The Organizational Cost of ‘Deferred Maintenance’

deferredmainenanceIn a recent Vistage group meeting, one of my members brought up the issue of “deferred maintenance.” His well run firm underwent very severe cutbacks during the recession and is only now beginning to experience a recovery. He was referring to physical plant equipment and also a much broader issue – the fact that there have been so many ‘deferrals’ including; training and development for employees, abandoning strategic planning, and the complete lack of hiring “fresh blood “ upon which to build the future of the firm.

The more the group members reflected and shared about their own situations, the more we realized we were dealing with a nearly blanket issue. Each firm has deferred so many things that now it seems like it’s the “new normal” – except it can’t be. The universe doesn’t stand still.

The good news is that sales are growing for most of them at a rapid, if not record, clip.  Profits are up nicely. So why are so many members expressing the fear they encounter among employees and themselves? Exploration of this question revealed a deep-seated concern for being able to get the rapidly increasing workload done. The faster pace of today, increased customer service demands, and a lack of staff to do the work on a timely basis pushes the load back up to middle and senior executives.

Countering any desire to rush out and hire some good people is a deep concern for the instability of our state and national leadership, and the sustainability of the economy.  Much of the “recession induced brain damage” has not been shaken off despite essentially positive economic forecasts from here to 2019.

The antidote the members aligned on is to get busy distinguishing the attributes of a powerful, shared vision and bold goals for their companies for at least the run to 2019. If you take the same approach and if you are truly bold, you will be immediately confronted by one of more of the following thoughts:

1)  I/we don’t know how

2)  I/we are scared to death

3)  I/we are insufficient (inadequate)

4)  I/we will never get good enough, fast enough, to pull it off

At that moment you really only have two choices:

1)  Slip to the periphery and gesture

2)  Stand in the face of the challenge and surrender to rigorously and continuously asking:

1) What are the missing strategies?

2) Who are the missing team members?

Additional valuable questions include: 

1)  What will we look like when it all turns out?

2)  How did we fulfill on our intentions?

3)  What pot holes and road blocks did we encounter?

4)  Considering our vision and bold goals as fulfilled, what deferred maintenance did we immediately take on and solve?

5)  What could we keep deferring or even ignore?

It is time to switch your frame of reference, your paradigm, your context, your point of view – which ever term clicks for you – and start inventing yourself from vision or you won’t have to worry about whether you have the right people on the bus – you will have missed it!

Category: Leadership

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About the Author: Dwight Frindt

“What does it require from a leader to create team member focus, collaboration, and effective action particularly in times of externalities that create tremendous stress?” Such questions have driven Dwi

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