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Has a claw hammer ever cost you $850? Insane, right?

Has a claw hammer ever cost you $850? Insane, right?

The definition of insanity, according to Albert Einstein, is when you keep doing the same thing over and over again while expecting different results.  In the early years, our team consistently acted insane!  We would have equipment suddenly disappear; become frustrated with tools being broken and unready to use; waste valuable productivity trying to “fix” the problem.  We would point fingers, blaming others for their neglect and continue putting up tools and equipment the same way over and over again (sigh).

And then, I got down to business, OWNED the problem, sought some advice and began to truly analyze the “things” we kept doing over and over again.  We went into the Landscape Industry’s version of psychoanalysis and it paid off.

Here are the top 5 things we did to become sane:

  1. Staff Input: We got our staff together, usually key people, but sometimes everyone to ask their opinions and ideas.  What frustrated them most about the tool/equipment problems?  What cost us most in time and budget? It was great feedback and seemed to energize as well as empower all of us to find solutions.
  1. Became Proactive:
    • We stopped blaming one another and asked “What can we can control?” not “What can we could not control?”
    • We asked, who else has done this before? What do we need, don’t need?  Who is the expert in this area?   We visited other companies, universities and facilities and examined their tools/equipment process.  After each visit, we made slight modifications to how we did what we did.
  2. Hired a real mechanic:
    • I once had a claw hammer that literally cost me $850. I had asked our under-trained “shade tree mechanic” to build some shelves to organize his work space.  When he asked me if he could purchase a $10 claw hammer I naturally said yes.  Little did I know that he also used that claw hammer to beat on some brake drums and then try to reverse his mistake with the claw part of the hammer – on a brand-new mower!   Needless to say, this little trick voided our manufacturer’s warranty,  Three months and $850 later, the mower was repaired…by the distributor.
    • We now have two certified mechanics who are pro-active problem solvers. This hiring move made such a difference in quality of repairs and preventive maintenance.
  3. Reviewed the Process with an eye for improvement: We reviewed the entire process from where the tool is locked down, loaded, transported, used, serviced and returned.   We changed the process for sharing tools among multiple crews.  This became our secret to success as different staff members made each step a little better.  Today, if a shared piece of power equipment, such as a chainsaw, is used, it is serviced by our mechanic before it is returned to the lock up.  This cut down on equipment not working first thing in the morning.
  1. Trained and Empowered: We discovered that irregular training resulted in a trained crew for a week or two, then a new hire or a student added to the process resulted in reverting to old bad habits. So now, we use Landscape University to regularly and consistently train everyone.  Before going out in the field everyone has been through the classes and taken the quizzes.   The knowledge and accountability has increased ten-fold and empowered the individual team member to not only take ownership of the problems,  but most importantly, the solutions.

All that analysis paid off and we are happy to declare ourselves a sane and productive staff.

Jeff McManus is an author, trainer and blogger ,  His books include Prune Like a Pro and the leadership development book, Growing Weeders into Leaders.  Jeff is also the Director of Landscaping, Airport and Golf Services at the beautiful University of Mississippi (Ole Miss) campus in Oxford, MS.  Jeff’s work has been featured in USA Today, The New York Times, Princeton Review and Newsweek.   He is a proud Certified Grounds Manager with PGMS and an International Certified Arborist.

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