Storytelling and the Maintenance Mission

StoryWe recently spoke about The Art of Implementing RCM, and talked about a lot of good stuff there. But other aspects of implementing also involves good leadership! Good, strong leadership is one of the key reasons behind any success in implementing change. And there are many skills that a good leader needs. However, one of these that I think we don't talk much about in reliability is the ability to tell compelling stories. Think about it; every leader, whether they are the President of the United States, the Head of a department, or the Facilitator of a reliability Analysis Team - needs to be able to tell compelling stories. If you are going to take a nation to war, then you need to be able to tell the story of the impending threat, the challenge to "our way of life" or the threat to global security. (Or whatever...) A maintenance leader needs to be able to tell stories about the battle against adversity, the benefits achieved through personal (or group efforts) and the difference this has made to "the way we do business around here". For example, the story of the guy (any guy) who worked continually late into the evenings, unnoticed and unappreciated, trying to correct the work order data in the companies CMMS. Data that would later be used in dozens of studies; reaping benefits in the thousands if not millions of dollars. Or the story of the new Supervisor who worked her fingers to the bone trying to deal with talent development issues. Fighting the good fight against amazing odds to turn training from a budget item into a corporate obsession. leading to an incredible up-tick in uptime, and a reduction of human error related failures. (Again quantifiable results) Or even the guy who, while nobody was watching, continually worked to make sure he wrote down all the comments related to changes to the PM routines they were doing. Then after noticing that nothing was being done about it, called meetings with the planners and supervisors to make sure they "got it" relating to what he was trying to tell them. The result - dramatic improvements in the (real) schedule compliance rates and elimination of (lots) of duplicate and unnecessary maintenance tasks. Who tells these stories? Who is taking notes about the unsung HEROES that work their butts off every day without recognition? To be frank - nobody! (And isn't that sad!) So part of the role of a leader - any leader- is to find these HEROES, understand their story, and then TELL IT! Promote them, tell their story again and again and again, (and again). Heres a good idea: Start the companies "Book of Reliability HEROES". A book with a story on each page, with a photo and a tale telling the odds that were overcome, the gains that were made, and how the company (team etcetera) was able to contribute. Books like this, in my experience, (and if you publicize them well), can become the best read manual in the company. But what good do the serve? Recognition, promoting the "right" behaviors, momentum for change, enthusiasm and drive, spurring others on to "beat" what has already been done.. and so on. Obviously it contributes a lot to change. But there is another issue also. People contribute efforts like this because, above all else, they care. They really care about how things operate, and the systems and process that they use to deliver GOOD work. And this really should be recognized, if not for anything else then because common human decency demands it!