7 tips to become a strong reliability leader: Moving from a repair-focused to a reliability-focused culture

This is the final article in a series of 6 on moving from a repair-focused to a reliability-focused culture. The full series includes:

Having discussed what I hope you will agree are some fairly important, and practical principles, who is going to make this all happen? You are!

You can influence others.

It doesn’t matter where in the organisation structure you are, whether you are a tradesperson, or a manager, an engineer, or a planner – you have the capability to influence others – and this is at the core of leadership. And unless you happen to be the chairman of the board, you will always be operating within the constraints placed upon you by others, higher in your organisation (and even the chairman of the board ultimately has to answer to the shareholders of the business).

Certainly, your position in the hierarchy will determine the scope of your influence but managing upwards is an important part of effective leadership. I have met very few organisations where those at lower levels are actively discouraged from taking initiative, and making improvements, even when those improvements are slightly outside their “official” areas of responsibility. In my experience, most supervisors and managers are actually slightly relieved when one of their people grasps some responsibility and makes some improvements (as distinct from just talking about making improvements, or worse, talking about how it is somebody else’s responsibility to make improvements) – normally because it is one less thing that they themselves need to worry about. Most of the barriers that we raise that we consider prevents us from making changes are actually self-imposed. But before you suddenly all turn into megalomaniacs, take small steps first.

So, what are these steps of leadership that you can take?

1. Improve your knowledge

First, you can take steps to improve your knowledge of the various tools and improvement methodologies that are available, and whether, and how, they may fit your organisation in its path from repair-focused to reliability-focused. The fact that you are reading this paper is a good start! Remember that there are no “silver bullets”, and that the most effective, holistic solutions will come from within you and your organisation (although external parties may be able to assist you to find those solutions for yourself).

2. Lead by example

Second, you can ensure that your own personal actions are consistent with a reliability-focused culture – there is nothing like leadership by example! Do you encourage “quick fixes” and temporary repairs, or quality workmanship and precision maintenance? Do you bend to the first attempt by production to defer routine maintenance, or do you educate, encourage and coerce production into greater adherence to the agreed schedule?

3. Be persistent

Third, you need to be persistent. It is highly unlikely that the first time you push back against production (or against your supervisor/manager) in your attempts to generate a more reliability-focused culture that they will suddenly say “yes, you are right, and I have been wrong for all these years”! So be prepared for knock-backs and rejection and have courage in your own convictions – the first point above can help in this regard.

4. Build your support network

Fourth, invest time in building relationships with people that can assist you in your reliability improvement efforts – and once you have built a strong relationship with them, then talk about the issues, what you are trying to achieve, and how they may be able to help you. Trying to do this in the opposite order is a recipe for failure.

5. Be flexible

Fifth, be flexible. Remember that others also have valuable contributions to make, and that you are not necessarily the source of all wisdom. Be prepared to constantly seek opportunities to improve your plan, actions and vision, and incorporate the good ideas of others.

6. Reward proactive actions

Sixth, reward others for taking actions towards the reliability-focused goal. Clearly, the further up the organisational food chain you are, then the greater your ability to do this, but rewards can take any form, from a simple “well done”, to a couple of movie tickets, to a team barbecue, to a formal “employee of the month” scheme.

7. Tell stories

Seventh, tell others about the good things that people you know have done which have helped to improve plant reliability. Story-telling is an extremely powerful culture change tool that you should embrace whole-heartedly. Look for opportunities to tell stories that illustrate examples of what you are trying to achieve, and make sure that the stories get told frequently, and to many people.

Clearly, if this leadership comes from the top of the organisation, then the speed of cultural change will be much greater, and far more wide ranging – but it is up to all of us to “do our bit” to initiate moves towards a reliability-focused culture within our own realms of influence, and to bring our bosses along for the ride!

 

This series of articles has discussed the seven key elements required to successfully transition from a traditional, repair-focused organisational culture to a proactive, reliability-focused culture, and reap the rewards of increased performance of both equipment and people:

Now get out there and make it happen!

 

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