SIMA Think Tank: Stakeholders find solutions together

‘Collaboration among Think Tank participants generated literally dozens of possible solutions.’

By Phill Sexton
On Aug. 27, facility and property managers from across North America, many having recently joined SIMA, gathered with fellow members in Detroit for the SIMA Think Tank. A first-of-its-kind collaboration between the two industries, the goal of the Think Tank was to provide a neutral forum where snow & ice management service providers and their clients could meet to identify common pains and to develop solutions together.  

The Think Tank produced several overarching outcomes. Most notable was the dynamic variety of collaboration between the various stakeholders. SIMA hired Dr. Michael Marquardt, professor of human resource development and international affairs and program director of the Executive Leadership Program at George Washington University, to coach participants and facilitate the collaboration. 

Stakeholder participants included property/facility managers, service providers, insurance professionals and suppliers who worked together in a roundtable setting to identify common pains and root cause issues, and then proposed solutions under the direction of roundtable facilitators. The groups used Marquardt’s action learning approach to problem solving.

Collaboration among Think Tank participants generated literally dozens of possible solutions. Two common solutions that were identified among 14 roundtable collaborations were: 

  • The need for standardization that is systemic throughout the industry, including standard definitions, contract agreements, payment terms and best management practices the entire industry follows. 
  • The need for increased communication and education between snow & ice service providers and facility/property managers.  

Although the Think Tank was considered a huge success, the work to make the resulting solutions a reality has just begun. To maximize the learning and collaboration from the Think Tank the next step for SIMA is compiling all of the solutions presented and submitting a proposed plan of action to the membership and industry at large. Specific solutions that can be developed and leveraged will be reviewed and approved (if necessary) by members of SIMA’s Outreach Advisory Committee, SIMA staff and SIMA’s Board of Directors. Further strategy and plans of action for the next year will be communicated in the coming months. 

Strengthening the bond between stakeholders
The idea for the Think Tank evolved from the 2012 Snow Strategies Forum in Chicago. At this event, SIMA partnered with several nationally recognized facility/property management (FM/PM) executives who participated on a panel and offered their experiences and frustrations related to snow & ice management services. This initial exposure compelled SIMA to develop an outreach campaign focused on the FM/PM industry. 

Over the next two years, SIMA’s outreach campaign included the development of the Snow & Ice Management Best Practices Guidelines, as well as dozens of news releases and best practices presentations, and collaboration with the FM/PM industry at national, regional and local levels. 

These opportunities to advocate for the industry have also resulted in a new approach for expanding the capacity of engagement with the FM/PM industry through a newly developed group called SIMA Ambassadors. 

Facilities managers, contractors find mutual understanding (By Cheryl Higley)
Attendees at the first SIMA Think Tank tackled 14 topics that represented some of the pain points related to snow & ice management. Each table included a moderator and a mix of contractors, facility/property managers and other stakeholders who spent the entire session focused only on topics covering contracts, scope of work, invoicing, technology and more. Presented with a problem, vigorous discussion resulted in the identification of areas of concern for each stakeholder as well as possible solutions.

At the end of the session, all the groups came together and presented details on their conversations. A common theme throughout each of the presentations was that a lack of communication and understanding of each other’s functional responsibilities and restrictions is hindering a true collaborative relationship as it relates to snow & ice management services.

“The SIMA Think Tank was very informative in many aspects for me. It allowed open and candid conversation that let each participant learn and understand the other side of each other’s business. We need to collaborate more often in this type of setting,” says Doug McDaniel, senior facilities manager-exterior services for Wal-Mart.

Mike Mason, CSP, vice president and COO of The LawnPro, said the active learning format put each stakeholder on even ground: “It allowed us to look at the problems the industry faces in a completely different light. Through discussions with stakeholders at every level we were able to come up with some real solutions. The outcomes were so good, we have begun utilizing the concept of action learning in our company.” 

To learn more about how you can help SIMA’s advocacy and outreach efforts, contact or call the SIMA office at 414-375-1940.

Recommended Articles