You are part of an organization that is almost a century old, with
a decentralized workforce that spans the entire United States (and
employs staff in both its most remote regions and its busiest
cities) and a mission that includes responsibility for the countrys
most important built and natural treasures. Your challenges and
flaws include an impending loss of significant institutional
knowledge and a reactive work culture that cannot serve your
organizations long-term interests. You are committed to an extended
workforce training program that addresses your succession planning
needs, and you have attempted a massive workplace culture shift.
have succeeded beyond anyones expectations. Now, you plan to expand
the reach of your program.
If you have done all that, you are probably part of the National
Park Services (NPS) Park Facility Management Division. In 2006, the
division jump-started an aggressive, competency-based training
programthe Facility Manager Leaders Program (FMLP)designed to
develop the next generation of leaders in the maintenance field. By
applying industry standards and using expertise from within and
outside NPS, training managers designed a program that met the
agencys succession requirements while implementing a major change
in park management culture.
The programs exceptional record of success earned it the 2010
winner of the W. Edwards Deming Outstanding Training Award.
The Graduate Schools Deming Award
Presented annually since 1998 by the Graduate School, the Deming
Award is given to a federal government organization or civilian
branch of the military to honor a training program that has made a
significant impact within an agency or a particular effort that has
benefited an organization.
Deming Award nominees are judged on the basis of innovative
employee development and training initiatives that achieve not only
measurable results, but positive outcomes. The most successful
training initiatives documented in the award archives share certain
characteristics: Each was developed with a thoughtful, clear vision
for an organizations future and potential, as well as an equally
clear understanding of the potential pitfalls and negative
realities it faced.
Those who develop successful initiatives tend to be those who are
willing to dig in for the long haul, demonstrating a commitment to
new learning. Award-winning programs also generate a high level of
employee buy-in. In both areas, NPSs FMLP excels.
FMLP came about as the result of an increasing federal-sector focus
on facility management. By the beginning of this decade, NPS faced
a significant skills gap in institutional knowledge, thanks to the
anticipated retirement bubble. Increased reporting, accountability,
and transparency requirements on the part of the U.S. Department of
the Interior and Congress also posed challenges.
With facility management in the federal sector a focus issue for
major federal organizations, NPS subjected itself to intense
scrutiny. According to the nomination form submitted to the Deming
panel, Executive orders, human capital strategic plans,
congressional watchers, and in-depth studies by the National
Academy of Sciences Federal Facilities Council [all showed] a need
to improve the effectiveness of park facility management.
The FMLP course of study describes an aging infrastructure of
facilities, lack of specific competencies in facility management,
and a need for greater public accountability, which led to
significant oversight review by federal agencies. During the 1980s,
a successful series of courses were developed and delivered to the
facility maintenance workforce, only to be discontinued as other
issues took budget priority.
Maintenance of national parks was a patchwork process: When
something broke, it was fixed. This approach was increasingly less
practical as park infrastructures and portfolios grew more complex.
NPS was locked into a reactive cycle. Issues that werefrom a
scientific management or data-driven management perspectivemore
important in the long run were largely ignored because the division
was able to effectively handle typical maintenance and operations.
Restrooms, roads, trails, and the like were impeccably cared for by
committed staff as need arose, but without preventive maintenance
to extend the life of major critical systems, such as HVAC systems
or bridges, the parks were headed for disaster.
Any program that addressed these issues was going to have to
initiate and support a massive organization culture shift, taking
it from reactive to proactive. While it is often easy for an
organization to think about structure and facility maintenance in
the short term, NPS is charged, essentially, with maintaining its
sites in perpetuity.
Stephen Wolter, director of the Eppley Institute for Parks and
Public Lands at Indiana University (which teamed with NPS to
develop FMLP), thinks this is a vital part of the whole picture.
When youre maintaining these same assets in perpetuity, then you
end up saying, Well, we cant really defer that maintenance and have
it break in 50 yearswe have to find a way to fix it now, he says.
It was critical that facility management staff understood the
extent to which their jobs were driven by data and systems and
critical maintenance so that they could be proactive about
extending the life of park assets.
The NPS Servicewide Maintenance Advisory Committee (SMAC),
consisting of representatives of its maintenance and facility
discipline from around the United States, was asked to craft a
vision for the future of facility management in the national parks.
