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I used to work for a dot-com that practiced a “Mary Poppins” style of management. That is, the senior management team believed the company was practically perfect in every way. At the end, the velocity with which that company came hurtling to earth was astounding. There is no safety in hubris–with or without a magical umbrella. I’m all for being proud of your team, your product and your purpose. Just don’t let it get in the way of your potential. At another time, I went to work for a firm that asked me to help them improve the way they worked by investigating their internal processes and procedures. I did so by compiling a report which outlined the 80% of their business processes that were spot-on and enviable and the 20% where a little tweaking would work wonders. Instead of the pat on the back I was expecting, they turned around and brow beat me for insinuating that they might be less than perfect. Such is the life of a consultant–you learn quickly to be thick-skinned.

It is indeed a balancing act to work with a client to help improve the way they work–especially if they are sensitive about how they are perceived by their management. On one hand, they desperately need the help to avoid being fired. On the other hand, they are apt to get fired because they desperately need help. In my industry presentations, I usually speak in praise of dysfunction because it is my raison d’etre. I speak in praise of it because I’m a positive person and what I’ve been able to do for others is to help them improve their business performance through real estate. Dysfunction has its purpose–it keeps you wanting to improve. Perfect people are frozen in mediocrity. Imperfect people have room to grow.

The question this month is: Are you practicing a Mary Poppins style of Corporate Real Estate management? Here’s how you’ll know:

Your service provider turned out to be a glorified temp agency.Take a step back to consider whether outsourcing was simply an effort to reduce headcount by replacing your staff with the service provider’s real estate transaction and lease administration people. If the result of hiring a service provider was just swapping people for those with a different payroll source, then the service provider is at best a temp agency. Unless you were absolutely unwilling to train, groom or promote your people into key positions, then your efforts to outsource will not pay off. You’d have been better off growing your own expertise. Moreover, if without reason, your service provider has begun replacing your “team” with other people, they are probably using your account as a training ground for their own people.

Your purpose for bringing in a service provider was to “set the kids straight.”Let’s say it has been a couple of years since you gave your business to your current service provider. And let’s assume that the service provider team is co-located with your team. Is there still a line between where their team ends and yours begins? Is it easy to see the differences in the two cultures? If so, you may not have transitioned the account properly and there may still be lingering fears and animosity for the whole outsourcing initiative. Perhaps the sentiment for your team is that outsourcing was punishment…whether or not you intended it to feel that way. From my earlier example, if (and be honest), you or your team have brow beaten the service provider for being too smart, too aggressive, or too innovative, then I suspect your staff is waiting for the other shoe to drop or for an opportunity to sabotage the service provider and make them into scapegoats.

Your service provider just isn’t improving your business performance.Unless you are indeed practically perfect in every way, your service provider should be able to unlock the value in your real estate. They should be able to align your business and your real estate so that your firm can do the things it wants to do whether grow, shrink, re-define itself or (you never know), hurtle to earth like a dot-com wannabe. The point is, the improvement in business performance through real estate should be real. It should be measurable and predictable. It should be guaranteed. Is it?

Vik Bangia is managing director, strategic services for the corporate solutions group of United Properties in Minneapolis. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own.

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