‘When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Do Maintenance’

  

Moundsville, W.Va.: Abandoned Building with Apartment over Store 8/5/2012

        American Airlines’ maintenance fiascos and PR embarrassments have provoked a lot of comment – little of it more than whinging.          

          But now comes a very wise post on yesterday’s Harvard Business Review Blog by HBS Professor Rosabeth Moss Kanter.  Here are a couple of ‘graphs:

Maintaining a high-quality physical environment is central to employee motivation and performance. The physical environment surrounds them from the moment they arrive at work to the moment they leave. Everything about it signifies how much the organization cares. One large company that was trying to cut costs let trash accumulate and supplies run out in the rest rooms while peeling paint dotted the walls, thereby reminding people several times a day that their needs came last. To financially-oriented top management, such cuts are prudent. To customers and workers, they are daily insults.

 When the going gets tough, the tough should do maintenance.

 Amen!

           As a law student, I worked on surface mining regulations for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.  Our mining operations expert told me in passing he learnt all he needed about a company’s and a mine’s future from equipment maintenance.

           Few insights I’ve received have served me so well as that one.

           Its application, however, is broader than just to extraction industries.  Look at our educational system.

           We are strip mining our public universities.  Leave aside the sound bytes on California spending half as much per student as it does per prisoner.

           Consider the effects of ‘on line learning’.  The socialisation of the classroom and the campus are disappearing.  The blue book’s blank pages have yielded to tick boxes.

           Or consider the ever-increasing university emphasis on moneyball as opposed to the humanities.  Even Harvard is proposing a new basketball arena – just a couple of miles from where Boston University recently opened its Agganis Arena for basketball and hockey.

           Our national unwillingness to invest in our progeny’s future should be a scandal.  The stupidity of talking about the debt deficits impose on future generations instead of the investment it represents shames both political parties almost as much as their failure to lead on such commitments.

           Maintenance tells you all you need to know.