It was decided, in the intervening years, to continue the chase after the magic bullet and pay-hefty-fees- for-consultant conceived generalities and, occasionally, more automated predictive maintenance (PdM) devices. In other words, the lessons learned and explained decades ago were often disregarded by managers whose focus was short-range.
The focus today is even more short-range than it was 20 or 25 years ago……..”.
Short Term Focus
What caught my eye was in the second paragraph “In other words, the lessons learned and explained decades ago were often disregarded by managers whose focus was short-range.”
I am a true believer that many managers have a short-range focus. Now, if you are a manager please don’t stop reading! I didn’t say that was bad, just a fact. Their short-range focus is driven by organizational structure and rewards system, and they have little choice in their focus range. If this is true, reliability personnel now have the difficulty of dealing with short-term and long-term goals.
Why Short term focus?
Most of the managers I knew had performance objectives that were for next year, not 10 years from now but next year. Another thing I noticed was that “movers” were very seldom at the same job for more than 2 – 3 years. This drives them to have shorter term focus to accomplish their goals, and I must admit, if I were a mover, I’d do the same thing. So, the issue for reliability is to accomplish short-term results while keeping a long-term focus. This can be difficult in any environment, especially one that is reactive. I have mentioned before that a reliability initiative takes 10 man-years of time. So, it isn’t difficult to imagine a 5-year reliability project started under one manager, and 2 years into it, that manager gets promoted and a new one comes in all full of great ideas and energy. Unfortunately, the mangers ideas don’t coincide with current accepted reliability practices. They don’t believe the current best practices for maintenance are correct and want to go in a new direction. You are limited in your choices. How can we deal with this?
In one of my other blogs, I mentioned that I have said many times while at Alcoa “It ticks me off that I have a reliability job.” This was about the fact that Alcoa was 100 years old. I could not believe that we had not already resolved this “maintenance thing” and were the best in the world at it. Why hadn’t we developed the maintenance process and already resolved all the issues? It turns out that even though Alcoa was 100 years old, they were thinking in 5-year increments with no thought towards building on the previous increment.
As an example of this, I will relate that while researching planning and scheduling for my facility, I ran across someone in another division who offered, and did, send me a manual on the process that had been developed at their facility. I was shocked because it laid out a plan that rivaled anything that was available at the time. When I called back and asked where it came from, he explained that they had been doing planning for some time, but a new manager came in and decided that they didn’t need the overhead and eliminated the group.
Why would someone be allowed to make a major shift in an organizational structure without some sort of question or discussion? In this case, they had no long term operational vision nor data to verify the cost savings. There was no change-management system to help them review the ramifications of this decision, and as Heinz pointed out, they most likely were in the uninformed class of people.
I’ve heard similar stories from other contacts at other companies where the same thing happened. I propose that your company may have some of the same issues. So, what do we do about this? You will not change the short-term focus of the managers, so you must make some changes in the way you approach your work. You will need to:
Provide relentless feedback showing short-term success in terms of dollars, while keeping a long-term focus for the reliability effort
Work with management at the highest level to incorporate a long-term vision for how maintenance will be done
Establish some type of change-management system that will insure major changes to a departmental procedural system must be looked at before being changed