The Fundamentals: The Reports We Produce
Kathy | September 1, 2008
Getting through to management in the right way is critical to the health of your PdM program.
When someone talks about his/her predictive maintenance (PdM) program, we commonly hear about great saves and machinery problems that have been resolved. This would lead most of us to believe that these programs are thriving and well-funded with well-trained, happy personnel. Unfortunately, more often than not, this simply isn’t the case.
Today many PdM programs are dying on the vine—with staff either retiring or returning to the shop floor to perform their previous jobs as tradesmen. In some cases, this exodus seems to be associated with plant management not responding to machinery trouble calls generated by the program. As a result, frustration percolates within the PdM program staff over a perceived lack of appreciation by maintenance or plant management for the usefulness of the PdM program and the value of the results it produces. Interestingly, one of the main contributors to this situation is the type of reports that the typical PdM program produces.
Who wants to know and how? Technical reports can range from simple raw data output to complex documents that are so detailed they defy understanding. Seldom do the authors/providers of these reports consider the needs and capabilities of their readers. It is, therefore, very important to ask the question: “What kind of report will be responded to best?” The first step in answering it is to determine what type of person the reader is and to what that person responds to.
Human behavior shows us that there are four basic personality types* we may encounter. Even though these types may blend together in most people, there typically will be a dominant type that can be used for our purposes. By understanding the type of person you are dealing with, you can create reports that will be better received. Let’s look at these four types and what they want to see in a report.
The first and most common type of personality that you may see in management can be described as a “Driver”—a no-nonsense multitasking person that many consider to be a type-A personality. Drivers don’t have time for details! They want to know what’s wrong, what to do, when to do it and why. Time is the big factor here. If you can get more than 10 seconds of a Driver’s attention for your 20-page report, you are lucky. As a result, detailed multi-page reports with pictures and graphs are not the right things for these people. Raw data that has to be examined also will probably go directly into the trash can or, at best, the filing cabinet.
Drivers want simple precise reports that tell them what needs to be done and in what order. Data and long descriptions are not necessary. This does not mean that you don’t need to be prepared to answer questions now and then. When asked, provide the Driver with brief and specific answers. He/she may be testing you to be sure your recommendations can be trusted. Once this person is convinced that you are providing valid information that is helpful to his/her job, you probably will have a strong supporter.
When dealing with a Driver, remember that simple, to-the-point and valid are best. Large print helps as well.
The opposite of the Driver is the type of person we can refer to as “Amiable.” These people are easily recognized by their desire for personal contact.
Amiable people like forming relationships with those they work with. They will want you to go over the report with them and take the time to answer questions to their satisfaction. Trust is very important with Amiable types.
A simple report—similar to what is used for the Driver— is fine, but again it is important to be prepared to go over the report with them. Amiables will appreciate the time you spend in making them comfortable with your recommendations. If there is any doubt about the report format, sit down with these people and design the report to their satisfaction. It also is important to show that you care about how they respond to your reports.
The third type of person you may run into can be described to as “Expressive.” These people are very active, animated, multitaskers who are interested in the “BIG PICTURE.” Colorful reports that include charts and graphs along with the overall department and plant condition are essential. Excessive detail should be avoided, but you should be prepared to provide data and artwork that can be used for presentations and wall hangings. When given the right kind of reports, Expressives will be among your biggest and most vocal supporters.
On the other hand, it is important to keep control of the report process. Expressive managers may ask for more than they need or can digest. Another word of caution is to take special care to establish a process to ensure that the work is done and results are measured as a result of report recommendations. In short, Expressive people sometimes have short attention spans. Enough said.
The fourth and final personality type can be referred to as the “Analytical.” Surprisingly, this may be the most difficult type of person for whom you ever will generate reports.
Analyticals like lots of data to study. In many cases, these individuals are successful engineers and technicians who have advanced into management. You may notice that their offices are cluttered with prints, spec. sheets, parts and—unfortunately—reports. They enjoy technology and processes. They always will want more data to examine. Yet, they may not decide what do with your recommendations. This can drive you crazy. As a result, Analytical types may be the hardest to work with.
The reports you provide to Analytical managers should include the basics coupled with some supporting data to back up you recommendations. Let them ask you for more information as needed—then meter out additional details to them sparingly. By doing this, perhaps you can get them to take action. Good luck!
For all types, a simple report generally is best. Too much data challenges the reader to join in the analysis. This can be annoying to a Driver (who typically doesn’t want to waste time); intimidating to an Amiable (who wants you to talk to him/her); confusing for an Expressive (who only wants to see the “BIG PICTURE”); and downright self-destructive for an Analytical (who will immerse himself/herself in the data, never to be heard from again).
In the end
Keep in mind that it is useful to form a “supplier/customer” relationship with those who receive your reports. In essence, your report is the product of your work. To be successful, though, this product must meet the reader’s needs.
Just like a good newspaper or a well-developed Website, a report should communicate the right message to the right people to evoke the desired action—i.e. a response that results in your recommendations being acted on. If this helps create a better running, more efficient and profitable workplace, your PdM program has a good chance of being successful.
Bob Martin is a district manager for Emerson Process Management’s Machinery Health Management Division. He is a CMRP, a category three vibration analyst and holds a level two lubrication certification. He has been supporting predictive maintenance practices for nearly 20 years, primarily working with industries in Detroit and surrounding areas. His experience with spectrum analysis extends back over 30 years, beginning with his work in the US Navy as an anti-submarine warfare systems operator, flying as aircrew on P-3 Orion patrol aircraft.
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Social Styles, Driver, Expressive, Amiable, Analytical were developed by Wilson Learning Corporation. For more information, contact Performance Technologies, a distributor of Wilson Learning Programs at (937) 890-1243.