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Facility management vs. maintenance

By Tim CoolCE_MAY_JUNE 2015_12

Over the past 30-plus years, I have met with dozens of church business administrators, executive pastors, operations pastors / directors and facility personnel. I have observed their roles, job descriptions, budget, means and methods. As I have evaluated these experiences, I believe there to be a significant discrepancy between facilities management and facilities maintenance.

For many people, this might sound like a matter of semantics; but I think it’s much, much deeper than two “words” that some would consider synonyms. In fact, I believe that many in leadership roles actually confuse the words and think they have staffed for one when in actuality they have staffed for the other.

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Let me describe what I’ve witnessed, and then you decide if there is or isn’t a difference.

Not simply semantics
First, let’s explore how dictionary.com defines these two words:

1) The act or manner of managing: handling, direction, or control
2) Skill in managing; executive ability
3) The person or persons controlling and directing the affairs of a business, institution, etc.

1) The act of maintaining
2) The state of being maintained
3) Care or upkeep, as of machinery or property

As I’ve studied these definitions — and others — I see a few attributes that clearly set the terms apart:

1. Management appears to define the act of being proactive—developing a way to maintain the status quo, or just keeping things running / operating.

2. Maintenance requires a skill to lead and direct activities of an organization or team. It’s focused on the care, repair and / or upkeep of something which might be seen as reactive.

There has been much discussion and many books written about the difference between management and leadership. From a business perspective, I understand the differences. However, in this instance, I would suggest that facility management is more congruent with leadership than facility maintenance. In fact, if the industry would allow, I would change the name to “facility stewardship,” and those entrusted with these responsibilities would be “facility leaders” … but, I rarely get my way.

What words could be used to describe management versus maintenance? Below are the word associations I suggest:

In many secular markets, the term“facility management” is often interchangeable with “asset management.” The church world, however, rarely envisions facilities as assets. In secular markets, facilities are usually an appreciable asset with depreciable tax benefits. For a church — a 501(c)3 — the buildings it builds and / or buys aren’t typically appreciable assets (although I’m seeing a shift in this line of thinking). In fact, many (if not most) church facilities are more of a liability from a value proposition, as they’re single-purpose structures, built to commercial construction standards, located in non-commercial settings. As such, they have a decreasing real estate value and many church leaders don’t consider them assets, but rather a means to an end.

Generally defined, asset management (facility management) is a strategically focused approach to making meaningful decisions related to the development, uFacility Stewardship - Intentional Church Series Binderse, maintenance, repair, rehabilitation and preservation of an organization’s infrastructure — buildings, grounds systems, applications and so on.

Did you catch a critical part of that explanation? Did you see the other “m” word: maintenance?  Management — whether of assets or facilities — encompasses maintenance. Maintenance is not synonymous with management; management has a subset of maintenance. These are two very different skill sets and actionable items.

As you examine your facility stewardship personnel (and systems), what role do you really have on your team? Remember: if you’re the church administrator or executive pastor and you have a facility maintenance person, you’re the de facto facility manager.

Just one more title to add to your already lengthy list!

Tim Cool @TLCool is founder of Cool Solutions Group, and has assisted nearly 400 U.S. churches (equating to more than 4 million square feet) with their facility needs. He has collaborated with churches in the areas of facility needs analysis, design coordination, pre-construction and construction management, as well as life cycle planning / facility management. Cool Solutions Group is also the developer of eSPACE software products, including Event Scheduler, Work Order Management and HVAC integration.

Cool has written three books: Successful Master Planning: More Than Pretty Pictures; Why Church Buildings Matter: The Story of Your Space; and Church Locality, which is co-written by Jim Tomberlin, as well as a manual series entitled “Intentional Church.”


1 Comment for “Facility management vs. maintenance”

  1. Great, eye-opening article…
    Shouldn’t #2 word be maintenance instead of management?

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