Kurt Vonnegut: Everybody wants to build and nobody wants to do maintenance

I saw this Kurt Vonnegut quote on Vala Afshare’s Twitter.

Maintenance is so important and so overlooked.

Plain old management has created a lot of good in the world. Through proper management a lot of justice has been achieved. My sister raised me using employee management techniques she picked up from your middle manager job at the phone company. Many urban ministry peers have helped youth for many consecutive years by through proper financial oversight and careful planning.

I was a director-level staff member for 13 years at Harambee Christian Family Center in Pasadena. I was there 19 years in all. For seven of those years, I was the associate director focused on programs, fundraising, and operations (we were a small staff of seven). Subsequently, I was the executive director for six years with complete oversight of fifteen staff (after we merged with Harambee Preparatory School). All those years, I sought to maintain a good thing. Dr. John Perkins got Harambee started in 1982 and built a foundation of property (six contiguous houses with no debt) and relationships (long-term donors and church partners). I wanted to improve on his work. Even more, I wanted to hand over the ministry when it was my time to go in manageable shape. We incurred no debt; when we left in 2009, we handed over a debt-free ministry with property valued at about $3 million. Our budget had grown to about $750,000 per year, but we had scaled carefully – I’m not even sure “scale” is the correct term because we were not pursuing growth initiatives. We added a staff member or two, but nothing that outpaced our capacity to keep our commitments. Doing this required me to think about and commit to solid management principles.