In the 1970s I was consulting for the US Agency for International Development on health planning in Ghana. One of the major issues was that a lot of the hospital equipment was not working. Costly equipment donated by well-meaning philanthropic organizations from Europe and the US was abandoned in the corridors unused. When I asked my hosts why, they said, “Oh, it broke down.” Why did it break down? There was either no maintenance or bad maintenance.
As I travel the world, I stay in hotels. I was once in a beautiful hotel in a developing country. But the bath did not work, the toilet did not work, and not all of the lighting did work. They spent a lot of money building this hotel, so what went wrong? Maintenance.
It is not enough to invest, build, and develop. You still have to maintain what you developed, built, or invested in. The same thing would be true for your garden or car.
While we are accustomed to perform maintenance on cars, buildings, gardens and machines, it is practically nonexistent when it comes to human relations. As one of my clients said, “One honeymoon is not enough for a lifetime of marriage.” Love needs to be maintained. A wonderful wedding and newlywed love are not enough. That’s a great “investment”, but what about maintenance? What do you do to maintain love? Do you go on an annual honeymoon? How much time do you spend just the two of you? Loving.
Do we maintain our own health? Some of us go to the doctor for an annual checkup. Is that all? What do you do to maintain your health?
You’re building, managing, leading a company. That organization in which you have invested so much energy and money, are you maintaining it? Or is it falling apart right before your eyes? Why is it falling apart? Well, why did your car fall apart? Why did the life-saving equipment in the Ghanaian hospital fall apart? Lack of maintenance.
You need to do an annual checkup of your organization, like you would of a car or plane, so that it doesn’t fall apart. Everything needs a periodic checkup: What’s working, what’s not working, and what can we do about it? Don’t wait until the system breaks down to make a diagnosis. Put in your calendar: on this date, every year, we’re going to have a company checkup. Not just an accounting audit. A managerial, organizational audit of the processes by which we manage the company. (Adizes Institute has a service to provide the checkup and give you a report. It’s called a Syndag, synergetic diagnosis.) Now, during the coronavirus crisis, when no one works or buys, now is perfect time to do this maintenance, repair what is broken in your company and come out of the crisis stronger as a company than how you came into the crisis.
Following the diagnosis, you should have a plan for maintenance. What do you have to fix? Do you have to redo your mission? Do you need to redesign your company’s outdated structure? Maybe you need to realign your budgeting system. Maybe your rewards system needs improvement.
Everything needs maintenance. With time and change, all systems start falling apart, be it your garden, car, self, family, or organization.
The more accelerated the rate of change, the more frequent should the maintenance be. It is not good enough to focus only on strategic planning, new products, tactical alliances. They are all needed but don’t fall victim to the space syndrome: expanding on the margins, collapsing at the core.
Maintain the organization, because if it is maintained WELL, it will be healthy. If it is healthy, it will be sustainably successful.