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Avoid the Complacency of Running a Well-Managed Fleet

May 2, 2008, by Mike Antich - Also by this author

 By Mike Antich 

Complacency. It is defined as self-satisfaction, especially when accompanied by unawareness of actual dangers or deficiencies.

Is this you?

Complacency is a real danger to fleet operations, especially well-run fleets. Most fleet managers will tell you that the “low-hanging fruit” has been picked long ago and there are a diminishing number of opportunities to further refine fleet efficiency and reduce costs. There is truth in this statement, but sometimes it can be used as an excuse by some fleet managers not to stray from their comfort zone. They reason that things are working just fine, why monkey with a well-tuned fleet operation? Again, there is some truth to this statement. But ask yourself, “Is your goal to run a well-managed fleet or do you want to run a best-in-class fleet?”

A great fleet manager constantly conceptualizes new initiatives, is creative in problem-solving, motivates staff and suppliers to excel, and is willing to experiment by implementing new technology-based fleet solutions. A fleet manager who gets too comfortable with his or her operation becomes complacent with his or her skill set. When operations are running smoothly, there is inertia to change. The conventional wisdom is to not change something that isn’t broken.

Are these fleet managers truly optimizing fleet performance?

An early mentor advised me long ago to never get comfortable. Always assume a competitor breathing down your neck, even if there isn’t one.

Push your horizon and implement “stretch goals.”

This also applies to fleet management. The great fleet managers I have known over the years are not complacent; they are strivers constantly pushing the envelope.

Stretch Beyond Your Comfort Level

Veteran fleet managers who have implemented numerous cost saving initiatives will tell you that savings become more difficult to find – the law of diminishing returns takes hold. They point out that most of the excess cost has been wrung out of the operation. They point to metrics that prove the fleet is running smoothly.

These fleet managers are operating on auto pilot. They’ve become comfortable. Becoming comfortable, or “resting on one’s laurels,” is the road to complacency.

Complacency is the enemy of excellence. A great fleet manager always believes additional cost savings can be achieved.

They recognize the need to be creative. They also believe there is always something new to learn. They are continual learners. These fleet managers stay current with industry best practices and network with industry-respected fleet managers. However, there are other sources of best practices. One underutilized resource is prospective suppliers. Many fleet managers make themselves inaccessible to prospective suppliers. They are missing a wonderful opportunity to pick their brains, to learn of new developments in the industry. You need to continually ask suppliers what they have seen among their client base that is successful. Could these practices be implemented in your fleet operation?

I learned long ago that it is impossible to be an expert in fleet management. It is a continually evolving industry and the best that we can hope for is to keep pace with the changes and perhaps gain the insight to peer a little beyond the horizon. You can be an expert on Roman history, for example, since that history has a beginning and an end. But fleet management is a dynamic profession that is constantly evolving. Fleet management best practices in the next decade will dramatically differ from those of today. Many of these future best practices will be technology-based. If you are not continually learning about fleet management, about new products and services, it’s easy to become stale at what you do. Network with your peers. Ask what’s working for them. Probe. Avoid the “not invented here” arrogance. Adopt proven solutions successful at other fleet operations.

Cancel Auto Pilot & Grab the Controls

Without realizing it, some long-time fleet managers get settled into their positions and get too comfortable. They coast along repeating what’s worked in the past. The result?

They get complacent. At worst, they stagnate. Are you too comfortable in your position?

Getting out of your comfort zone forces you to view fleet management in a new way. It stimulates you to think new thoughts and see solutions in a different light. Be willing to experiment. Not all problems have a silver bullet solution; many times problems are resolved through incremental enhancements. Be proactive. Great fleet managers confront deficiencies before they become problems. But more importantly, they don’t rest on their past laurels. They always believe more can be done.

As Malcolm Kushner, a humorist said, “People who are resting on their laurels are wearing them on the wrong end.”

Let me know what you think.

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Author Bio

Mike Antich

Editor and Associate Publisher

Mike has covered fleet management and remarketing for more than 20 years and entered the Fleet Hall of Fame in 2010.

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