Both organizational structure and decision-making policies have an impact on improving product reliability. The former is more quantifiable whereas the latter involves more intangible subtleties. First, in this post, I’ll discuss the connection between organizational structure and reliability, and in a follow-up post, I’ll address reliability and decision focus, still within the structure of an organization.
There is no single organizational structure that leads to improved product reliability performance over any other structure. Both centrally and distributed reliability teams have been successful and have failed to create reliable products. Both small cross-functional teams and large functional silo organizations have been successful and failed. Even the presence or absence of reliability professionals on staff is not an indicator of reliability performance.
Top performing organizations use a common language around product reliability and possess a culture that encourages and enables individuals to make informed decisions related to reliability. Individuals across the organization know their role to both use and share information essential to making decisions. There is an overriding context for reliability decisions that balances the needs to meet customer expectations for reliability along with other criteria. Alignment exists among the organization’s mission, plans, priorities, and behaviors related to reliability.
Product reliability is not the only element that benefits from a proactive culture. Whether top performing organizations enjoy a proactive culture that naturally includes reliability activities to make decisions or evolved while improving product reliability to become a proactive organization with collateral benefits for other areas of running the business remains unclear. The latter is more likely since it takes leadership to build and maintain a proactive organization, although some organizations focus on building a proactive reliability program and develop the benefits later in other functions of the business.
Moving the organizational block around the organizational chart may have some value, although it is not directly related to improving product reliability. It entails a more fundamental change than developing the reporting structures to transition from a reactive to proactive reliability program.
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