Maintenance is one of several functions that have to support the overall objectives of an organization. In many organizations, maintenance is the largest, the most complex, and the most difficult to manage function. The formulation of a maintenance strategy affects, and is affected by, many factors inside and outside the organization.
According to Skinner (1992) strategy refers to exploiting certain capabilities as a competitive weapon. These capabilities are affected by the type of technologies utilized, sociological factors inside (political and behavioural) and external (e.g. governmental regulations and societal culture).
A maintenance strategy formulation is a deliberate, planned and rational activity. During the formulation emergent factors like political, cultural, economic, and legal obligations have to be considered. A maintenance strategy itself should be a set of planning policies designed to maximize performance among success criteria to meet the determined business task s formulated in a strategic asset management plan (SAMP). A maintenance strategy also seek to achieve consistency and therefore affect resources and policies directly related to assets, operations and delivery of products and services.
Decision areas and related activities must be categorized according to Hayes and Wheelwright (1985) as general organizational attributes (structures, roles, interfaces and interconnections). Another important concept of strategy is the three dimensions i.e. process, content (Voss, 1992) and context (Pettigrew, 1987). The first element is that strategy needs to follow a process or a sequence of predefined prescriptive steps or stages. The second element is content or what the strategy contains, the areas to be focused on, the objectives that show what the decisions and actions are. Content includes capabilities, strategic choices and best practices (Dangayach, Deshmukh, 2001). Theodorou and Florou (2008) addresses content issues as cost, quality, flexibility, dependability and innovation as competitive priorities. The third element of strategy is context. This is the environment strategy exists within. Contextual factors internal as well as external can impact strategy. In particular, internal factors such as culture, politics and history (Pettigrew, 1987) have been shown to adversely affect the strategy (Barnes, 2002).
The planning of operational end maintenance activities depends on a pattern of decisions that acts upon the formulation and deployment of resources. The first step in the process establishes to define objectives for the future state. These objectives should be coherently aligned to business goals. Once the future state objectives are established, the current state is measured in relation to these objectives. The product of the strategy formulation process is a plan for moving a company from where it is to where it wants to be and enables the organization to satisfy a variety of requirements.
Avery and Bailey (1998), categorized six perspectives of strategy formation:
- Planning perspective: describes the strategy formation as an intentional and logical process, involving a rational, sequential, and analytical set of procedures.
- Incremental perspective: strategy is developed in an iterative manner, encompassing feedback loops to previous phases in which problems and solutions may be redefined or redeveloped.
- Political perspective: views the strategy formation as a negotiation process developed by the firm. In this perspective, different interest groups or stakeholders, both internal and external to the organization, come into play, each one with their own goals and objectives.
- Cultural perspective: describes the strategic process based on the concept of business culture. Shared frames of reference, which are the organization’s beliefs, enable the organization and the world in which it operates to be understood.
- Command perspective: defines strategy as a visionary process, in which the leader establishes a founder play an important role.
- Enforced choice perspective: based on the consideration of strategy as a reactive and deterministic process. In enforced perspective, realized strategy is determined by powerful factors in the external environment that limit the organization’s strategic choices.
The maintenance strategy is formed through both a deliberate and an emergent route. In the deliberate route, the strategy is developed as the result of a managerial interpretation of their interpretation of the business strategy and implications of external factors. In the emergent route activities and decisions occur in action by interpret external factors. Every instance of the managerial interpretation should occur in the specific context of the organization.