Category Archives: Maintainers

The Secret of the Amazing People That Hold the World Together

Have you been in a public restroom lately?  Take a minute and think about what it looked like…

  • Was there toilet paper all over the floor but none in the stalls?
  • Was the mirror nearly opaque?
  • Did the soap work and were there towels?


Silly questions you might think…odds are high that there were toilet paper and towels, and the mirror was (relatively) clean.  So, why was that area not an absolute disaster?


Clearly, someone has the responsibility of keeping that area clean.  In most public restrooms, you can find the ‘hour by hour’ chart that is kept to show that regular maintenance is done.  When that maintenance is not done, we notice!

The same is true with many things in today’s world but we can forget that if the grass is to be mown, the floors cleaned, and the plants watered, someone has to make it happen.

In her article How ‘Maintainers,’ Not ‘Innovators,’ Make the World Turn, Laura Bliss reminds us that, while “new technologies and their inventors [like Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Elon Musk and Larry Page] are often celebrated as society’s heroes,…the human-built world is maintained and sustained—so often by unnamed, unseen, and underpaid labor.”

Like the public restroom, maintenance isn’t usually appreciated until we miss it.  Sometimes, deferred maintenance can result in disaster like the fire protection system failure at the World Trade Center on 9/11, the levee failures in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina, and collapse of the I-35W Mississippi River bridge in Minnesota.  All well known examples of a little-recognized issue.

So, next time you celebrate innovation, don’t forget to take a look behind the scenes and look for the many maintainers that make it possible!



Football Program Maintainers – Nick Saban

Today’s post is the last in a series on the three types of change resources in the world of football.   So far, we’ve talked about a Builder (Urban Meyer) and a Visionary ( Darrel “Mouse” Davis).  Today we’ll be talking about a very successful Maintainer.

Maintainers typically like being ‘experts.’  Although they don’t often get much publicity, Maintainers are key to the stability of every organization.  They excel at doing the same thing, the same way every time…and that’s what University of Alabama coach Nick Saban does.  His teams win football games (and championships) almost every year.

NickSaban_LSU-AL-07t (1)

Saban’s detailed plan for winning is affectionately called “The Process” around the university’s Tuscaloosa home and it encompasses everything from his players summer workouts to what he eats for breakfast (Little Debbie Oatmeal Creme Pies thank you very much).  Saban wants things done the same way (HIS way) every time with the belief that if everyone does their job correctly, they will be successful.

Saban’s (some would say maniacal) need to control the details doesn’t mean that he’s not open to new ideas.  He was an early adopter of academic advisers and sports psychiatrists to help his teams be successful in less obvious facets of the game.

Maintainers can get a bad rap for wanting to ‘keep the process going’.  However, Saban shows us that doing the right things year after year can produce some pretty impressive results.

Photo credit: Wikipedia

Football Program Builders – Urban Meyer

We’re all surrounded by Visionaries, Builders, and Maintainers.  The next three posts will describe one of each of the three types in the world of football.   Today, we’ll be talking about a famous Builder, Urban Meyer.

As a reminder, Builders like to ‘construct’ things (people, organizations, processes, relationships) until they no longer see opportunities for improvement. Then, it’s time to find something else to build.

Love him or hate him, Meyer’s name is synonymous with success in College Football.  In the last 10 years, he has two undefeated seasons (Utah – 2004 and Ohio State – 2012) and two National Championships (Florida – 2006 and 2008).   The success of 2012 has led to great expectations for 2013. Since Meyer has dealt with this before (I mean, the guy won two National Championships in three years!), you might think maintaining success is easy for him. Not so fast.

Building takes passion and energy.  Maintenance is awful.  It’s nothing but fatigue.  Once you reach the top, maintaining that beast is awful – Urban Meyer

Urban Meyer at the White House - 2009

Meyer sure sounds like a Builder to me. He’s energized by building a new program (Ohio State is his fourth(!) turnaround). At the same time, he realizes that maintaining is hard (even life threatening).

With success that has come via shady talent, Meyer is a polarizing figure who doesn’t seem to put down roots for long.   If he has a couple more successful seasons with the Buckeyes, I won’t be surprised if he finds the stress of maintaining too much to deal with.  Then, if he continues his Builder behavior, he will go looking for a new challenge.  Maybe the NFL?

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