Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Maintenance Planners: Are they focused on the future or pulled into the present? Their boss decides!

How does organizational structure dictate focus?
This week I am working with a client that is building their future state organizational structure to support reliability improvement. The question they ask was should the planners report to the maintenance supervisors for the area they plan for? My response was a sometimes controversial one but I truly believe it based on my experience and observations. Planners should not report to maintenance supervisors. They really should be peers in the organizations working as a team. If you set the organization up with planners subordinate to the maintenance supervisor then you are in essence having your future focused planner reporting to your present focused supervisor. By future focused I mean the planner should be building job plans for the future work that will be scheduled at least one week out. Your supervisor is using the plans and schedules to execute the day to day work in the present. If you create this reporting structure and if you believe the old adage “What is important to my boss is important to me” then the planner will be forced to continuously focus on the day to day issues that are important to his or her boss at the expense of the future planned and scheduled work that drives reliability improvement.  They will become a "gofer" for the supervisor and go for this part or go for that tool. This is not planning this is reacting. As you build your organizational structure you have to force proactive thinking and create barriers for some parts of the organization to keep them away from the reactive day to day activities.
What are your thoughts? Who do your planners report to? Are they focused on the proactive future or pulled into the reactive present?

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Improvement Strategies like Kudzu? Cut through the vines.

Is your reliability, lean, six sigma or Total Productive Maintenance (TPM) implementation like kudzu? Does it look green and vibrant on the surface? If you peel back the leaves on the surface do you find withering death and destruction?
Kudzu (shown on the left) is an invasive nonnative plant imported to the US from China that spreads by vine and runners and covers the native plants with broad vibrant green leaves. The problem is that it spreads at a miraculous rate and kills the plants it grows over by starving them of light. So if you go out and look below the surface you see the native plants rotting and breaking down but if you are taking a quick glance it seems green and healthy.
I have spent time in more than a few sites where they work to show corporate how green and vibrant they are. They create a parade or tour routes for executives when they visit where they paint and clean only the areas of the facility that can be seen from the path the executive will travel. They build daily management boards, operator care boards and other highly visible tools of the improvement initiative and put them on the parade route. In the end, the executive sees the green Kudzu and the employees, who are off of the parade route, see the death and destruction that is behind the fresh paint and new staged communication boards.
So how do you cut the vines, allow the light in and build a healthy forest.  Check out this series of post that all address multiple ways to cut the vines and create the health forest and a improvement initiative that is more than just surface deep. Click here to see the series.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Leadership, Fast Cars, and Road Blocks: Three things leaders need to know about project roadblock removal.

Leadership is about road block removal. Your team may be the best in the world at what they do but certain issues can stop them cold every time. They may be like a garage full of incredibly fast sports cars eager to get the job done, but someone has to open the garage door to get them started and remove the roadblocks along the way that prevent them from demonstrating their full potential. In the picture I show a 505 horsepower Viper stuck behind the cross bar of a train crossing. The way it sits in this picture it could as well be a 185 horsepower Pontiac Aztec as their would be no difference in performance until someone removes the barrier or plans a way around it. So what do leaders need to do? Leaders must take the time to do theses three things to ensure that their fast cars go fast. 
First, identify as many of the barriers in advance. Get with the team and think about what could go wrong on the way to the goal. What are you are currently doing to prevent or mitigate it and what might you want to do differently in a proactively attempt to lower the potential of occurrence or significance of the impact? 
Second, get to know your people so that you know what will be a barrier for them. Everyone is not the same. Some of your team is more like a rental car. You know, "no curb to high no ditch to deep" they can go anywhere. Others may be like the Viper, where anything higher than a speed bump can knock them out of the race. Both cars have their place and are great for the team but you just need to know their needs and meet them for maximum performance. 
Lastly, keep up continuous communication so that you see or hear about barriers before they cause large losses in momentum. Many leaders leave the team to work on a project and are surprised to find them mired in the mud of a problem. The team may not be able to make a decision about an approach due to lack of information, perceived support or buy in. This is where constant contact is important. Not micromanagement per say, just simply understanding the obstacles they are facing and providing help where they request it and based off of their needs. The way the best leaders demonstrate this is by attending team meeting but only for the first few minutes so as to not depower the team and practicing situational leadership
Can you think of other points that leaders should consider to ensure high performance teams maintain the ability to deliver?
Share them below in the comments section please.