On The Floor Reliability

Manage Your Groundhog Day

Klaus M. Blache | September 10, 2020

During and after the pandemic, control what you can control in your job and at home, be positive, and prepare to be successful in the new normal.

Q: How important is resilience in driving reliability results?

A: Many may remember the 1993 movie Groundhog Day. Bill Murray stars as a sarcastic, self-centered TV weatherman (Connors) who is sent to cover Punxsutawney Phil (groundhog) during the annual event in Pennsylvania. Folklore says that if, on February 2, a groundhog sees its shadow due to clear weather, it will return to its den and winter will continue for six more weeks. Otherwise, spring will arrive early. This is Connors’ fourth time covering this event and he makes no effort to hide his frustration.

As he wakes on February 3, he discovers that it’s Groundhog Day again, and on every following day. He realizes that he is in some kind of time loop, seemingly trapped to spend eternity in Punxsutawney, PA. Connors can change his behavior, but for others it’s always that day. Eventually his resilience and positive outlook save him.

It also sounds somewhat like the past six months for many of us (minus the groundhog). Just like Connors in the movie, it will require a positive behavioral change to alter the situation. During this first half of 2020, I’ve seen three reactions to our pandemic situation:

• upset and complaining
• concerned and waiting for a solution or a return to “normal”
• focused on improvement action items, regardless of the new normal, i.e., How can I make a positive difference given the current situation?

Researchers at the Univ. of Cincinnati found that 85% of what we worry about never happens. In addition, the study found that 79% of the participants handled the 15% that does happen in a way that was better than expected or resulted in a good learning lesson. This means that 97% of what you worry over is not much more than your own mind’s angst. All of that worry can have a negative effect.

More recent findings have shown that 91.4% of predicted worries did not come true for participants. Actually, the most common amount of untrue worries per person was 100%, meaning it never came to fruition.

Why am I writing about this? It’s because I see people grappling with uncertainty, too many businesses struggling; some at the tipping point with no clear best answer for all. I hope my message is clear: Don’t worry about things that, for the most part, won’t happen. Control what you can control in your job, at home, and for the future. What should you and can you learn that is needed in what may be the new normal? Be positive and prepare to be successful in the new normal. During this COVID-19 time, I’ve seen businesses improve their performance (while following strict PPE and social distancing). I’ve witnessed small companies that had to completely redefine themselves and are doing well. They didn’t like what was happening and took forward-looking action.

In 2017, before the current pandemic, the McKinsey Global Institute estimated that about 375-million workers would need to switch occupations or acquire new skills by 2030 because of automation and artificial intelligence. Now, being able to reskill and upskill the workforce has become even more critical. It’s much more than just talking about working remotely.

While every human shares 99.9% of their DNA with every other human, some clearly have a way of thriving even when times are tough. That difference can be explained by a trait known as resilience, which has been defined as the ability to adapt well in a positive way toward adversity. I would also add the word tenacity. The U.S. Army defines resilience as the mental, physical, emotional, and behavioral ability to face and cope with adversity, adapt to change, recover, learn, and grow from setbacks. Resilient people don’t just bounce back and try again. They realistically assess the situation and do what’s necessary, for as long as is necessary, to come back better and stronger to increase the likelihood of success. Whether it’s the current crisis, a personal event, a reliability issue, or any other work challenge, be resilient and tenacious, grow, and come back better. EP

Based in Knoxville, Klaus M. Blache is director of the Reliability & Maintainability Center at the Univ. of Tennessee, and a research professor in the College of Engineering. Contact him at kblache@utk.edu.

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