Second Masthead

Maximizing Critical Facilities Reliability Through Assigned Accountability

By David Boston
Published in Mission Critical in June 2016

Have you ever been frustrated by your Critical Facilities staff’s inability to complete their myriad tasks in a timely and thorough manner? Several critical facility managers I have worked with have voiced frustration with some or all of their team members’ performance. Nearly always, those who describe this challenge have not assigned individual team members specific accountability.

Commonly volunteered comments include: "I’ve told them several times they need to……and they just don’t complete it" or "they just don’t get it right." A typical statement is: "I don’t understand why they don’t show the same initiative I would."

Not only does this situation frustrate the Facilities Manager, it adds unnecessary risk to the critical facility’s operation. A group of Facilities technicians cannot collectively accomplish all their tasks without error if none are held individually accountable for a specific portion of the tasks. Considering the volume of preventive maintenance (PM) activities, cable installations, facility inspections, upgrades, and multiple projects ever present in a critical operation, the potential is high for some PM activities to be missed or for a critical task to be performed incorrectly due to lack of experience. 

Facilities team members who work in this environment are generally frustrated and concerned, as well-because they have little or no means of measuring their success. Most have a strong need to confirm they are succeeding in their job. Essentially, when the manager addresses most task requests to the group, team members cannot determine who should work on which task.

A simple three component strategy of assigned ownership can greatly reduce this risk and frustration: (1) collective objectives, (2) individual program or process objectives, and (3) individual system ownership objectives.  

Each team member should be provided two to three written annual objectives that are common to all team members: a collective uptime objective, a collective safety goal, etc. These reinforce that all team members share the most critical objectives and they should guarantee that all "pull in the same direction." Peer pressure will help ensure collective success is not jeopardized by the actions of one team member. Two sample "collective" objectives follow:

1. Perform all assigned preventive maintenance tasks and customer requests:

Satisfactory: No downtime events or injuries due to failure to follow published procedures and training program. Complete 90% of assigned PMs and customer requests on schedule. No customer complaints received.

Very good: In addition, train new shift Technician in filing of completed work orders.
Excellent: Complete 100% of assigned PMs and customer requests on schedule, with no complaints received. In addition, provide list of recommended enhancements/edits for assigned PM work orders to Facilities Manager.

2. Complete scheduled training programs:

Satisfactory: Certify successful completion (75% score or better) of each scheduled infrastructure systems training session.
Very good: Certify completion of all training and average a 90% score or better for all sessions.

Excellent: In addition, prepare and present one entire training session to staff.

Team members should also be assigned ownership of two to three individual program or process objectives. Examples include: one person responsible for all drawing and documentation files and updates, one to manage all safety programs, one to team with an IT counterpart to "master plan" the computer hardware layout, one to coordinate all electrical circuit connections in the computer rooms, one for training and procedure program coordination, one to research and procure adequate spare parts for each infrastructure system, one to represent the department in change control meetings, etc. This approach will spread the department’s work activities equally and make individuals accountable, as well as ensure they are able to measure their success. A sample "individual" program objective follows:

3. Develop and manage critical infrastructure systems training program:

Satisfactory: Develop monthly systems training schedule for department by March 1st. Ensure each Technician attends at least 85% of training sessions as scheduled (and makes up any missed sessions within 60 days). Conduct each scheduled monthly session with entire Facilities group. Immediately follow group training with one-on-one hands-on training with each Technician, to verify comprehension.

Very good: Complete training schedule development by February 1st and ensure each technician attends 95% of training sessions as scheduled. Develop crisis simulation scenarios with Facilities Manager to add to monthly training sessions, once all systems training sessions have been conducted at least once.

Excellent: In addition, have at least one team member present a training session.

Besides the program and process oriented responsibility assignments described above, the Facilities Manager should assign preventive maintenance (PM) activity ownership and primary troubleshooting roles for each of the building’s facilities systems, based on the individual skill sets and experience of each staff member:

  • Utility services
  • Lightning protection
  • Switchgear
  • Generators, starting batteries, fuel
  • UPS
  • UPS batteries
  • Motor Control Centers (MCCs)
  • Load banks
  • PDUs
  • RPPs
  • Grounding, TVSS
  • EPO systems
  • Air handlers
  • Chillers
  • DX systems
  • Pumps
  • CRACs
  • CRAHs
  • Other cooling systems
  • Motors
  • Humidifiers
  • Compressors
  • Building automation (BAS)
  • Automated PM program
  • Power quality monitoring
  • Fire detection and suppression
  • Leak detection
  • Lighting
  • Raised floor system
  • Command centers, NOCs, etc.

These specific system ownership assignments should be traded with other staff members every two to three years for cross training. A sample "individual" system ownership objective follows:

4. Manage assigned infrastructure systems:

Satisfactory: Successfully complete all PM activities for assigned systems. Participate in any vendor involved PM or repair activity for assigned systems.  Identify and participate in specific training sessions available from vendors to expand knowledge of assigned systems:

  • UPS
  • UPS Switchgear
  • UPS Batteries
  • Power Quality Monitoring

Very good: Successfully troubleshoot an incident with one of the assigned systems above. Identify the root cause and perform and/or oversee successful repairs.
Excellent: Create and submit a full incident report on each incident that involves an assigned system. Include recommendations to prevent future similar events.
To get started, the Facilities Manager should list all team members and review their experience levels with each of the processes, programs, and systems the department is responsible for. With the results from this exercise, you should be able to create an informal personalized list of objectives for each individual team member within a few hours.

Using your organization’s standard forms for annual objectives, you can expect to complete one team member’s detailed objectives, with measurable milestones, within a half day. If you spread this development work out at the rate of two sets of individual annual objectives per week, you will easily complete all of them within two months. In future years, the team’s entire set of annual objectives may typically be updated with only one to two days’ effort.

A vital element of a successful program for individual accountability is consistent review and feedback with each team member. Individuals will benefit greatly from informal monthly feedback sessions initially, as they become accustomed to the review process and the practice of being measured on specific tasks, completion dates, and related criteria. Only quarterly or semi-annual reviews will be necessary after the first three months. When employees recognize early on how they are performing, they have ample time to adjust behavior or seek training before their annual appraisal occurs.

For Facilities team members, this clarity of ownership will go a long way toward positive morale and a feeling of accomplishment. For the department’s customers, longer periods of uninterrupted support to critical operations should become evident over time. The Facilities Manager will be able to ascertain at any time which team members are performing well, which need help, and identify those that can be deployed to help team members with less experience and undeveloped organization skills. In any situation, the Facilities Manager will know which team member is responsible for a given task, project, or incident response. Incomplete tasks and poor quality work should be virtually eliminated. Competence and confidence for all team members will increase exponentially, particularly when cross training is provided over multiple years.


David Boston began his critical facilities career as Facilities Manager for GTE Data Services from 1985 - 1995. With the Uptime Institute, he assisted data center management teams for 14 years in two roles: consortium director and consultant. David serves as Director of Facility Operations Solutions for TiePoint-bkm Engineering, where he provides assessments, staff plans, and the development of comprehensive procedures and training programs for critical facility clients.