on August 21, 2012

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‘Tis the season for daily rain in Florida. I spoke to a Director of Facilities yesterday and he even was surprised by how regular it has been, and commented things would be better if he could just dry his campus out.

Spring and fall were the wet seasons where I grew up, and when it rained, it rained all day—sometimes for days. When I was a kid, I needed an activity toolbox that would busy me for a long day indoors; not one diversion, but several things, because I never knew what would be interesting enough that particular day.  I even ‘saved’ some of my favorites, like maze books and board games, just in case a rainy weekend popped up.

When I meet with hospitals, I am surprised how few have a ‘toolbox for a rainy day’, a collection of contacts and companies that can step in and do the work that needs to be done when the old standby is out-of-pocket. And when the usual architect and construction firms are not qualified or available, that qualifies as a rainy day for most Facilities Directors.

Hospitals that do not fill their toolbox for a rainy day mistakenly forfeit some opportunities.

  1. Mistake 1:  Treat designers and builders like best friends:  you can only have one.  In actuality, it makes sense to have a ‘cabinet’ of contacts who are your advisors and go-to guys and gals in times of need. If one team is unavailable—your favorite architect retires, your #1 PM is on another project,…next man up. You need bench strength for design and construction.  A hospital is only one bad project away from needing to dig into its toolbox.
  2. Mistake 2:  Treat architects and contractors like commodities.  As similar as some teams look or sound on paper, people at those companies, and ways of doing business are very different.  Having a few niche providers around is also helpful, just in case. If your hospital only does CM-at-risk, it still makes sense to have a design-builder at the ready.  As a Director of Construction related to me once:  ‘right now, we don’t do design-build.  But I wouldn’t say never, because ten years ago, we never did CM-at-risk, and now that’s all we do.’ In other words, even if it ain’t broke, things change.
  3. Mistake 3:  Only meet with potential suitors when you have an active or imminent project.  Project schedules can accelerate or decelerate, and really throw off a plan.  A hospital could be forced into a risky or unfamiliar procurement scenario, like a fruitless RFP process that no one wants to manage, if contingency plans for team selection are not in place. The best time to do anything is when you don’t have to, when you are not desperate. 

Let’s remember Stephen Covey’s lesson from The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, in which he discussed time management.  Tasks fall into four categories, or quadrants:  urgent & important (QI), not urgent & important (Q2), urgent & not important (QIII), and not urgent & not important (QIV).  He reminded readers that most people spend their time putting out the fires of QI, and mistakenly waste time in QIII, while Quadrant II tasks, aka Not Urgent & Important, are the real strategic efforts.  Doing more QII work helps keep QI tasks from igniting, thus allowing task prioritization and increased productivity.  Quadrant II activities never call out to be done, to wit, assembling your toolbox for a rainy day, yet their payback on the back-end is far greater.

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