Adopted in 2002, Facility Management for the 21st Century was a
foundational document that expressed the need for creation of a new
cohort of facility managers and for continual development of the
facility management workforce in order to improve the stewardship
of built resources and, through those built resources, the natural
and cultural resources of the nation. NPS began to study federal
directives related to facility management, as well as the training
needs of its facility managers and the industry standards related
to that training.
The Performance, Training, and Competency Gap Analysis (2005),
completed in partnership with the Eppley Institute, supported the
need for further performance and training improvements. Significant
gaps in the fundamental software system used to manage facilities
Additionally, analysis uncovered a gap between the training
programs being offered and the skills actually needed for a
facility manager to function at full capacity. To confront these
challenges, as well the results of further gap studies, NPS
partnered with Eppley to create a course of study: FMLP.
FMLP, now in its fifth iteration, has proven to be a positive step
for NPS. Since its inception, nearly 60 percent of graduates have
gone on to take positions as facility managers or chiefs of
maintenance. In addition, there has been a nearly 40 percent
increase in the number of preventive maintenance work orders, and
indicators show an ever-increasing emphasis on managing park units
for total cost of facility ownership. Additionally, graduates
overwhelmingly indicate that they have experienced improvements in
defined job competencies both during and after the training, and
their supervisors confirm this.
Finally, parks or units where FMLP graduates work have seen
estimated benefits in the millions of dollars. The effects on our
national parks have gone beyond the monetary, as facility
management principles taught in the program have been brought home
to the students parksto the parks they visit for field experience
and to the parks of program mentors.
The success of FMLP has led to a new strategic phase. A current NPS
goal is to make this robust program available to a larger group of
employees and not just those selected for the one-year curriculum.
With the course of study spread out over a longer period, perhaps
several years, employees can participate as their schedules allow.
In addition, FMLP is said to have tremendous implications for the
entire park and recreation and public land management sector.
How NPS Did It
Because NPS is required to use the U.S. Office of Personnel
Managements (OPM) competency approach, the curriculum development
team relied on subject matter experts to validate the OPM
competencies, which in turn served as a baseline for the creation
Intense study identified the parent competencies for facility
managers in the public and private sectors, and the team reviewed
requirements, goals, and recommendations from government and
industry. Developed jointly by its training team and outside
subject matter experts, the FMLP curriculum design uses the full
range of delivery techniques in use by government, universities,
and the private sector.
A year-long, assessment-based certificate program, FMLP comprises
five courses ranging from traditional classroom studies to
e-courses, webinars, and directed field experiences. Fifteen to 18
students representing different types of parks and various
geographic areas are chosen each year from a pool of applicants.
Applicants are regionally and nationally scored, with final
decisions made by seven regional chiefs of maintenance.
As described in the course of study, FMLP embraces deep learning
that promotes critical analysis of ideas so that students can
combine them with their existing skills, knowledge, and information
for greater understanding. This endorses concept retention, leading
to a greater capacity to analyze new and changing situations or
scenarios and to improved problem-solving skills. Program designers
define deep learning as the [fundamental] difference between
education (which is focused on uncertainty and application of
knowledge, analysis, and logic) and training (which is more focused
on certainty and routine).
When they enter FMLP, students are paired with mentors from the
management field who have extensive management experience with NPS.
Not only do these mentors provide guidance and informal training,
including hosting mentees at their home parks, they also attend the
classroom courses. Wolter describes the mentors as adjunct
professors, a critical part of the success of the experiential
The FMLPs 2006 pilot program was evaluated while in progress and
upon conclusion. The consensus was that it should be continued in
order to reach the goal of developing succession facility managers
for the NPS. In May 2010, the fifth class began its course of
According to the FMLPs course of study, At the core of FMLP is the
creation of proficient facility managers for the NPS and meeting
succession management goals for the U.S. Department of the
Interior. However, it also strategically improves the NPSs ability
to achieve its central mission of preservation and enjoyment
through enhancing organization capacity.
To date, the goals of succession management, the creation of
proficient managers, and the preservation and enjoyment have all
been furthered. The exceptionally positive results of the program
are being documented by an ongoing evaluation process.
With an overarching goal of succession management for facility
managers, one of the most positive outcomes the program would be
for FMLP students to take positions as chiefs of maintenance,
facility managers, or the equivalent. Evaluations indicate definite
success in this regard.
Facility Manager Mobility
While numbers have peaked overall since the program was
implemented, Figure 1 (covering the class years 20062008) suggests
that recently, fewer FMLP students are becoming facility managers.
This trend is believed to result from the fact that some facility
manager positions are not yet open.
