What does the “Make Your Bed” speech, famous for its simple but powerful life advice from a former Navy SEAL, have to do with small businesses and maintenance management software? Turns out, a lot.
But first, some quick background on the speech. Admiral William H. McRaven wrote the speech for the commencement address to the graduates of The University of Texas at Austin back in May of 2014. Since then, online videos from the event have been viewed tens of millions of times, and in 2017 the admiral published a book with the same title. Just like in the original speech, he uses clear, direct language to describe the important lessons he learned over the course of his decorated military career, including how he survived the notorious “Hell Week,” considered the hardest five days and nights of the SEAL selection process.  

Although the admiral’s insights into success stem directly from his experiences as a Navy Special Operator, they apply to many different fields. And that includes small businesses ready to take control of their maintenance management.

Here’s the advice, how it connects to maintenance management, and how CMMS software helps you succeed.

“Make your bed” with CMMS software

“If you want to change the world, start off by making your bed.”
At first it sounds a bit like a joke, and in the video of the speech, you can hear the audience’s initial laugher. Could something as simple as making your bed in the morning have any real effect on your life? According to Admiral McRaven, there are many reasons why it can. First, it helps you start the day with a sense of pride, which encourages you to keep completing tasks throughout the day.

He then goes on to explain:
“Making your bed will also reinforce the fact that little things in life matter. If you can’t do the little things right, you will never do the big things right.”

Small companies benefit from thinking this way about maintenance and adopting a modern CMMS solution now instead of later. Remember, being able to tackle the big things starts with being able to tackle the little ones. If a company doesn’t get set up now, it’s going to be more challenging to get set up later. Once you have the process and workflows worked out, it’s a lot easier to scale them as the organization grows.

Data-rich work orders

Here’s another connection between maintenance success and the benefits of looking after all the little things. When you get down to it, every maintenance task is simply a series of connected mini-tasks. In order to repair or maintain an asset properly, you need to complete all the tasks, in the right order.

With traditional paper- or spreadsheet-based work orders, it’s difficult to include all the information technicians need to work independently and close out efficiently. Worst-case scenario, they’re using trial and error or educated guesses when working on expensive, critical equipment. Modern CMMS software work orders come packed with information, including:

  • Step-by-step instructions
  • Customizable checklists
  • Digital images, schematics, and O&M manuals
  • Interactive floor and site maps

By making sure the little things are looked after, small businesses ensure success now and in the future.

Get everyone paddling in the same direction with CMMS software

“If you want to change the world, find someone to help you paddle.”

Much of SEAL training involves paddling five-man boats through cold, rough surf. If the team doesn’t work together, it’s impossible for them to make any progress. In fact, the boat quickly turns, gets broadsided by a wave, and capsizes. The only way forward is as a cohesive team, and this is true for more than just five guys on the water.

The admiral explains:
“You can’t change the world alone — you will need some help — and to truly get from your starting point to your destination takes friends, colleagues, the good will of strangers and a strong coxswain to guide them.”

To get everyone in the maintenance department “paddling in the same direction,” you first need them all working from the same set of data. Traditionally, that’s been a challenge. But a modern CMMS solution backed by cloud computing does it all for you.

Cloud computing

Traditional maintenance management methods had two big problems. With paper, data is trapped. It exists in one spot, a single piece of paper, which means there’s no easy way for you to get that information out to technicians. Paper is also pretty easy to lose, eventually leading to gaps in data that make it impossible to create reliable reports. Spreadsheets have the opposite problem: the information is too easy to spread; all you need to do is attach the file to an email. But there’s nothing keeping all those copies consistent. As soon as you make changes to one of them, every other copy goes out of date. Everyone has data, but no one has the same data.

Modern facilities management software solves this problem by keeping all your data in one place, updating changes in real-time, and making it accessible from anywhere, at any time. Once everyone is working off the same data, it’s much easier to prioritize, generate, schedule, delegate, and track work for the whole team.

