In a recent Web conference with a prospective client organization, I listened intently to their problems. It was a familiar refrain. Economic struggles have been impacting the maintenance and operations budgets to the point that something had to change. They went on, explaining their organizational structure, struggles to get PMs completed, and frustrations with reactive maintenance.[pullquote]
With their background known, it was my turn to go through my view of the world on how to get them, or any other organization, on the right path. I presented the foundation of the argument: the concept that key stakeholders wanted the most efficient utilization of the current investment in capital and personnel.
Leaders that have demonstrated their abilities for efficiency and effectiveness get the respect of executives, board members, and investors, making it easier to get project resources and approval.
Next I launched into a presentation on how the biggest bang for the buck in meeting their maintenance management objectives was in getting control and stability of work management processes. In maintenance organizations the primary path to control and stability is to have well-designed work management processes and to have supervisors and managers measure and act on those measures to guide performance. The act of controlling the planning and scheduling of how resources are allocated improves labor effectiveness a great deal: 25% to 50% more work from the same workforce. Documenting what and how work was performed also helps to capture knowledge from the retirement-eligible workforce and provides data that can be analyzed for proactive reliability improvements — data driven decision support, PM optimization, an repair/replace decisions.
At the end of my presentation, the group spokesman on the other end of the Web conference said, “All that makes perfect sense. We believe we have the people on staff who can design a good maintenance management process, but how do we implement the new process?”
The answer to how to implement a new work management process is that there are a number of moving parts that have to be considered. It goes well beyond studying and understanding the fundamentals of good planning and scheduling. Having an experienced professional that has implemented new processes in a number of engagements can provide the missing piece.
A major change initiative requires more than simply designing a process, training people, and letting them go at it. Invariably there will be issues that require senior level support. If the change process is not well managed, the lack of senior level support will doom the project.
It is helpful to think in terms of cognitive, behavioral and emotional elements. Cognitive elements are the logical issues, the reasons for change and objectives in making it happen; it must make sense. Behavioral elements are the specifics on how changes will occur, the process and how success and opportunities for improvement will be identified. Emotional elements are the way in which people’s feelings are affected, critical for getting people to support or at least be non-resistant.
The specific way that the cognitive, behavioral and emotional elements are expressed at senior or executive levels, middle manager and supervisor levels, and line employee levels will be different. This is because each level of the organization looks at things from a different frame of reference. Line employees have job security front and center, while middle managers may be concerned with expanding the margin between the maintenance budget and costs without compromising safety or operations. At senior or executive levels, the viability of the business entity beyond the current fiscal year may be of paramount concern. While the message will be different, each level has to be consistent with the change project’s objectives. There is also a different emphasis on cognitive, behavioral and emotional aspects during different phases of the change initiative. Early stages are about evaluating the process design and encouraging/supporting new behaviors. Later stages are about maximizing performance.
You can hire a full-time employee with the right expertise or contract for this type of support. With full-time employees, there is a risk of their being commandeered for other tasks, not being focused. Consider when the change process is over; what will their jobs be? If you go the consultant route, you don’t need to hire an army of consultants. You keep the consultants until control and stability are achieved.
Most organizations will avoid project killing mistakes and implement more efficiently, with quicker return on investment if they get support from people with comprehensive implementation experience.