Navigating by the North Star: Business Unit Level Reliability

Last week I posted about individual change and how reliability supports it – we need a stable base to be effective, and that base is built one exercise at a time.  We can’t rush it. Change at a business unit level is predicated on reliability as well.  The main difference here is scale – there are many more working parts and people at this level.  Stability is again important because that’s how a business unit achieves its objectives, how the business plan is met.  There is usually some variation from plan because no plan can be perfect.  Hopefully we’ve allowed for some variation around the mean (the target) and some days we do a little better to make up for the times things don’t go quite as well.

To organize a business unit around goals, there needs to be communication about what is important and why.  And when things aren’t going well, the ability to expand and change is nearly impossible. In those moments, it’s important to contract our focus as a team to the essential business unit goals.  It’s only when we are achieving targets consistently and reliably that we can start chasing improvements.

A key aspect to this is morale.  If our business unit hasn’t been producing reliably, it’s defeating.  It takes a force of will to have the discipline to return to essentials; otherwise we can lose enthusiasm and momentum.  This is dangerous and our ship can flounder, going nowhere.  Chaos just slows us down – people are throwing deck chairs around.  Ideally the ship is heading in one direction and all the people on board are aware and working towards the same end. Success breeds success and when the business unit or ship can stabilize, we can pick up steam and get back to a place where we can start looking outward again.  It takes a rigorous process of reliability to keep it all on course.

How do you rally your troops around reliability? What the key message do you use to focus on safety and production? What is your North Star?

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Steph Holko

Reliability Engineer in Steelmaking. I love the business and the process. I'm working to inspire others to care about the details. Novice runner, environmentalist, supporter of kids in STEM.

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