Managers Face Tough Balancing Act
Overseeing cutting-edge technology, big-picture issues, and front-line technicians presents constant challenges for managers
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The responsibilities of maintenance and engineering management have never been as varied and contradictory as they are these days. On any given day, a manager can take part in a morning meeting on high-level strategies with long-term financial and environmental implications, then in the afternoon implement equipment-level tactics just to keep facilities safe, comfortable and open.
Two recent news items illustrate the split nature of managers’ responsibilities.
In one case, a recent study from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory shows that if every building in California sported cool roofs by 2050, these roofs would contribute to protecting urbanites from the consequences of dangerous heat waves and minimize the urban heat island effect. In the other case, the Baltimore County School District is trying to compensate for a lack of air conditioning in some schools by using fans for classrooms in which temperatures sometimes exceed 100 degrees.
This kind of dichotomy in many managers’ responsibilities is the result of competing forces.
First, managers’ roles have evolved due to the twin realizations that facilities play a central role in important issues facing their organizations — including energy efficiency, sustainability, and resilience — and that managers bring valuable knowledge and experience to high-level discussions of these issues.
Second, many managers and their staffs continue to struggle mightily against the destruction to facilities caused by deferred maintenance. Their in-the-trenches, do-more-with-less efforts to keep facilities safe and reliable are more in line with the traditional role of maintenance and engineering.
Neither of these forces is going away anytime soon, so the challenge for managers is determining which are strategies and tactics deserve their time and energy the most, then striking a balance between duties that repair a facility’s past and those that prepare it for the future.