A Maintenance Manager’s Guide to Getting Lucky


“The more I practice, the luckier I get.”

This quote is etched on the key fobs of the golf carts where I play. It’s attributed to Ben Hogan, one of the game’s greats, who was known to practice more than any of his contemporaries. Whether or not he’s the one who actually said it, it’s certainly a clever way of saying something I’ve always found to be true: practice makes perfect. And “perfect” is often interpreted as lucky.

Today I read an article on Inc.com titled Five Things Super Lucky People Do.   The article’s directed at sales people, business managers, and “C-level” execs, and it suggests five practices you can adopt to improve your “luck.” Reading it, I wondered, “Could this apply to maintenance engineers, too?”  I think it can.

Here’s what it suggests:

  1. Play to your strengths
  2. Prepare in advance
  3. Start early
  4. Connect with as many people as possible
  5. Follow up

Here’s how I interpret it for maintenance managers.

Play to your strengths. Do what you do best.  Avoid what you fear or don’t know.  Focus your efforts and resources where they will be the most successful and get the highest return on investment. Maintenance managers can’t always pick and choose, though.  You have broad-ranging responsibilities across numerous areas of expertise. So how do you “play to your strengths”? Outsourcing can fill key gaps your team isn’t staffed, trained, or equipped to handle. Focus your team on things they do best, and find solid contractors to do the rest.

Prepare in advance. Fix problems before they occur.  Don’t let things break down.  Prevent catastrophic failures. By establishing and continuously improving a strong preventive maintenance program, you’ll reduce your team’s overall workload and create a culture focused on staying ahead of the game.

Start early.  We all know Murphy’s Law: if something can go wrong, it will. In short, “Sh*t happens.” The best way to prevent Murphy from visiting your shop is by starting early and being mentally prepared to meet some obstacles.  Allow enough time for any eventuality. If you estimate four hours for a PM, don’t wait till four hours before the asset is needed to start repairs.

Connect with as many people as possible. Get out of the plant and office, both literally and virtually.  Network with other people in your profession.  Seek out others at your same level of management.  Expand your reading list.  By connecting with more people and ideas you’ll challenge your basic assumptions, validating some and letting others go.  Get to know new people you can exchange ideas with, and those who know others you’d like to know. Find some in similar industries.  Build a network of people inside and outside your organization. Join some industry organizations to accelerate network growth.

Follow up. Reporting is the key to maintenance follow-up. Establish a few key reports and check them at regular intervals. They’ll provide the necessary information for continuous improvement and help you focus your limited time on the right assets.  Maintenance personnel are charged with improving uptime (reducing downtime), reducing the cost of maintenance, and extending asset life.  To measure the progress on these and other goals, you need to report, report, and (yep) report.  Last month’s reports provide a baseline against which to measure this month’s results.  Frequent, consistent, reporting provides the data for trend analysis.  Reports provide the follow-up to confirm you are doing what you said you were going to do.

So what do you think? Can you improve your “luck”? I’m convinced that following these five suggestions can make you seem lucky—and good–to those monitoring your performance. Maybe the strategy could work in other areas of your life too (wink, wink). Drop me a line in the comments section and let me know what you think.

Here are few bonus quotes about luck from some notable names throughout history:

Thomas Jefferson: I am a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work, the more I have of it.

Ralph Waldo Emerson: Shallow men believe in luck. Strong men believe in cause and effect.

Seneca (Roman Philosopher, mid-1st century AD): Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.

Lucille Ball: Luck to me is something else: hard work—and realizing what is opportunity and what isn’t.

Benjamin Franklin: Diligence is the mother of good luck.

Ray Kroc: Luck is the dividend of sweat. The more you sweat, the luckier you get.