To Maintain

It’s impossible to simply maintain“. That’s what a mentor veterinarian told me over lunch earlier this week, as we were discussing our role as consultant, and what that means to be a consultant for an owner, and how we need to communicate that role. We are more than just problem-solver, or answer-giver, and fixing a problem is not nearly as valuable to the owner as building a culture that prevents the problem, yet owners tend to value the former more than the latter.

In cases where we have leaned heavy in certain areas, we have consistently seen major improvements, but it always comes at a cost that is higher (mostly labor and effort cost). The answers are often found to be a drift away from what we once had already decided was important to do; things are now a little bit sloppier, we cut a few corners to save some time, we found an “easier” way to get the work done. I know it’s not fair to blame physics, but it sure seems like cultures, behaviors, and workmanship are ruled by entropy as much as chemical processes.

I think this is the natural way of things, and it’s why you always see the mud and dead grass on the inside corner of any right-angle in a concrete footpath. It’s why I just now noticed that I myself was slouching, and breathing poorly, even as I write this. Energy conservation – and I don’t even need to conserve physical energy as I have more than enough extra calories already stored in too many adipocytes.

Anway, going back to what the vet said during the lunch “it’s impossible to simply maintain“, he was indicating that the groups we seek to serve are not in closed systems. People come and go from those groups, external pressures and internal dynamics are always shifting, and all of that will have an effect on the system in question.

So how do we demonstrate this to owners?

It seems like, on many occasions, we have figured out how to get the desired results by being the force that brings energy into the system, but how do we go beyond supplying the energy to affect change? How do we begin to actually redesign systems? What if part of every project I do, every report I write, I deliberately focused on the steps we need to take to maintain (reevaluation at an appropriate later date, assignment of someone to oversee the issue in question, etc) the ground we gained. Because I think that vet was right – simply maintaining is a pipe dream.

We must choose to go forward.