Maintenance Lessons from the Solar Eclipse


A rare solar eclipse passing over the continental United States this week thrust small towns in the spotlight as visitors streamed into communities that weren’t built for sudden population booms.

While the news covered traffic jams and fuel shortages, not much attention was focused on the folks on the front lines—maintenance professionals.

While everyone watched the sky, maintenance teams kept things working on the ground. Facility managers dealt with spikes in visitors; fleet maintenance teams worked overtime to keep emergency vehicles ready; and maintenance techs responded as quickly as possible when things didn’t go as planned.

Even if you weren’t in the path of totality, there’s lessons to be learned from a major event like an eclipse. Now that it’s over, it’s a good time to evaluate what worked, and what didn’t. We call this a postmortem—a review of what happened (and what didn’t) following an event.

How to Perform a Maintenance Postmortem

Conducting a maintenance postmortem is simple. Get your stakeholders together (managers, techs, IT, human resources, accounting, etc.) as soon as possible after the event. Ask specific questions and listen carefully to the answers.

Your goal is to gather information that will help you identify future needs, so your maintenance team has what they need to meet other challenges ahead.

What Did We Accomplish?

Start your postmortem with the good stuff—a summary of the event and what went right. Ask questions like…

  • What did we need to do?
  • What were our goals?
  • What happened?
  • What did we accomplish?
  • What went according to plan?
  • What worked?

What Can We Do Better?

Next identify things that could have gone better.

This part can be tricky. Remember any event or project could have gone more smoothly—but a postmortem is not about assigning blame. It’s a process for improvement, so everyone is better prepared next time.

Ask questions like…

  • What didn’t we expect?
  • What didn’t we know at the time?
  • What resources were we missing?
  • Were we able to track everything we needed to?
  • What could we do better?
  • What would have made things run more smoothly?
  • What would we have done differently?

What Can We Do Next Time?

End your maintenance post-mortem on a positive note. Review the suggestions for improvement, and recognize the contributions and hard work of your team.

Postmortems aren’t just for big things like rare celestial events. They’re a great way to evaluate how your maintenance operations are working at any time for projects both big and small. And the effort pays off when everyone is better prepared next time.

What did your team learn? Leave a comment or contact us.