On a recent trip to the mainland, Debbie and I took an excursion to the desert country-side of Nevada to see the Hoover Dam. On our way back, we came across a tour bus fully engulfed in flames. The inferno began swallowing up the vehicle. Loud explosions disrupted the desert calm. Being in an isolated area, it took awhile for fire crews to arrive. By the time they arrived the bus was burnt to its frame, charred and hallow. Fortunately, the 59 tourists on the bus were safely evacuated and no one was hurt.
Press coverage that evening cited poor preventive maintenance as a possible cause.
THE LEADERSHIP LESSONS OF THE BURNING BUS
Preventive maintenance (“PM”) is a critical “Work ON” function of leadership. Because atrophy inevitably inflicts all things, leaders need to focus attention and effort on minimizing its debilitating effects. Atrophy is the “wasting away” and gradual decline of an organism or apparatus.
Leaders need to be cognizant of two types of atrophy. First, there is the possible decline in skills and ability of team members. To counteract this, continuous education, coaching and “retooling” are critical to sustain peak performance. Second, facilities and equipment require a proactive system to address potential “wear and tear.”
By implementing a sound “PM” system for both people and facilities/equipment, leaders mitigate potential “drama” from human error and equipment failure. Without one, frequency of disciplinary action increases, performance and moral drops, repairs multiply, the useful life of equipment and facilities declines, and operating costs increase.
Some keys to ensuring an effective “PM” system include the following:
- Frame it as an important and vital function. Too many times, “PM” is viewed as a “necessary evil.”
- View “PM” as an investment, not an expense. It has been validated many times that effective maintenance saves money.
- Regarding both people and equipment, switch from a reactive to proactive stance. Instead of continually “fighting fires,” determine root causes of the fires and aim to resolve them.
- Develop a “flag on path” scheduling system. If triggers are not established to foster action, little gets done.
- Focus on “wispy tendrils.” They are the early signs of atrophy.
- Prioritize and schedule items as appropriate by separating the “nice to do,” items from the “should do” and “must do” items.
Always remember the burning bus and remember this “P” Mantra: “Proper planned preventative programs prevent poor performance and plenty of problems.”