Not Just KPIs: Reliability at the Organizational Level

This is the final post in a three-parter about Reliability as a enabler for growth and change. First, on a personal level and how to create a stable base.  Second, at a business unit level, using reliability to guide the forward motion of your ship.  And third, today, at an organizational level – flexibility as competitive strategy.

The flexibility we should look for here is the kind that allows the organization to improve and react.  Market forces are out of our control, and they won’t be stable. Reliability at this level is the kind that our customers can count on, the kind that has everyone working together.  It means we are so reliable and consistent in our achievement of production targets that we aren’t spending a lot of effort fighting to get there.  And when we aren’t spending time fighting fires, or wrestling our process into the spec limit, we can be developing new and better ways to delight our customers. At an organizational level, this can look like a solid culture aligned with our current strategic priorities.  A reliable workforce is consistent and on aggregate, predictable. There’s less wasted effort and busy-going-nowhere-fast people.  And when we want to change as an organization, it’s less painful.

Outside our organization things will always be changing – what we can influence is internal to our facility, which is the clear knowledge of what we stand for and where we want to go.  We can verify reliability, take a deep breath before reacting to market forces or charging ahead with change. Communication is again the key here – reliability is developed by clear understanding at all levels (process, business unit, and organization). Communication to encourage flexibility needs to be timely, but doesn’t take a lot of time if our organization is reliable. This is where the flexibility comes from.

So success breeds success. If production is reliable, we can expend more energy on growth. If the culture is receptive because of success, we can talk about change. Reliability is a precursor to organizational flexibility.

How to create a reliable (and thus flexible) organizational culture? It takes an extraordinary effort by leadership, often over many years. But if we are currently enjoying a solid organizational culture, flexibility is a great benefit. If we understand it, we can capitalize on it.

What’s you experience with this level of reliability? Do you have performance measures that help everyone see where you are and where you’re going? How’s the communication in your organization?

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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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