I got a call from an old friend a few weeks ago; he had started a job with a new company a couple of years ago in what he thought was a position of influence and two years later he was questioning his decision to accept this position. “I think I have used up the time your given to influence change, when I first got here people were excited about the new focus on reliability but every time I try to get some money to get things started I hit a road block. I’ve got no money for training, no money for tools or equipment, and no money for consulting but my bosses still expect to see change.”
I really enjoy talking to my old friends; we share a common bond having worked together to build a culture of reliability that started at the shop floor in one department and over a period of 15 years slowly spread to an entire company. Back then it wasn’t about making things happen overnight it was simply doing the right thing when it came to eliminating our bad actors, understanding causes and mitigating failure modes.
We didn’t have money because we weren’t in the position to ask for money, we simply worked to eliminate the causes for failures on equipment we hated to work on. If you don’t like changing a valve in a hot confined space figure out what causes the valve to fail and eliminate the cause. If you don’t like lugging 40 pounds of tools up 7 flights of stairs to replace a fouled filter every week figure out why the filter is plugging and eliminate the cause.
It doesn’t take money to eliminate failures; it simply takes people who are motivated to identify what causes them to occur.
Our motivation to begin building reliability into our maintenance program twenty-five years ago had nothing to do with corporate goals, KPI’s or large pile of money that would help us educate the masses, we did it for more selfish reasons; we wanted our jobs to be easier.
My friend is listening; I know this because the excuses have stopped, the other end of the phone is silent for a second or two and the only thing he can say is “Wow, I guess when you come as far as we have you sometimes forget where you started and how you got here. Somehow I forgot how simple this can be.”
It’s crazy sometimes how we can wrestle today with things we found so natural twenty years ago.
Change doesn’t have a time limit and it has nothing to do with money. It doesn’t have to start at the corporate suite; it doesn’t require a team of consultants and it doesn’t have a specific step by step formula or process.
Change is about motivation, making people’s jobs easier comes long before reducing your maintenance costs or making your company more competitive. It can be as simple as starting with a list of bad actors and using a 5 Why Root Cause Analysis to identify and eliminate causes or walking down all the pumps at your site to identify those that have foundation issues, improper pipe support, or restrictions in suction piping and writing work-orders to resolve them.
My friend’s mood has changed; I can hear the same excitement in his voice he used to have when we were working on problems decades ago; “I can’t believe I wasted almost 2 years arguing about consultants, training and money, sometimes we perceive our problems to be so much larger than they really are. I need to spend some time at the shop floor and teach these folks how to start solving their own problems! You know, I always talk about how we worked together with our teams and all the things we accomplished but I never took the time to actually show them how all this stuff works. Listen, I have to run, I’ve got a meeting I have to be at and then I have to figure out where I’m going to get started. I’m glad I called!”
I have to say I really enjoy talking to my old friends.