December ISO55000 Management

ISO 55000 Management Systems: Part II — The People Side

EP Editorial Staff | December 19, 2013

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By Bob Williamson, Contributing Editor

“In our company we often talk about the importance of leadership and teamwork in the functioning of maintenance organizations and even in the bigger picture, the success of the company. How will leadership and teamwork play out in ISO 55001 Asset Management – Management Systems – Requirements?”

Great question. ISO 55001 will call for levels of LEADERSHIP and TEAMWORK that far surpass what most businesses have ever experienced. The Standard’s requirements are a significant departure from many of the old habits that have developed over decades of design, procurement, construction/ installation, startup, commissioning, operations, maintenance and the decommissioning
of equipment and facilities. This degree of CULTURE CHANGE mandates that top-level management not only comprehend what asset-management systems are all about, but also what culture change is all about—and how to be effective leaders and managers of workplace change.

As our facilities and manufacturing technologies and systems become increasingly inter-related, the people who operate and maintain them must depend on each other in a collaborative manner. Reliable electro-mechanical processes depend on teamwork among various roles and departments in the company. And this level of teamwork requires leadership that goes well beyond traditional supervision and management roles.

Now, on top of fairly complex facilities and manufacturing processes, let’s put an “asset-management system” in place to establish an asset-management policy and objectives and all the processes (i.e., integrated plans, business processes and information systems) to assure proper and consistent management of assets. That’s the essence of ISO 55001. Leadership and teamwork across traditional organization boundaries and culture change WILL be required in most cases.

Three key interdependent elements of success

Leadership and teamwork are all about PEOPLE (i.e., human assets). People make things happen: good, bad, indifferent. When people are organized into a specific goal-oriented business, they can accomplish much more than they could individually. Many minds and hands focused on common goals can achieve significant business results: desirable products, services, profits, wages, benefits. 

When business results are based on equipment and facilities (PHYSICAL ASSETS), it takes much more than people to make a business succeed. The equipment and facilities must be reliable and perform as intended. These physical assets directly impact profit and loss, safety and environmental incidents, and on-time delivery of goods and/or services to paying customers.

There is also a third element here: WORK  PROCESSES. The procedures that people use to manage the physical assets must also be reliable. ISO 55001 specifies the requirements for an “asset-management system”—in essence, another layer of work processes that’s overlaid on the routine and day-to-day work processes. 

The new ISO 55000 Asset Management Standard focuses on PHYSICAL ASSETS (among other not-so-physical assets) and asset-management-system WORK PROCESSES. While there are requirements pertaining to the PEOPLE side of asset management, there is NO prescription for engaging people in the standard: It’s left up to the business’ top management to define and deploy. Thus, the  “people side” is liable to be the weakest link in conforming to ISO 55001 requirements (as it was with the ISO 9000 Quality Management Standards).

Leadership expectations for top management

The suite of ISO 55000 Asset Management Standards addresses the principles of asset management along with the many associated terms and definitions. The “meat” of the Standard is contained in ISO 55001. These are the specific “requirements“ for an asset-management system—the “shall” statements that leave little doubt as to the required conditions.

What is most interesting is that each section in ISO 55001 starts with one of two phrases:

  • “The organization shall” (52 times)
  • “Top management shall” (5 times)

The term “Top Management” in the Standard represents the LEADERSHIP element, which requires the addition of TEAMWORK to achieve anything. “Top Management,” as used in ISO 55001, means that the ultimate responsibility for making the asset-management system function rests squarely at the top of the organization. “Top Management” is defined as:

“(A) person or group of people who directs and controls an organization at the highest level” (ISO 55000, 3.1.24)

The overarching role of “Top Management,” as discussed in ISO 55000 (Overview, Principles & Terminology), is described this way:

“Top management should create the vision and values that guide policy, practice and actively promote these values inside and outside the organization.”  (Elements of an asset-management system: – Leadership)


“Top management and leaders at all levels are responsible for ensuring that appropriate resources are in place to support the asset-management system.” (

There are a number of sections that speak to “Top Management’s” role and responsibilities within the ISO 55001 Standard:

Section 5 of ISO 55001 (Requirements) speaks to “Leadership.” In this section, there are three separate “Leadership” requirements for “Top Management,” including:

5.1 Leadership and commitment
“Top management shall demonstrate leadership and commitment with respect to the asset-management system…”

— 5.2 Policy
“Top management shall establish an asset-management policy…”

— 5.3 Organizational roles, responsibilities and authorities 
“Top management shall ensure that the responsibilities and authorities for relevant roles are assigned and communicated within the organization.” 


