Relish the Detail

I have been thinking a lot recently about implementation and execution. Actually it is part of the drive for my next book Asset Resource Planning, which looks at what to do after starting an RCM/ERP/TPM/whatever implementation program. After a few years of studying this theme, both in practice and through published studies, a few things have really started to jump out at me. Lets look beyond the obvious statements related to corporate support, leadership and funding for a moment to get to some of the core reasons why projects fail. 1) The Work Matters! It really matters! Not the planning of the work, not the conceptualizing it, but the doing. Seems obvious at first, but it is probably the least recognized activity in our daily maintenance lives. people are punished for doing things wrong, and for making errors, but they are rarely awarded/recognised for doing things well. (Not stand-out-above-the-rest well, just well) At first we award stand-out RCM facilitation, (Say) then we award RCM successes, then we just leave everyone to get on with it and expect continual high quality performance as the norm. Wrong! If we want to continually achieve high levels of data quality / RCM results / RCA results etcetera - then we need to continually reinforce, re-invigorate, and highlight what is expected as a minimum standard. Continually rewarding those who are able to deliver at that standard. A really wise guy recently said to me "People don't leave companies, they leave managers!" And why do they leave managers? Partly because they feel unappreciated. But it could be worse. People can be uninspired and leave, or become disgruntled and stay! This means that, as a manager, you need to be really into the detail. Understand whats going on, why, by whom, and what's working. (What's working will be the subject of a whole other post, fascinating topic) And you need to recognize great efforts, give everybody something to aspire to. I don't mean just token awards, but sincere appreciation! We often get caught up in the strategy side of things. Setting out the vision then putting in place the steps to get it done. But we have to continually review, recognize, modify, and check the work that is being done today. Bill Smith is a great consultant (technician, mechanic, supervisor, engineer), always does good work, always delivers a great result, and then one day he up and left. Why? (Obvious isn't it?) How to make the work matter:
  1. Get out of the office! Walk around, ask, listen, inquire, inform
  2. Whats happening today! Where are thing going, and why?
  3. Get metrics! Quickly! (And tie them to personal performance)
  4. Reward innovation, effort, and inspiring effort.
  5. Recognize the norm. Jack Welch says 70% of your people will be normal. Not high fliers, but the cogs of the company. Do not neglect them!
  6. React to inconsistency, reward consistency
  7. Hold status meetings, often. Not of the project, or the initiative, or the company. But of the day to day, whos doing what, why, with what, and what is the result.
The work matters, it really does matter. Not just the thinking of the work. 2) Relish the Detail: The vast majority of projects fail because of small issues that are left unchecked, or unresolved. Particularly on the big jobs. Why is that, because its all so big, and current commercial realities seem to be focused on trying to do a heck of a lot with a talented few. So small things fall through the cracks. The big one is communication. I get at least ten or so emails a day that I don't read, I mean to get back to them. But I never do. (I get around 180 emails a day mind you) Another big one is scope creep. Most (ALL) scope creep is generally driven by one well-meaning consultant who decides it will be okay for this small thing to be added, then suddenly it is part of the project deliverables and everything is hanging on the outcome of this small item. Paying-it-forward is a valid strategy, but needs to be kept in check. The other side of scope is when we miss obvious areas of opportunity. "No, training of these people is out of scope." Okay, fine - but if we don't train them then the whole thing won't work at all. Too bad, not part of my budget, we will need to deal with it later. (Later never arrives by the way) Another vital area of the detail is particularly when we are looking at large scale IT integration projects. We have so many people immersed in how we are doing something only to miss the point totally when it comes to understanding deeply what we are doing. How are we doing RCM? Team facilitated, 5 people and a facilitator, one room, 6 days, etc, etc. (Normally with smatterings of detail about operating context and so on) What are we doing with the RCM project? redefining the maintenance strategies, reducing the level of risk of safety and environmental incidents, improving uptime, increasing asset knowledge etc. Two different stories. More about this later... Some keys to relish the detail better:
  1. Focus on what we are doing, not so much on how we are doing it.
  2. Get a good (great) idea of what we are not going to do.
  3. Talk to each other, don't just send emails. Use Skype, chat, cell phones, video conferences, face to face (perish the thought) meetings
  4. Have structured meetings, don't let the wafflers win the war for conversation space.
  5. Follow up, act and react.
  6. Read, review and respond
  7. Cut out unnecessary documentation (Arrgghhh!)
  8. Scope check, project plan updates, (accurate) forecast checks, delivery checks
  9. What is needed but not covered? How will we cover it? (Don't get fobbed off here)
  10. Integrate deeply. (Not with IT, but with people - Safety, production, purchasing)
  11. Don't do memos - do discussion.
This is a really fascinating topic that we are going to cover here a heck of a lot more. Execution is the challenge of the 21st century. We are all living in a world of perpetual change, and we are all trying to work out what to do about it. The survivors will be those who can not only innovate, but who can implement as well. If you enjoyed this post please consider subscribing in a reader, or you can also receive The Art of Change by Email.