What a TV Detective Has in Common with FMs

I  recently saw a rerun of the old television show Columbo. Columbo, you may remember, was a rumpled detective who just kept asking questions. He got no respect from each episode’s criminal, usually a person in a position of power. But week after week, Columbo’s low-key persistence paid off with an arrest.

Let’s see — no respect from people in positions of authority. Hmm. I don’t want to carry the analogy too far, but there might be a few facility managers who can identify with Columbo. If you’re one of them, consider emulating his strategy of using patience and logic to build your case.

Start by asking yourself questions. What would happen if we lost cooling on a hot summer day? How can facilities support the organization’s sustainability goals? Should we be concerned about all the empty cubicles? What would we do if power went out for an extended period? What do we know about our energy use?

In many cases, you won’t be able to answer the questions yourself. So do what Columbo did. Go to department heads, business unit managers, HR, and IT with your questions. They probably won’t have answers either. Tell them what you think — why you’re concerned or why you think there might be an opportunity to improve. See what questions they have.

Your goal isn’t to scare anyone. Unlike Columbo, you’re not trying to make an arrest. The idea is to start a conversation about ways facilities can add value.

Don’t expect immediate results. Losing cooling might be a disaster, but it could be there’s be no money to replace that decrepit chiller. Be persistent. Figure out how you’ll keep people working if the chiller fails, then do what you can to get a new chiller into the capital plan.

As soft spoken as he was, Columbo wasn’t shy. He didn’t hesitate to ask provocative questions — another quality facility managers might want to emulate.