High Maintenance


It seems to me that people and companies are often quite good (or at least passable) at setting things up, setting things in motion but pretty useless at making sure they stay on track. This happens with equipment of course, but also with systems, procedures and even customer relationships.

On the train the other day, I noticed that guards checking tickets seem to scribble on them with a pen. Previously I had observed them instead using a hand held stamp machine, that stamped a time and date on them. I asked why this was so. “Ah”, came the reply – “Yes I do have such a machine but it uses ink pads. No-one ever remembers to order new ones when the ink runs out, so we don’t use them.”

The same things happen with first aid boxes, portable appliance testing and workplaces generally. If we fail to have systems in place to monitor them, fail to allocate people to the task of checking things are in order, not running low, then things fall apart. Checking is dull and the thought of it is even duller. It’s the repetition you see. This is especially so if we always report that things are generally in order (possibly because we can’t muster the enthusiasm to look) or we don’t actually do anything with the data. It is no surprise that management systems (safety, environment, quality or whatever else you call it to manage your business) often fall over on their monitoring/checking side – you know, audits and stuff like that. It’s nice not to have our fantasy disturbed by unwelcome reality but it’s not the way to live.

How many times have we seen wonderful websites with all sorts of contact options. You know very well that if you submit an email query, pressing the submit button just sends the query directly to the shredder or to an inbox that no-one monitors. Ironically it once took an on-line only insurance company two weeks to respond to my simple question. That is probably indicative of the sort of service you’ll get if you ever make a claim. But that’s not an isolated incident by any means – there is simply not the personnel and procedural infrastructure (checking, monitoring, resources) behind it. It’s aspirational rather than practical reality.

How many companies put huge amounts of effort into winning new customers only to neglect them when they have purchased the initial product/service. After sales service is often poor. If it isn’t, it is remarkable and we feel honoured – because it is so different.

Maybe I should take up smoking – now that’s something that people find easy to repeat, almost like they’re addicted or something. If only I could work out how we could get addicted to monitoring.