These randomly scheduled missives will opine on a variety of topics, mostly intended to be germane to design, construction, capital program management, and other related issues.

For shorter trips through the countryside, take a look at our blog, also called Notes from the Road.
Notes from the Road

Big White WhaleJune 2014

The Seven Deadly Sins

A good friend - an Anglican priest - often baits me about my “calling” to the church.  I usually respond with a laugh, and comment on the odd nature of any organized religion that might share my slightly twisted view of worthy belief systems.

For example, I was taught that “Adultery” is not just about unfaithful sex.  A wider definition warns against using something in a way other than it was intended.  Don’t use your wrench as a hammer.  You laugh?  Well, say something to my childhood minister, who chose this as a theme for a sermon.  Go figure.

Can We Be Irreverent in Our Business?

Perhaps, so – if you commit transgressions.

What are the most “sinful” mistakes made by Facilities Managers?  …and why are they so “wicked”?

When a Facilities Maintenance organization fails in its primary responsibilities to “keep things working”, respond to problems, and to stay ahead of the inevitable needs of aging building components, it is fair to be critical.

It may not be possible to reduce the vice to a single word, as some clerics do with religion; but there are definitely repetitive patterns of those who are less than perfect.

Here’s my list:

1. The CMMS is Not Used

After investing is the right Computerized Maintenance Management System, the ball is often dropped.  How?

  • Inventory is not completed
  • Time is not tracked
  • Work orders are not entered
  • Preventative Maintenance tasks are not entered
  • Work Orders are not closed out
  • Reports are not created
  • Etc., etc., etc.

All pretty obvious, but all too common.

2. There is No Deferred Maintenance Plan

I recently had a very earnest University President tell me that his campus had little in the way of accumulated deferred maintenance.  What he didn’t know was the Chief Facilities officer had told me only a few days prior that there was no current or valid Facilities Condition Assessment for the institution’s buildings and grounds.  The disconnect was obvious.

It’s relatively easy (and somewhat understandable) to relax and decide that “not knowing” is a more comfortable place to be when money is tight and current needs seem obvious and imperative.  Certainly there will be an eventual awakening.

High-performing leaders know the projected full project cost for the backlog of carefully documented facilities needs, and they have made an institutional decision about how long they will take to retire that deficit.  Those who have failed to pursue this have, at least, committed the transgression of omission.

More importantly, they see that work gets done.

3. Capital Maintenance is not Budgeted

I’ve written on this subject before.  (See "Plan to Live Forever")  The concept behind a depreciation schedule for capital assets is that facilities get “used up” over time – not really debatable.  The CPA’s depreciation schedule is, however, unfortunately an accounting artifice that doesn’t truly match the actual rate of consumption.

Some well-intentioned leaders will make a conscious allocation of funds for facilities capital maintenance, but often this allocation is either intuitive or based on “what we can afford”.  Rarely is the allotment based upon a carefully debated and designed budget process.

I’ll admit that when it comes to my home expenses, I’m as negligent as the next guy.  When the time comes to replace the roof, it will come from savings.  In my case, I only have my conscience to deal with on this account.  (Assuming, of course, the savings account is adequate.)  This approach shouldn’t stand up when you’re reporting to Board Members, Trustees, or Stockholders.

4. Capital Maintenance Money is Spent on Other Things

Let me recount some ways:

  • Code-mandated upgrades
  • Insertion of new technology
  • Alterations for changing uses
  • Building additions
  • New fixtures. furnishings or equipment
  • Routine and customary maintenance
  • Or, worst ever, new construction

For every dollar of Capital Maintenance money that is diverted to some other use, there is a dollar added to the backlog of Deferred Maintenance.  How many budget categories are now misstated?

5. Preferred Vendors are Given Special Treatment

It’s comfortable to simply pick up the phone when there is a problem that needs help.  Properly administered, this is a good thing.  However, there are common defects.  The vendor has:

  • No set rates
  • No unit prices
  • No term agreements
  • No competition for the work

Not a formula for cost-effective, quality service.

There may be right ways to have favorites, but often the wrong path is chosen.

6. There is No Preventative Maintenance Plan

If you failed to fill the CMMS with facilities inventory and its maintenance requirements, you should know that there is no plan in place, of course.

But, let’s say that you’re still in the planning stages of developing a facilities operations and maintenance regimen.  What then?

If you don’t account for what needs to be done for each and every component on a regular basis, you’ve passed the “sin” test.

7. You Permit Distractions from the Job at Hand

It’s perhaps generous human nature.  A mechanic may not want to say no to the “while you’re at it request”.  Or maybe you’ve got the only work force that is prepared to deliver manual labor, so you are routinely asked to provide “moving” or “set-up” services.  Properly managed and accounted for, these are not bad things to offer.

The difficulty comes when, because of this, the Facilities organization fails to keep pace.  Work falls behind, outside contractors are needed on a regular basis, Preventative Maintenance goes unattended, budgets are blown, and Customer Satisfaction (which may have triggered the work in the first place) deteriorates.

Being too “kind” is possibly not a good thing.

How “Holy” are You?

OK, now you’ve seen my list.  Perhaps, you can offer one of your own.

Regardless, aspiring to be better is a worthy goal not just for individuals.  Organizations can seek to be better.  Why not yours?

All together now, let’s say “Amen”.

Addenda for the Uninitiated

The real Seven Deadly Sins:


The excessive belief in one's own abilities, that interferes with the individual's recognition of the grace of God.  It has been called the sin from which all others arise.  Pride is also known as Vanity.


The desire for others' traits, status, abilities, or situation.


An inordinate desire to consume more than that which one requires.


An inordinate craving for the pleasures of the body.


The individual who spurns love and opts instead for fury.  It is also known as Wrath.


The desire for material wealth or gain, ignoring the realm of the spiritual.  It is also called Avarice or Covetousness.


The avoidance of physical or spiritual work.

Missed earlier newsletters? Find them here:

March 2014  “Thar She Blows!”
November 2013  “Giving Thanks”
September 2013  “Back to School?”
June 2013  “What Time is It?”
March 2013  “Acey Deucey?”
January 2013  “A Swamp Full of Alligators”
October 2012  “Plan to Live Forever, Part Deux”
July 2012  “A Midsummer Dream”
May 2012  “Are you Virtually Working?”
March 2012  “Your Huddled Masses”
January 2012  “Observing Observations”
October 2011  “I Want What I Want”
August 2011  “A Beach Read”
May 2011  “NeoLuddite or Technophile?”
March 2011  “Do Your Silos Leak?”
January 2011  “Plan to Live Forever!”
November 2010  “May I Have A Plan, Master?”
September 2010  “How do we choose?”
July 2010  “Good People Behaving Badly”
May 2010  “LEED: LEADing or Dead Weight?”
March 2010  “Why does it cost so much?”
January 2010 “Design/Builders show us your softer side.”
November 2009 “What the Facilities?”
September 2009 “Why Do Architects Make Good Owner’s Reps?”

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