Maintenance isn’t the most attention-stealing strategy but it is one of the most important. In the same way cars need oil changes and teeth need regular cleanings, our lives, teams, and organizations have essential upkeep. The better we are at strategically implementing regular maintenance the longer we can survive and thrive.
Vaughn Tan calls the idea of building maintenance into our systems and processes “maintenance by design.” As he explains it (his emphasis),
The most common way to think about maintenance is as a process of finding and fixing broken stuff—maintenance as the routinized search for problems. in order to catch them when they are still small. This allows many small fixes (easier and usually cheaper) instead of a big one (harder, requiring more downtime, more expensive).
Maintenance by design means building systems (individuals, teams, organizations, supersystems) to intentionally be sensitive to change, to display the effect of change transparently, and to be malleable in response to that effect.
When we regularly pick up, clean up, and put things back together, we run a tight ship. Because we’re constantly minding the details, we’re also sensitive to anything that is changing or has changed. When maintenance is a part of everyone’s responsibility it has the power to sharpen a whole group’s sensibilities. An attentive culture is a strong culture.