Find the right KPIs to track with CMMS software

“If you want to change the world, measure a person by the size of their heart, not the size of their flippers.”
Here’s another great lesson learned from paddling in a small boat surrounded by large waves. During the selection processes, the five smallest guys were put in the same boat. Although they were the target of good-natured teasing, Admiral McRaven soon discovered that the smallest guys consistently out paddled, out swam, and out ran everyone else. He realized that when you judge people, you have to pay attention to the right attributes. In the end, the only thing that really predicted success during SEAL training was heart and willpower.

According to the admiral:
“SEAL training was a great equalizer. Nothing mattered but your will to succeed. Not your color, not your ethnic background, not your education and not your social status.”

Should small businesses measure their people and programs according to passion and resolve? Probably not. But what they should do is find the right set of KPIs and track them closely. Each industry has its own preferred set, but most maintenance departments should at least track downtime and associated asset costs.

Autogenerated reports

Traditional methods make reporting tedious at best, prone to error at worst. That means even after lots of sorting through scraps of paper or clicking back and forth through spreadsheet files, you still can’t really trust your final numbers. But with CMMS software, all the data is collected and crunched for you. With a few clicks, you can generate insight-rich reports. Now, instead of guessing about where your budget is going, you know exactly which assets are costing you the most to keep running. Finally, you can make repair-or-replace decisions without worrying about throwing out value or throwing good money after bad. Overall, tracking resources and inventory creates transparency and enforces accountability. For smaller businesses, this is critical. Working with smaller budgets, they need to be very careful about how their money is getting used.

But not all of the advice in the admiral’s speech easily applies to maintenance departments. And some of it could backfire.

Design and enforce safe, reliable best practices with CMMS software

“If you want to change the world sometimes you have to slide down the obstacle head first.”
In his speech, Admiral McRaven recounts the time someone broke the longstanding obstacle course record. They also nearly broke their own neck in the process.

Admiral McRaven explains:
“It was a dangerous move — seemingly foolish, and fraught with risk … Without hesitation the student slid down the rope perilously fast. Instead of several minutes, it only took him half that time and by the end of the course he had broken the record.”

For the average small business maintenance department, this is likely not great advice. In fact, they more than likely should be doing the exact opposite: establishing solid, dependable processes for common tasks, and then making sure those processes are followed. They way to do that is with well designed templates for common work orders. Instead of having to rewrite and rebuild each work order, CMMS software lets you start off with a lot of information already included. Using the data-packed template as the foundation, you can then add any extra information that’s required. 

Ring the bell with CMMS software

“If you want to change the world don’t ever, ever ring the bell.”
The SEALs have a famous tradition: when someone has had enough and wants to drop out of the selection process, they ring a special bell, announcing that they’ve given up. The admiral’s advice is to never, ever ring that bell. If you want to be successful, you need to never give up.

He explains:
“Ring the bell and you no longer have to wake up at 5 o’clock. Ring the bell and you no longer have to do the freezing cold swims. Ring the bell and you no longer have to do the runs, the obstacle course, the PT — and you no longer have to endure the hardships of training.”

But when small companies are looking to improve their maintenance management, giving up is a great first step. Give up on the frustration and stress that comes from unreliable data. Give up on dealing with unscheduled downtime, inconsistent spare parts and materials inventory, and missed preventive maintenance. Walk away from all those headaches.

Give up and then call CMMS providers (you can literally ring them up on the phone, but email works, too). They’ll be able to help you find a CMMS solution for your small business that’s going to work for you now and allow you to easily scale up as your organization and department grow.

About The Author

Jonathan Davis

Jonathan has been covering asset management, maintenance software, and SaaS solutions since joining Hippo CMMS. Prior to that, he wrote for textbooks and video games.
Share this post


related articles
Read more Hippo CMMS articles on this topic
Hippo Solutions
Explore all of Hippo CMMS’ Solutions
See upcoming events
Check out our upcoming events and webinars