Section 9 of ISO 55001 (Requirements) speaks to “Performance Evaluation” and includes another specific reference to “Top Management:”

— 9.3 Management review
“Top management shall review the organization’s asset-management system, at planned intervals, to ensure its continuing suitability, adequacy and effectiveness.”


Section 5 of ISO 55002 (Guidelines) contains three separate “Leadership” guidelines for “Top Management,” including:

5.1 Leadership and commitment
“…however, it is important that ownership and accountability for asset management remains at the top management level.”

— 5.2 Policy
“The asset-management policy should be authorized by top management and thereby demonstrate commitment to asset management.”

— 5.3 Organizational roles, responsibilities and authorities
“The responsibilities and authorities of key functions should be defined. This should include both internal and outsourced roles and responsibilities. The interfaces between organizational functions should be clearly established.”


Section 9 of ISO 55002 (Guidelines) also speaks to “Performance Evaluation,” with another specific reference to “Top Management:” 

9.3 Management review
9.3.1: “Top management should review the organization’s assets, asset-management system and asset-management activity, as well as the operation of its policy, objectives and plans, at planned intervals, to ensure their suitability, adequacy and effectiveness.”

Leadership, teamwork & culture change

ISO 55001 will demand a substantial culture change in most organizations. Old habits—“But that’s the way we’ve always done things”—will probably have to change. This is especially true for organizations that have numerous “silos” of responsibility, each with differing roles, responsibilities, accountabilities and financial implications, not to mention the personalities and egos linked to them. True “asset management” cuts through many of these traditional organizational silos because asset management, by design, spans the entire life cycle of physical assets: from concept, design, procurement, construction/installation and startup through commissioning, operations, maintenance and decommissioning.

In the life cycle of physical assets, there are many departments, work groups and individuals within an organization that make decisions and take actions regarding the asset. If contractors are used, they too play an integral role. When we insert all of these different players at appropriate points across the entire life cycle, you can imagine the gaps that show up: different ideas, interpretations, priorities, expectations, budgets, documentation and communications. (Imagine! Most of us have lived through the problems that these types of disconnects generate.)

The “people side of asset management” cannot be taken lightly. Furthermore, we can’t look to the ISO 55000 suite of standards as a tool to make people (Top Management and everybody else) get on board. It’s not there. Sure, there are references to “roles and responsibilities” and “communications,” but there’s nothing regarding how to gain “buy-in” or “ownership” or “participation” or “engagement” from individuals or entities that are defined as “Stakeholders” by the Standard.

Stakeholder: “person or organization that can affect, be affected by, or perceive themselves to be affected by a decision or activity. (55000: 3.1.23)


‘It takes a village to raise an asset’

Sorry: My choice of a subhead isn’t meant as a reference to Hillary’s 1996 book. Rather, it’s a nod to some rural (and not so rural) cultures that believe in “community” when it comes to raising a child. The same principle applies to assets—especially physical assets. 

In the real world, it takes an “organizational village” to care for assets throughout their entire life cycle. That, I believe, is the central premise driving the adoption of ISO 55001 Asset Management — Management System Requirements. In some companies and businesses, that priceless sense of community—a “we’re in this together” type of thinking and feeling—may need to be re-instilled by Top Management at the onset of the new asset-management journey. MT 

Robert Williamson, CMRP, CPMM and member of the Institute of Asset Management, is in his fourth decade of focusing on the “people side” of world-class maintenance and reliability in plants and facil-
ities across North America. Email:




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