leadership-manufacturing-team

The two critical leadership elements: Accountability and guidance

Jan. 5, 2022
Tom Moriarty explores why accountability and guidance together form the foundation of good maintenance and operations.

After nearly two decades being a consultant in all sorts of manufacturing, utilities and research facilities, it became very clear that there was a “reliability hierarchy.” Just like Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, there is a hierarchy of needs, or elements, which applies to maintenance and operations reliability.

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The lower-most element that must be satisfied before all others is leadership. This is followed by asset information (equipment hierarchy, criticality, configuration management and stores management). Then, work management processes, followed by equipment reliability strategies and then continuous improvement. Each lower order element must be satisfied before the upper level elements can be effective.

The leadership level has two main objectives. I came to this conclusion after being in many plants and seeing three-ring binders from previous consulting engagements gathering dust on a bookshelf.

Thumbing through the dusty binders, it became apparent that the methods and thought processes that went into previous attempts at improvement were sound. I kept coming back to the question, why do initiatives fail? It always seems to involve two things: accountability and individual leadership capability.

The biggest problem associated with accountability is not clearly assigning it. I developed the Organizational Reliability Model™ that assigns categories of accountability at each level of leadership.

Assigning accountability to categories of activities is like the mortar between bricks; it strengthens the structure and seals any gaps. When there is no guidance on any issue, the accountable persons must make decisions and take affirmative action.

Leadership level accountability makes it easy to diagnose accountability lapses or gaps. Let’s say one shop in the maintenance department is not closing out work orders properly. That means guidance execution is not being done by that shop’s supervisor. If, however, all shops are not closing work orders properly, it’s the maintenance department manager’s problem to solve. If operations is not cooperating with maintenance, the problem is at the plant manager level.

Ambiguities, gaps, and overlaps in guidance is a major cause of problems. Creating guidance provides more resolution. Written guidance must be specific. To create guidance, it’s best to have people who will be expected to perform the activities participate in developing the guidance. Use a repeatable process to create guidance.

Flow chart the high level process, then create more detailed sub-flow charts as appropriate to clearly define what needs to be done. Use a RASI (or RACI) table to explicitly state who is responsible to carry out each task, who is ultimately accountable to ensure the task has been carried out properly, who is required to support (or control) the task and who needs information related to the task.

When the flow charts and RASI/RACI tables are complete, create a narrative document that includes the flow charts and RASI/RACI, as well as any relevant measures. Send it around for review and comment, make updates. This becomes the authorized performance standard.

Accountability and guidance are funny things. At the macro level, most people recognize that guidance helps remove uncertainty and lead to better organizational performance. At the micro level, when it comes to individuals being subject to accountability and guidance, people tend to bristle at the idea. With good leadership capability that micro level resistance can be overcome. It’s up to accountable leaders to make it happen.

Accountability is the foundation on which organizational performance must be built. Poor accountability means poor performance. Solid accountability means solid performance. Outstanding accountability means outstanding performance. You can find details on the Organizational Reliability Model in chapter 3 of my book, The Productive Leadership System. Go forth and do great things.

This story originally appeared in the January 2022 issue of Plant Services. Subscribe to Plant Services here.

About the Author: Tom Moriarty
About the Author

Tom Moriarty | P.E., CMRP, President of Alidade MER, Inc.

Tom Moriarty, P.E., CMRP is president of Alidade MER, Inc., a consulting firm specializing in asset management, reliability engineering, and leadership improvement. He is a member of SMRP (Florida Chapter Board Member and CED Director), a past Chair of ASME’s Canaveral Florida Section, and author of the book “The Productive Leadership System; Maximizing Organizational Reliability”. He has a BSME, an MBA (organizational development), is a licensed professional engineer (PE) in Florida, and a Certified Maintenance and Reliability Professional (CMRP). Contact him at [email protected], (321) 773-3356, or via LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/alidade-mer.