A facilities evaluation praxis for knowledge generation in social systems : an exploration of the role of dynamic evaluation of facilities performance and management within social systems as a means of facilitating organisational learning
This research explores the role of dynamic evaluation of facilities performance and management within social systems as a means of facilitating organisational learning, and presents a practice based method for evaluating the quality of Facilities Management within organisations. Its objective was to demonstrate the value of focus group methodology in the evaluation of the performance of facilities and their management, and in developing new levels of understanding and improved communications between users of facilities and those responsible for its operational management. It is argued that the process of dynamic change both technological and social, results in the invalidation of many of the premises upon which design and management decisions are made. As such the appropriateness of conventional methodology paradigms is challenged, calling for new forms of organisational intervention to improve the fit between users and their physical environments. The approach offered by the thesis is to challenge the validity of existing approaches to the generation of knowledge of man -environment relationships, calling for an interventionist evaluation in which subjects are co-researchers of the evaluation of their facility related needs. The thesis adopts a systems perspective to understanding the interdependencies of individuals, organisations and environmental support systems arguing that traditional approaches of partitioning science into interest fields results in only incremental advances in knowledge at the expense of removal from reality. This accordingly argues for a holistic approach to understanding human needs and how they are (or are not) satisfied by the 'serviced environment'. This requires breaking the traditional boundaries of physical and social science disciplines, in so doing providing an understanding of the human being in its totality and developing new conceptual frameworks for man-environment evaluation. The approach to action research provides the basis for the generation of improved communications within organisations and fosters the opportunity for organisational learning. Emphasis is placed on the use of focus groups as a means of generating knowledge which is not readily accessible by traditional means of survey research. I use the term praxis however as the roles of change agent and researcher within organisations can sometimes come into conflict with one another as demonstrated in the principal case study. The thesis suggests that the environment (building) is a 'service' which cannot be viewed in isolation from other less tangible processes of facilities management which impinge upon user satisfaction and well-being. Building performance is therefore considered as a subset of Facilities Management performance. The thesis posits five notions of what would constitute Facilities Management research to distinguish the field from other research in the engineering, management or social sciences. These are: Facilities management research should be concerned with decision making; Facilities management research should be concerned with the systemic relationship between people and their environments in an holistic sense; Facilities management research should be rooted in practice; Facilities management research should be action oriented; and Facilities management research should be aimed at collaborative inquiry. Whilst perhaps contentious they serve principally as a framework for guiding the conduct of this research. The research demonstrates that organisations go through a process of stress adaptation following many decisions which are temporally dependent, regarding the use and management of facilities. The basis for which is a lack of comprehensive understanding of systemic processes and the transfer of work to new agents and consequent loss of knowledge. The research suggests that the true cost of service provision needs to account for factors such as the costs to human satisfaction, presence of interorganisational strain, and consequential impacts of facilities decisions on other organisational functions.