In my last post we talked about the frustrations of an executive maintenance leader. Now let's talk about how fleet management can reduce these frustrations to help maintain and motivate their maintenance leaders.
Senior leadership should not be wishy washy about expectations. The direction is pretty simple -- provide all trucks . . . all day . . . every day . . . at the lowest possible cost. Quit the fights over unrealistic budget goals. The goals are simple -- we need to be better today than yesterday. You should be managing the business plan and company's strategic direction. If a truck needs new tires, it needs new tires.
Head counts are always an argument . . . x people per vehicle . . . many reasons for the disagreements. Let the facts, or down time and uptime, determine the count. The key goal is obviously as few people as possible, but let true needs drive this decision rather than an arbitrary head count.
Conflicts often happen because everybody wants to critique the other manager's department . . . Nero fiddles while Rome burns. I often tell managers, "Stay in your own lane….and do not let others pass, stay out front."
Walk a mile in their shoes
All too often, there is just a lack of appreciation for the complexity of the maintenance leader's job; manifested in:
- Subpar compensation packages for the level of responsibility.
- Unachievable, manipulated goals.
- Leadership slowing down the process and "political go along to get along styles" dragging movement down. Fleet maintenance managers are geared to get it done now and move on. Maintenance is not a democracy, although it is important to have others involved. Most committees are made up of those who do not understand maintenance, and it becomes a training camp.
- The finance department's unrealistic controls and expectations can foster lack of respect and dilutes drive. Then the term “OK, whatever you want" kicks in and the waiting game for approval commences.
- Slow down and stop excessive busy work and reporting; it distracts from the goal of lower costs and digging into the true root causes.
- Disheartening ROI or "Rounds of Insanity" that require maintenance managers to spend hour upon hour making the numbers fit; a 12-year-old trailer is a 12-year-old trailer. There is no ROI.
These are just a few of the things that need to be looked at by senior management, but in too many cases it is senior leadership that does this. In defense of senior leadership, however, most in maintenance need to be driven hard because lack of experience and complacency are unfortunately the norm.
To support my argument, look at some web sites of trucking or fleet maintenance companies; many managers and positions are listed, but see how many list VP’s of maintenance; not too many in my experience. This, in itself, contributes to the lack of respect for a position that has great responsibility.
For those maintenance managers who read this, raise your performance and the credibility of your position. Correct misconceptions. This will help you receive the support from senior management and level of compensation that you truly deserve.
Darry Stuart is a guest blogger for Double Coin Tires. He founded DWS Fleet Management Services in 1999 and has helped many fleets, both large and small, improve their bottom line. He advises his clients on tires (here's what he thinks about Double Coin), but devotes most of his efforts to personnel and organizational issues.