Leadership Lesson: Maintenance of the Effort

By | February 8, 2019

[February 8, 2019]  Yesterday morning I was at my dentist’s office for a cleaning and checkup.  The dental hygienist was talkative, of course, while my mouth is open and I couldn’t talk.  But she said something that interested me.  She said that I was one of few people who came in that actually knew how to do maintenance on my teeth.  I was, she said, an “aware customer.”

I had a likeable commander once who told me that one of the hardest skills for a leader to learn is to encourage everyone to “bully through the work” necessary to keep up our physical and mental fitness.  To be a good leader in the military requires learning about tactics, weapons and equipment, soldier psychology, and a host of other things that require constant care.

Growing up in a rural culture in the Deep South of the U.S., I had learned about guns and ammo, hunting dogs, and safety.  This translated nicely into the Army where I used my ideas to improve our unit’s combat effectiveness.  But there was one thing, but also unremitting maintenance of our equipment and health.  Maintenance was paramount to ensure the long-term viability of the unit.

I wrote last year about how New York City political leaders deferred maintenance on their subway trains and stations, bridges, utilities, and roads for short-term fiscal gains (see link here).  Now the costs and inconvenience to the public has become a scandal.  Furthermore, the problem cannot be fixed even with large amounts of money.  NYC, like so many other large cities, has failed to carry out its most basic function of keeping the city operating properly.

Regular maintenance is crucial to keep things functioning smoothly, to keep costs under control, and to prevent unnecessary disruption.  It must be a part of the organizational culture; otherwise, there is the tendency to put it off until a later date.

When this occurs and problems accumulate, the required new effort to fix everything can be close to impossible.  I saw this with several small towns in the North East U.S. several years ago during an unusually cold winter.  Their failure to keep town snowplows operating meant the snow built up on the roads leading to more traffic accidents and damage to sidewalk-mounted traffic lights and other town equipment.

I’ve been doing my due diligence to keep my teeth and gums healthy.  No cavities, mom!  The leadership lesson is to maintain the maintenance of the effort.

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Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

Hello. I'm Doug and I provide at least one article everyday on some leadership topic. I welcome comments and also guests who would like to write an article. Thanks for reading my blog.

23 thoughts on “Leadership Lesson: Maintenance of the Effort

  1. Army Vet

    First priority is to maintain your rifle. Everything else is just icing on the cake. If your weapon malfunctions in combat, you’re dead. Plain and simple. There are priorities and there are priorities. Pay close attention to this !!

  2. Willie Shrumburger

    Hey, all you retired Army guys. Remember PS Magazine. It’s now on-line at the link below. I remember when the women were all young and beautiful. That is, of course, now gone. A PC army now. But the mag is still a good one for content.
    https://www.logsa.army.mil/#/psmag

    1. Willie Shrumburger

      … but at least they are not showing fat soldiers.

    2. Jake Tapper, Jr.

      Willie, did you ever serve in 8th US army in Korea? I did and there was someone with your name in a unit next to mine.

      1. Willie Shrumburger

        Nope. I was in the 1st Cav and 1st Armor Div back in the 1960s and 1970s.

  3. Janna Faulkner

    Just a reminder to everyone here that next week is Valentines Day so don’t forget your spouse (or ‘significant other’). This is a good time to hit the stores and buy something that requires a bit of thinking on your part. Oh, and good article today.

  4. Yusaf from Texas

    Hi everyone. I’m not commenting as often as I used too. Been rather busy at work and with the family. I continue to read every article here and enjoy each and everyone. In Texas, this is the kind of thinking that makes you one of the better leaders. I’ve seen it happen over and over. I also read the comments.

  5. Albert Ayer

    Nicely written. That’s why I keep coming back, Gen. Satterfield.

  6. Len Jakosky

    A different perspective on doing those things ‘that need doing.’ Great!

  7. Max Foster

    Gen. Satterfield has linked to an article in his “Daily Favorites” that addresses this very issue in France with their recent resurgent political conservative movement. The title is “The Right-Wing Pundit ‘Hashtag Triggering’ France.” Go to that page and read at your pleasure. Note that it is a New York Times article so even there they have extreme anti-conservative bias yet the article seems okay.

  8. Eva Easterbrook

    Loved your article today, Gen. Satterfield. We don’t typcially think of such things. Puts my hard work over a long lifetime in a little more in perspective.

    1. Joe the Aussie

      Remember that you are only as old as you feel. And, never stop learning!
      I’m 22 and thinking with much younger friends that I’m old but I know better.
      Cheers!

  9. Dennis Mathes

    Another good article here at theleadermaker … thanks.

  10. Army Captain

    From my military experience I can say that maintenance of equipment, men, and vehicles is the key to winning any fight.

    1. Dale Paul Fox

      It’s always conforting to know that Army Captain is here.

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