Do you have all the answers? Maybe you should look for help from within

Who leads the reliability (and performance) improvement initiative in your facility? Who determines which improvement projects should be implemented? Who executes the projects? Who performs the root cause analysis? If the answer is “me”, or “my reliability team”, then we may have found the person who is holding back the success of your programme!

Click Image to Enlarge

Now, just possibly, you may be upset with me right now. Keep reading and I hope to change your opinion. But before I do, I would like to ask you a few more questions.

Who in your plant knows the most about the problems that occur: the slow-downs, minor-stoppages, equipment failures, the waste, the inefficiencies, the source of poor quality, the frustrations due to maintenance work not being executed correctly, and so on? Is it you? Is it senior leadership? Is it anyone in management or engineering?

What about the maintenance technicians and operators? Aren’t they the people who face these issues every day? Don’t they see it all first hand? And I wonder how many times they have thought of solutions to those problems, but no one has listened to them – and no one has asked their opinion.

There is a classic graphic known as the “iceberg of ignorance” that illustrates the level of knowledge and awareness that is common in most plants. Where are you on this graphic?

So, if you agree that the people working closest to the equipment know the most about those problems, what would you think about getting them involved in the solution? Now, what just went through your mind? “How would they know how to solve the problems?” “I could not trust them to make improvements.” “Some of those guys thrive on fixing the problems (hero status, overtime pay, etc.), they don’t want to eliminate them.” “Those guys cause the problems, they won’t fix them.” “It is not in their job description to make improvements.”

Maybe there are other thoughts going through your mind, but if they are anything like those listed above, then unfortunately you are selling them all short.

Pay respect, show trust, and ask for help

OK, more questions. What do you think those people do at night and at the weekends? Are they capable people who solve problems, build stuff, fix other stuff, help in the community, and so on? OK, they may not have degrees and they may not be qualified reliability engineers, but most of the problems that need to be solved do not require rocket scientists. Just as you probably hate it when your manager/supervisor sells you short and is unwilling to give you responsibility, they feel the same way.

It is time to pay them respect, show some trust, and go and ask for help. There are lots of ways that you can execute this process, but you need to provide a means to ask for ideas and suggestions, put a value on those ideas, and ask their help in executing the solutions.

Yes, don’t just ask for their suggestion, let them take ownership and execute the improvement plan. Put yourself in their shoes.
Option 1 is to ignore them. They will be frustrated and annoyed – and thus you have the current situation.

Option 2 is to require them to change their practices according to your directives. And there will not be many of those requests because there are only so many projects you can manage. They have zero ownership, and again they are frustrated at not being consulted.

Option 3 is to ask their opinion (much better for morale), but you take control and then implement the changes. Again, this will be a slow process as you only have so much time.

And Option 4 is to ask their help, (financially justify the ideas if necessary), and then get out of their way and let them take ownership. Wow, how would they feel? They are being trusted and respected. They will be proud of the changes they have implemented. They will see the benefits of their actions. And the initiative will take off when others see the results of these projects, and witness the thanks and praise you heap on them when the projects are executed (don’t forget to do that). Just think about how many improvements can be made when everyone is involved!

Will they execute those projects the same ways as you would have? Maybe. Maybe not. They may do a better job as they know more about the problem and have more to gain. But if they happen to make mistakes, learn from them and move on. Improve, don’t punish.

This isn’t anything new. It is at the heart of TPS and Lean (depending whose book you read). Performing root cause analysis, making suggestions, and executing the solution is fundamental to how humans work. You need to show some trust and let nature take its course.


Jason Tranter 


Mobius Institute

Asset Management | 14.3.2019

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