The class of 2006 had three years in which to find new positions,
whereas at the time this chart was created, recent graduates had
less than a year. More important, 89 percent of FMLP graduates have
received promotions in facility management or have sought and been
offered promotion after completing the course.
An expected outcome was for graduating students to demonstrate a
grasp of the core concepts of proper facility management, not the
least of which was that important shift from reactive maintenance
to proactive and preventive maintenance. The 2005 gap analysis
indicated that facility managers were not using the facility
management software system (FMSS) to plan work. An indicator of
success would be the existence of more preventive maintenance work
orders in the system.
Between FY05 and FY09, the annual number of preventive maintenance
work orders in FMSS increased by many thousands. The relative
stability of FY06 to FY08 reflects the FMLP curriculums heavy focus
on taking inventory of park assets and creating park asset
management plans. The FMLP class of 2009, on the other hand,
shifted its focus from creating plans to executing plans, creating
a rewarding jump in the number of preventive work orders created.
Because preventive maintenance extends the life cycle of an asset
and reduces costly, inconvenient emergency maintenance, this
indicator illustrates a very positive impact for NPS. With the
number of parks touched by FMLP students, mentors, and visits
continuing to grow, this upward trend is expected to continue.
As part of the evaluation process, a competency-based survey is
administered to students and their supervisors 180 days after
graduation. Training impact is assessed at five levels, with each
level depending on and linked to measurements of the previous
levels. Only two years of data are currently available, but NPS has
found the impact striking. Data was collected from all graduates
and at least one supervisor per graduate.
Also, graduates overwhelmingly indicated that they experienced
improvements in defined job competencies both during and after the
training. Thirty-six tasks were listed, ranging from developing a
park asset management plan to evaluating equipment and corrective
maintenance to creativity, innovation, strategic thinking, and
The students self-ratings on a list of competency tasks showed that
more than 70 percent indicated they had improved to some degree in
all the competencies, and more than 90 percent indicated that they
had improved to some degree in an overwhelming majority of those
At least 50 percent of those students attributed these improvements
to FMLP. Their supervisors observed similar improvements, but rated
them even more highly than did the students, with a greater
frequency of significant or above average improvement.
Responding to open-ended survey questions, both graduates and their
supervisors identified the benefits to their respective park sites
as increased efficiencies and additional money generated for park,
savings, and special program development. Financial benefits are a
standout here, with parks or units where graduates work seeing
estimated benefits in the millions of dollars.
But, it is not just the students and their parks that benefit from
this process. The mentor-student experience has proved valuable for
FMLP in ways it had not fully anticipated. Putting mentors through
the courseskeeping them informed on the same topics and approach to
doing businessmade them more committed to meeting the gap that
existed between proactive and reactive.
The principles and lessons of the program spread to the parks of
the mentors and to the parks visited by students for field
experience. Inclusion of the mentors extended the impact of the
program and added formal supervision, management, and leadership
competencies to their personal capabilities. The results of this
relationship have been so profound that NPS realized in 2009 that
FMLPs ROI analysis would also need to include the programs effect
This workforce training initiative stands out because of the
impressive nature of both management commitment and workforce
cooperation. The attitude of leaders in the NPS Park Facility
Management Division in approaching program design has been
described as rare. Leaders studied benchmark surveys to uncover the
hallmark characteristics of successful leadership programs and made
a deep commitment to implementing and following through on changes.
They committed to giving new efforts a chance to take root and show
The involvement and commitment of the NPS facility maintenance
workforce is also exceptional. The division bears responsibility
for upwards of 50 percent of the operational funds and services
provided by NPSrunning the larger parks has been likened to taking
responsibility for a small city. As a result, employees have a
strong belief that they have to develop their discipline and do
their best to protect the assets under their care.
NPS is tasked with the care of built and natural resources that
include wilderness areas, habitat for endangered and threatened
species, and cultural heritage sites that date from prehistoric
times through the 20th century. This is not an insignificant
responsibility, and it is an area in which failures in upkeep will
be quickly seen and deeply felt at many levels. The motivation to
maintain and steward these treasures is tremendously powerful for
employees at all levels of this organization, as is the desire to
develop succeeding generations of employees to continue their work
and to do it even better.
As of 2009, more than half of the national parks in the United
States (more than 200) have been directlyand positivelyaffected by
FMLP, its students, and its mentors. The result is better
management of built resources, which in turn means that the
cultural, historic, and natural resources protected by these built
resources are better preserved for the enjoyment, education, and
inspiration of this and future generations.