Make a Negative a Positive – Using Failures to Gain Support

compass-positive-negative-facilityu-facility-university-fm360-john-rimer-facility-managementNo, I’m not trying to teach you any “fuzzy math”; rather I want to talk about failures – yes, those things that blew up on us that we would rather forget.

How many of you enjoy getting phone calls from the company president complaining that their office is hot?  Or how about the breaker that tripped during the board meeting that left everyone in the dark?  And, of course, we can’t forget the claim that was filed after an employee tripped over a tear in the old carpet.

These things are bad and none of us like dealing with them.  However, the question I have is “How do we handle the fall-out of failures and incidents?”  Do we sweep them under the carpet (aka Mount Pile-a-manjaro) or do we highlight them and use them to “make a negative a positive”?

When we are finished firefighting and have the facility back to normal, it is time to take off the fire hat and put on the sales hat.  Because let’s face it, in reality, most of the failures with which we contend are the result of aging equipment and/or a lack of resources and support.  It can be especially frustrating when we catch a lot grief over an event that could have been prevented if management would have just listened to our pleas.  You have to swallow your pride and fight the urge to say “I told you so!” as it would only foster an adversarial relationship.   Rather I recommend that you leverage these pain points to get support for the resources you need to improve your facilities and program.

For example, during budgeting season as you are trying to sell the upcoming capital renewal plan (see No More Firefighting), remind management of the air handler failure that interrupted the big client meeting last month.  Respectfully explain that capital investment into the facility is necessary to prevent similar embarrassing and costly events from occurring in the future.  (Watch for the forthcoming article “The In-Your-Face Business Case” at

Additionally, make sure you use the Rule of 100/10/1 to show the impact the negative event had on cost, production, and ultimately the triple bottom line and how the need for more personnel or an upgraded controls system or a new boiler would help to mitigate future incidents.

The key to this is being humble and respectful and seeing those events that make you want to blow a gasket as opportunities to effect change – Make a Negative a Positive

For more facility related articles such as this, visit and sign-up for FM360’s Newsletter.