Chris Matt: Creative Juices Flowing for Managers in Tough Economic Times
"This has been the worst economic time that I've faced personally in my career," lamented one maintenance and operations director in a K-12 school district.
"We've been preparing for this for two years, but we didn't realize how deep it was going to go," another maintenance professional told me.
"I've lost 27 percent of my full-time staff," said a grounds manager, referring to a rough six-month stretch that reflects the recession's powerful impact on buildings and grounds maintenance.
Observations such as these from maintenance, engineering, and grounds managers are as common as newspaper headlines dissecting, downplaying, or decrying the economic woes of the last two years. As disheartened as the three managers above might seem, their resolve and refusal to let the economy dictate the way they do business is encouraging, to say the least.
Take the case of the K-12 manager, whose district has spent about $1 billion over the last 15 years to modernize facilities. As maintenance budgets have begun to wither away, the buildings featuring new technologies and revitalized infrastructures are at risk of regressing to pre-modernized conditions. So he is forced to get creative, reorganizing and reprioritizing to preserve the 15-year investment.
Creative. That's a word I used in my discussion with the grounds manager who had lost more than a quarter of his staff, suggesting his managerial style must be more innovative than ever before.
"Creative," he said with a chuckle. "Yeah, that's a good word for it."
The creative juices have been flowing for two years, and it seems like the days of traditional management techniques are long gone.
Chris Matt offers insights gleaned from conversations with managers who make key maintenance and engineering decisions in commercial and institutional facilities.