Developing a maintenance culture or “psyche” is vital in a corporate environment. A company that launches out with a new face and name, attractive logos and catch phrases must be able to stay fresh and relevant 5, 20, 50 years later. Management must understand the nuts and bolts of what drives growth in order to keep the momentum going. Innovation, brand relevance, revenue growth are as essential as developing a maintenance culture. Implementing procedures for structural repair, interior décor and employee professionalism could very well be the bargaining chip for new or repeat business.
It is pathetic to walk into a store, hospital or corporate office to find chipped paint, faded wall hangings, light fixtures which belong to another century and furnishings that beg to be replaced. It is not enough to show off state-of-the-art equipment or a brand-new office building, only to show apathy in its upkeep. Many people complain about the need for a maintenance culture or the lack thereof. How did we get here? Is this problem a symptom of a disease?
I walked into a well-known Ghanaian bank and was appalled at the deplorable conditions of the place. Suffice to say, I immediately changed my mind about conducting business there. Other than the poor state of the facility and the unpleasant smell caused by poor drainage and broken air conditioning, there was an obvious lack of appreciation of the customer; seen in the shabby treatment meted out by employees. In contrast, across town at another banking facility, was a totally different story. I found immaculate lawns and tight security; the banking hall was brightly lit with shiny floors, beautiful paintings and décor. Personnel were professionally dressed, and missing was the chaos I had experienced earlier. What was the cause for the difference between the two banks? Proper management and leadership is my answer. Without knowing the details of who did what, what was clearly evident was management of the Bank #2 got it right. Plans had been put in place for the management of the business. Someone was responsible for appearance of the banking hall and personnel, there was regular inspection of the exterior to make sure the grounds were well kept, bushes and shrubbery looked green. Expert security personnel had been hired and were monitored. There was up-to-date technology which worked, making it easier and quicker for customers to conduct business.
The biblical analogy that no king goes to war without counting the cost or the moral of the popular kids story of the three little pigs and the big bad wolf, where only the house of brick stood after the wolf “huffed and puffed” to blow the house in, are lessons that careful planning by efficient management teams will keep the wheels of the company turning decades after it opens for business. Maintenance is necessary; preserving strong structures protects employees, the general public and company property. Building lasting brands and consistently updating existing methods and processes to comply with industry quality and standards could minimize fines and possible lawsuits. Keeping up the pace with evolving market trends, and retaining an engaged workforce will transform the culture of the organization.
A maintenance culture must be driven from top management. Senior management should champion a maintenance mindset. Plan long-term and implement realistic strategies for managing company properties and assets, service quality and delivery. Put in place mechanisms for monitoring internal practices and processes. Create a separate budget for maintenance needs and invest in new systems, skills and training.
Maintenance can be expensive and budget planning ought to address how these costs would be covered. Some considerations will be to assess membership or service fees, solicit sponsorships, organize fundraiser events in the case of NGOs, hospitals, schools, etc.
- Launch a campaign of awareness creation at all levels to develop a maintenance mindset. Incorporate the maintenance function in the company’s value statement and reinforce the benefits with employees.
- Develop and implement benchmarking exercises to include all employees – these should be clear and attainable.
- Utilize available information to create an effective maintenance strategy, which should align with organization’s business plans and goals.
- Educate and train employees on new direction for the company.
In conclusion, while there remain many concerns on the need for a maintenance culture, it is a sign of a much bigger issue – that of efficient management. When proper planning is in place from the onset, operations improve and there is revenue growth.
By: Doris Agyeman