I was asked recently to help a plant with improving the maintenance performance. I looked over the plant’s work management process to see what the plant management wanted its planners to be doing. It was a well written document. It covered all the best practices with a few minor items for improvement.
Next, I asked the planners what their job was and how they spent their days. It was no surprise to me that their daily and weekly tasks did not line up with the work management process that I had reviewed. I soon realized that most of the planners had not read the document.
I mentioned this to the maintenance manager, who was surprised, and the corporate reliability leader, who said: “Everyone was trained on the process!”
There were four planners. One, the most experienced and retirement ready, had been in the plant for decades. Planner One had been doing what the plant had called planning well before the 2014 process was designed and implemented. Planner One was trained in 2014 on the new process, but it’s unclear (and unlikely) that the change was ever really embraced by Planner One.
Planner Two has been on the job for less than a year with lots of good experience in operations and maintenance. However, Planner Two was never trained on work management process and didn’t know of the existence of the process documents. When provided with a copy, Planner Two was excited to see clear guidance, and specifically guidance that would enable the planners to stop doing things they were not accountable or responsible for.
Planners Three and Four had only been on the job for less than two months. When showed the work management process documents their response was, something like, “Oh geez, we just started getting comfortable with what we were told to do. Now we have to learn something new.” Not the response I was hoping for. But they were honest.
What are the real problems?
This article is part of our monthly Human Capital column. Read more from Tom Moriarty.
The corporate reliability program put forth the effort, at considerable cost no doubt, to create a best-practice work management process and documentation. The plant personnel were trained. But that was in 2014 and 2018. Based on Planner One, the effort probably never really took hold. Since then there had been a huge amount of turnover.
The maintenance manager had been in that position for about two years. In fairness, that two years has been dominated by the COVID era and lots of trouble keeping employees and filling open positions. Open positions meant that there may not have been enough people to carry out the work management process as defined.
So, what’s the way out of this problem? As leaders we have many challenges. We lead and manage in a dynamic environment. However, we have to keep our eye on the ball. It’s the maintenance manager’s responsibility to educate their team on roles, responsibilities, and accountabilities. It starts with orientation for new employees. It continues with watching for and correcting deviations from guidance and reinforcing the correct processes and procedures.
We can’t provide training once every four years, while there is more than 20% annual turnover. Did you check the training records? Are the people now in the plant the same people that were trained?
When a new person joins your team, do you provide him or her with the policies, plans, processes, procedures, and measures, and the time to actually read them? Do you explain roles and responsibilities and how this employee fits within the greater organization? Do new staff know what others are responsible for?
As a leader are you attentive to check on compliance with your processes? If you find deviation from guidance are you assertive? Do you address deviations?
Don’t make assumptions about what people know. As leaders the onus is on us to make clear and support our expectations. Go forth and do great things.
This story originally appeared in the July 2022 issue of Plant Services. Subscribe to Plant Services here.