The 'Softer' Side of Maintenance Management
By Dan Hounsell, Editor - October 2013 - Facility Maintenance Decisions Columnists
So many of the daily activities in maintenance and engineering departments involve tangible things, such as roofs, boilers, mowers, and plumbing fixtures.
Even for those things related to maintenance and engineering that are not exactly tangible — software and regulations, for example — managers can see them and share them. They seem tangible, anyway.
Given this tangible, physical nature of the profession, it is understandable that managers might not pay as much attention to so-called soft skills. But two articles this month offer managers clear and compelling evidence that these skills are just as important — and in many cases, more important — than the technical skills departments tend to focus on.
Take listening, for example. In the Roundtable this month, Dave Lubach, our associate editor, talks with managers about the challenges of personnel management. The response of one manager to a question about the most effective strategies in managing people stuck out: "Listening, listening, listening and, of course, listening."
Now consider the process of data analysis, which might seem pretty dry and academic. But in the context of learning from equipment failures in facilities — see Michael Cowley's Management Insight column — the process of gathering and analyzing all possible information related to a failure is essential in finding its causes and preventing it from happening again, thereby cutting costs and freeing up staff for more productive work.
No doubt, the emphasis on technology and technical skills in maintenance and engineering departments will remain essential in ensuring facilities operate efficiently, safely, and cost-effectively. But managers who can develop and use so-called soft skills in their everyday activities will have a wider array of tools to work with in helping their departments achieve these goals.
Dan Hounsell offers observations about trends in maintenance and engineering management and the evolving role of managers in facilities.
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Part 1: The 'Softer' Side of Maintenance Management