Training Work Processes Workforce

It’s Not All About Skills

EP Editorial Staff | January 23, 2019

By Drew D. Troyer, CRE, Contributing Editor

Effective physical-asset management requires a high-performance team. Too often, however, managers focus on hard skills when selecting team members or making decisions on structuring and organizing teams. Indeed, many aspects of asset management require hard skills. But selecting individuals with the desirable behavioral tendencies and then nurturing development of those behaviors with reinforcement and rewards may be even more important.

Skills, which tend to be mechanical in nature, can be taught and fairly easily evaluated. For example, knowing how to check tires for inflation, tread depth, and wear is a skill. People can be quickly taught how to inspect a tire. Conversely, being shy and introverted is an example of behavior. A shy, introverted person can’t quickly or easily be taught to be outgoing and extroverted. In fact, some behaviors, such as introversion, are so hard-wired into individuals that they can never be completely changed. Why is this important to effective asset management?

Asset management is 20% technical factors and 80% human factors. Asset-management leaders, in turn, must assemble, organize, and motivate teams that possess the skills, knowledge, and behaviors to maximize physical-asset performance. Training can fix skill deficiencies. Education can rectify knowledge gaps. Behaviors, on the other hand, can be a real challenge. Some simply can’t be mechanically modified through intervention—at least not in the short term.

Introversion versus extroversion offers a prime example of behavioral tendencies that are particularly difficult to change. Other behaviors can be altered with reinforcement and rewards. Consider our tire-inspection example involving evaluation of inflation pressure, tread depth, and wear. That skill set could be taught in a matter of minutes. But what about caring enough to restore proper inflation, check balance and/or alignment when uneven wear is observed, and schedule and execute a work order to change the tire to prevent subpar performance and/or compromised safety? Those are behaviors. Unlike introversion and extroversion, however, caring enough to proactively manage tires, or other asset components, represents behaviors that can be modified within a reasonable period of time and reinforced with appropriate extrinsic and intrinsic rewards.

When I began my career in asset management, I thought the challenge was approximately 80% technical. Now, 30 years later, I’ve come to the conclusion that the challenge is roughly 10% technical and 90% social psychology. My message here: Don’t underestimate the importance of individual and group behaviors in the management of physical assets. Educate yourself on the topic. In the meantime, stay tuned for my February column focusing on knowledge versus skills. EP

Based in Tulsa, OK, industry veteran Drew Troyer is principal with Sigma Reliability Solutions. Email Drew.Troyer@sigma-reliability.com.

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