Column Management

Enforce Rules or Don’t Have Them

Klaus M. Blache | September 12, 2018

Why do you drive 60 to 70 mph in a 55 mph zone? It’s often because everyone around you is and risk of enforcement is low.

Rules, whether they are followed or not, also define the culture of your maintenance department. Many companies I work with don’t trust their computerized maintenance management system data. This is because everyone knows that, for example, not all tasks get recorded, work is not charged to where the work was done, error codes are inaccurate or missing, or some work orders are not properly closed out. Accountability on this one issue (good data) would drive so many positive things, including:

• planning and scheduling can be accomplished with realistic hours

• Pareto charts and root-cause analysis will have more impact

• backlog can be properly managed

• repair/replace decisions will be more meaningful

• mean time between failure and mean time to repair will be more accurate

• better information can be forwarded to engineering with regard to designing for maintainability

• KPIs (key performance indicators) will be more accurate and believable

• simulation and reliability models will be better decision-making tools

• team members will grow to trust process capability and integrity

• embracing machine learning will become possible.

Organizations that follow maintenance rules well typically have a list of absolutes, or rules never to be violated. Teams hold each other to a high standard of accountability on these agreed-to absolutes.

Do your rules make sense? Are they followed?

W. Edwards Deming’s 85/15 rule states: “85% of a worker’s effectiveness is determined by the system he works in, and only 15% by their own skill.” So supporting rules are needed to enable a viable work process. I will add that, even with strict rules, it’s important to allow common-sense decisions, since not every rule fits all situations. A recent example I experienced was at a large university in Germany. It was raining very hard and I was dripping lots of water. I needed directions, walked into the library, and saw a woman sitting at a desk behind a low counter. I tried not to get the floor too wet and asked for the location of a specific building. She said I needed to go to the Information Counter around to the left, about 50 ft. away. To my surprise, when I looked up, it was the same woman who now said, “Can I help you?” She had walked over to the counter from her desk and was now willing to answer my question as I continued to drip water over the floor and now the counter. Sometimes rules get in the way of common sense when they are too strictly interpreted or people don’t feel empowered to make even a small deviation.

Common sense is the knack of seeing things as they are, and doing things as they ought to be done.” (Harriet Beecher Stowe)

There appears to be a widespread lack of accountability in many facilities. People know their actions are not correct, but it’s what they feel needs to be done to get things accomplished, due to culture, process roadblocks, choosing an easier path, no past consequences for not following the common process, and so on.

“In theory there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice there is.” (Yogi Berra)

What are your rules doing for your business? EP

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Klaus M. Blache

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