Legendary architect R. Buckminster Fuller may not have paid much mind to how housekeeping-friendly his building designs were. But philosopher R. Buckminster Fuller, years ago, offered up some sage advice that might be applicable to 2003’s version of the cash-strapped housekeeping manager.

“Whenever I draw a circle,” he once said, “I immediately want to step out of it.” I like the vivid symbolism of the harried housekeeper “circling the figurative wagon” of his department as wave after wave of cost cuts assault his staff’s ability to maintain cleanliness standards. The choice is clear: Rein in your cleaning standards and sacrifice appearance or take strides to be more proactive, more strategic, more analytical and, most important, more creative in how you manage your mission.

Three stories in this month’s issue are related in the sense that they document ways in which savvy managers can carry out the inherent housekeeping mission that’s critical to all organizations — consistently. One article documents how universities and colleges can best manage the traditional heavy cleanup associated with “school breaks.” Another documents what housekeeping departments inherently bring to the table if they’re disaster-prepared. Neither article suggests that the essence of your mission has to be overhauled just because you’re “strapped” for budget dollars. Our third story makes a case for doing more with less without sacrificing the most critical elements of your mission. Think outside the box.

Or, was that step outside the circle?