Eight Solutions for Effectively Communicating Asset Management to Senior Management
Eight key elements came to mind as I prepare for an upcoming speaking engagement. Two of my passions, asset management and communicating complex ideas, form the basis of my remarks. This article applies to asset managers focusing on senior management.
Why This Is Important
Getting organizational leaders and front-line staff to understand asset management is one of the toughest aspects of an asset manager's job. Asset management texts and guidance documents frequently reference the importance of better communication and education; however, limited practical guidance is provided.
1. Definitions are not commonly understood, regardless of the level of the communication receiver.
It is hard to believe, but many senior managers do not know what lifecycle means. And since we as asset managers often differ on our definition of asset management, senior managers certainly do not understand that definition either. Add risk into the mix too.
Make sure you provide key definitions in your advance information. It is a good idea to have a few key definitions in your opening as well.
2. Many senior managers endorse the lowest capital cost approach.
The old saying, "We went to the moon using the low bid,” comes to mind. State and local governments usually use the low bid as a way to minimalize cronyism. Fortune 500 companies often operate the same way. Low bids are the safest route for most senior managers.
Do not fight the low bid. Make sure to highlight first costs and payback in any financial material your present. Discussing total value or net present value is a staple of what we do, so don’t avoid the bigger picture, too.
3. Most decision-makers have difficulty seeing more than 3 to 5 years ahead.
Two-year election cycles are common at the local level of the US government. Many high-level elections occur every four years. And don't fret, most private sector organizations shift senior managers into new roles every three to five years. These tenures are hardly long enough to align with the total cost of ownership which last for decades with many facilities and infrastructure.
Don't fight it. Do not even complain about it. Just meet the short tenures on those terms. Like the low bid, focus on the short-term value and costs in addition to the longer-term values and costs.
4. Software and technology are often seen as a cure for all shortfalls.
It is an easy out for senior managers when they do not know what else to do. Unfortunately, there are a lot of asset managers that either sell asset management software or who find career longevity in managing data. Obviously (hopefully), we know maximizing value is more than software.
I like to mention a snapshot of the software we use in the presentation opening. It turns the “let’s use technology to help us” thinking into “we are using technology, now what?” Plus, senior management is already generally aware of how much money and time the organization uses on those systems.
5. Organizational capacity and maturity are more important than excessive funding.
As asset managers, we tend to advocate for resources just like all other departments and specialties. Allocating resources is what senior management does. But at the same time, most organizational leaders are going to spread the money around.
Avoid advocacy and instead show a three to five years approach. Even better, show at least 3 or 4 tiers of resources you may need. You will unlikely get everything, but most decision-makers do not want to be seen as cheap, either.
6. Most people interpret communication through their own perspectives.
Remember, you are an outsider. Senior management sees you as a specialist. Leadership is naturally suspicious of your motives and whether you have a balanced view of all of the pressures on them.
Practice empathetic listening. Listen first, talk second (or do not talk at all). The best presentation is usually question-and-answer, especially if you have provided your information in advance.
7. Simple stories are more effective than calculations or long explanations.
Senior management wants to make decisions (allocate resources) as promptly as possible and, at the same time, does not wish to hurt staff or customers.
Simple stories of how asset management helps staff or customers resonate more than calculations of long explanations. Think stories first, details second.
8. Constantly share the value of asset management.
Asset management is a long game. Most organizations strive to be in existence for the long haul, too.
Develop and work on a communication plan that continually emphasizes the value produced. One presentation with senior management is unlikely to get the job done.
Moving Forward with FINESSE
Well, for now, that is my top eight solutions for communicating asset management to senior management. I am not sure that these top eight will overlap with a similar talk that I will be doing with maintenance and reliability professionals in October. Whether the same or slightly different, to be effective at communicating asset management requires a structured approach.
JD Solomon Inc provides solutions at the nexus of the facilities, infrastructure, and the environment. Contact us for more information on our asset management ASAP approach, asset management program management, and communication with boards and executive management.
Communicating with FINESSE and the FINESSE fishbone diagram are registered trademarks of JD Solomon, Inc. Learn more about the seven cause-and-effect components of FINESSE at wwww.communicatingwithfinesse.com.