Do You Have a Lack of Slack?

What is “slack” and why do you need it?

Here are 4 variations on how you might use the word SLACK:

  1. Lazy…someone who does not get things done. – “Your slack” or “Don’t slack off”
  2. Give me a break. – “Cut me some slack”
  3. Create “margin”. – “Give the rope a little slack”
  4. Real Time Messaging Software – #slack (The the way our team uses #slack a TON…love this product…thank you Michael Hyatt for putting us on to it a couple years ago)

I was recently reading a blog by my favorite blogger…Seth Godin…and he referenced “slack” using a variation on #3 above.  I have never used it this way…but it works.  Below is what he said (or you can read it on his blog HERE)

PROBLEMS

Avoiding a problem with foresight and good design is a cheap, highly leveraged way to do your work.

Extinguishing a problem before it gets expensive and difficult is almost as good, and far better than paying a premium when there’s an emergency.

Fretting about an impending problem, worrying about it, imagining the implications of it… all of this is worthless.

The magic of slack (a little extra time in the chain, a few extra dollars in the bank) is that it gives you the resources to stop and avoid a problem or fix it when it’s small. The over-optimized organization misunderstands the value of slack, so it always waits until something is a screaming emergency, because it doesn’t think it has a moment to spare. Expensive.

Action is almost always cheaper now than it is later.

This got me thinking about how most churches and other organizations do not account for slack in their facility management or facility stewardship initiates. In this context, slack = margin.

In his excellent book, Margin: Restoring Emotional, Physical, Financial, and Time Reserves to Overloaded Lives, Richard Swenson, M.D. describes margin (i.e. slack) like this:

Margin is the space between our load and our limits. It is the amount allowed beyond that which is needed. It is something held in reserve for contingencies or unanticipated situations. Margin is the gap between rest and exhaustion, the space between breathing freely and suffocating.

Part of the above references “time” and how we need to provide margin/slack in our calendar to avoid burnout and overload.  But the area highlighted is very real in facility management. What struck me is that this principle is relevant across a myriad of applications for a facility manager or other person responsible with stewarding their facilities.  Here are a few applications:

  1. The most important slack is time…I agree with that.  If your team is working 6-7 days a week with little to no down time…you need some slack.
  2. If your calendar is so full with activities that you do not have the time to prepare, lead, plan, forecast and the like…you need some slack.
  3. If your budget is so tight that any deviation will send you into a tail spin…you need some slack.
  4. Monetarily…if your organization does not have a Capital Reserve fund that is growing to prepare you for future known expenses (You will replace every HVAC unit…you will replace every roof…you will replace all flooring. These are FACTS of facility life cycle.)…you need a lot of SLACK.

Do you need some slack?  Are you or your facilities suffering from a lack of slack?

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