Don't let your good work go unnoticed

June 19, 2006
Do you feel like you’re hard work goes unnoticed? Are you putting in a lot of effort to gain more respect, but you feel ignored? How one man was inspired to revitalize other maintenance departments.

Do you feel like you’re hard work goes unnoticed? Are you putting in a lot of effort to gain more respect, but you feel ignored? Are your cries for assistance unheard by those who can help?

If so, you’re not alone. Not long ago, I felt the same way. I was, as seasoned maintenance manager Ron Potter describes it, “one hand clapping.”

I first met Ron at a Life Cycle Engineering Maintenance Excellence workshop conducted by fellow Plant Services Contributing Editor Ricky Smith, CMRP. Ron is a gruff, seasoned maintenance guy who hadn’t only done it all, seen it all and knew it all, but wasn’t sure he really wanted to revitalize another maintenance department. To help inspire other revitalizations, Ricky invited successful practitioners to talk about their achievements. When Ron heard young maintenance manager Jeff Nevenhoven talk about his efforts, at first, Ron was skeptical. Then after hearing Jeff proudly beat on his chest, Ron announced, “I may not be in my 30's anymore, but I can do what that kid did, and more. But to be more than just ‘one hand clapping,’ next time I’m going to bring our production manager and VP of operations to attend.”

One hand clapping became their symbol of futile individual efforts to make changes that helped them bond together. As a team, they developed a strategic reliability plan that not only reduced costs but improved capacity.

Three years later, Ron is now working with another organization that, as he says, has lots of opportunity for improvement or, as I say, is in a mess and needs some major cleanup. This company still doesn’t have a CMMS, its spare parts inventory resembles a junkyard and there is water all over the production floor underneath the electrical and electronic systems with no one cleaning it up.

Instead of being depressed, Ron is excited. He says with confidence, “Just give me a month and you’ll see some major changes.” His first work is to change the culture that allowed the completely reactive maintenance environment to flourish. While visiting, he asked me to help their vice president of operations understand the futility of one hand clapping.

There was a gleam in the eye of the youthful 59-year-old as he detailed his reliability improvement makeover plans to the VP. After several weeks of campaigning, pleading and showing the VP of operations a better way, the VP agreed to purchase a CMMS system, get summer help to organize the spare parts room, add two more full-time staff members, and let Ron implement a pay progression program and to develop a technician training program.

Wow! At an age when many look to relax, Ron looks for more challenges. I can’t wait to see his operation in a month.

The biggest obstacle to overcome in pursuing mission-impossible revitalization efforts is to realize that they’re mission possible, and then we must convince others. The good thing about a volatile economy is that those who are complacent won’t stay that way for long. Those who are comfortable pursuing the same old, same old, soon realize that not only is it boring, but also unfulfilling, and changes have to be made.

We need to reach out to others and learn from their successes and failures because, after all, we all face many of the same challenges. We can use those case studies to prove to resistant execs that changes need to be made and our plans can bear fruit.

Behavioral experts say people react more quickly to move away from pain than to change for gain. What does that mean to us, fellow reliability change agents?

Instead of garnering support for reliability improvement by focusing on large returns on investment that will likely be viewed with skepticism or cynicism, first attack the weaknesses. Focus the executives on where we’re getting clobbered financially, where there’s waste, where they’re vulnerable to safety violations and open to legal liability exposure. Only when they’re too frightened to remain the same, will they be open to the changes that produce long-term reliability. Then they’ll listen to our improvement initiatives to generate effective results.

Those actions will get them clapping with us and not ignoring or blocking our efforts for business improvement and sustainability. 

Contact Joel Leonard at [email protected].

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