The maintenance and reliability field is awash with countless examples of “here today/gone tomorrow” improvement initiatives. Each of these sad stories reflects costly efforts where results may have been lost forever. Such waste is simply unaffordable and plain unacceptable. Having personnel willing to lead the charge in battling this waste is more important than ever—for operations everywhere.
“The higher the Leadership, the greater the Effectiveness. Efficiency (Lean) is the Foundation for Survival. Effectiveness is the Foundation for Success.”
Organizations of all types must develop a strategy that keeps improvement efforts producing benefits forever. Their competitive edge is strictly proportional to the solidity of the improvements implemented and sustained within the culture of the organization. This, however, calls for a total buy-in and support from top management—which, unfortunately, often is the missing link.
Good intentions down the hole
So, what should be done to prevent the decay of the good intentions? Although the answer is simple, many organizations lack the discipline to make it work for them. It is all about leadership: the magic environment where each individual in the organization is a proud co-owner of the progress achieved.
When it comes to the withering away of improvement initiatives, the most common problem seems to involve the following set of circumstances: The driver of the initiative is promoted within the same organization or offered a better opportunity somewhere else. That’s great news for him/her, but bad news for the initiative as there hasn’t been adequate leadership delegation within the team.
The solution to the above problem: Share everything, including knowledge, training, effort, technical issues, problems, solutions and results. When this sharing is done right, empowerment ensues. When there is not just one person owning the achievement, the team begins developing a deep pride and zealously keeps working to defend and increase the beneficial effects.
The loss of momentum occurs because the personnel involved in an improvement initiative do not feel ownership of the improvement. This is a cultural problem that we all can—and should—remediate once and for all. Organizations must focus on and encourage all of their associates through recognition from their leaders. Those leaders, in turn, need to be developed to the point that they can naturally convey a sense of proud ownership to all who participate in the implementation of an improvement initiative and/or who, in one way or another, work not only to sustain it, but also to optimize it.
Sustaining and optimizing improvements
One important sustainability strategy is to clearly document the improvement and promote its co-ownership. For example, if the initiative is related to the maintenance of a machine, technicians and operators should feel the commitment and responsibility for the improvement to prevail. Thus, they all own the success—and they all own the commitment to keep it going!
Remember: Improvements and implementations do not belong to one person or one group of people. They belong to the entire organization, since the benefits produced are for all to enjoy.
The need to build better leadership skills
As Table I shows, the U.S. ranking with regard to global manufacturing has fallen to China.
What’s fueling these very troubling statistics? According to ChinaPost.com.tw and economic research by IHS Global Insight, American industry has some of the most productive people in the world. By measures of productivity, China remains far behind us, with U.S. manufacturing workers generating more than eight times the value per person. Part of the problem is that we’re lacking in leaders—and effective leadership skills. Some basic leadership skills can be measured in just a few minutes by using the brief evaluation in Table II.
Our plants and facilities need more leaders NOW. What actions can you start taking today to help build leadership skills for tomorrow—both your own skills and those of others? There’s no time to waste. MT
For the last 15 years, many consultants have been analyzing the tight relationship between the results achieved in the continuous improvement efforts of their customers and the level and strength of leadership in their environments. At this point, we can affirm that no lasting results can ever be achieved when the leadership in an organization is poor or even average.
All leaders (top management included) should take this quick survey. The insight it provides can help individuals take advantage of their strengths and begin addressing possible weaknesses in their leadership abilities. Remember that all the people, at all levels, must perform with optimal leadership skills. In the survey, h/h means ‘His or Her.’
Click the image below for a printable copy of the evaluation, and use the third column to grade yourself between 0 and 10. 0 = “Not me at all” and 10 = “I really am just that kind of person!” A score between 0 and 10 means you may need to work on some areas.
Click the above image for a printable copy of the leadership evaluation.