Happy International Women’s Day

Hi Everyone,

It’s been a while – I’ve got some posts on the fire, but for today I want to shout out to all the Badass Babes who are gettin’ it done.  You inspire me, and others, and I hope today that your contributions are recognized. Happy International Women’s Day.


P.S. for more info, go here: https://www.internationalwomensday.com/

Race Car Mentality: Proactive Maintenance


When we do equipment reliability work, there is a mentality we can run up against – a culture that values firefighting over installing fire detectors and checking extinguishers. I should be clear – people that can “fight equipment fires” or excel at fixing emergency problems are invaluable, and it’s not a skill I possess. However, it is probably not the best strategy to rely on it, if we are trying to give ourselves an edge based on a relatively smaller operating budget.

A different way to look at it is to consider our process line as a race car. The maintenance crew spends a lot of time understanding which components fail when (usage based? time-based?), have the right spares on hand, execute pit stops (shutdowns) with precision, get feedback from the driver (operator) – all because they know they are critical to winning the race.

What if we treated proactive maintenance like a pit crew, instead of performing fire extinguisher maintenance?

It is not one individual that can make this shift on their own, but culture change has to start somewhere – why not shift our perspective and see if makes a small difference?

There are many articles and further reading out there (NASCAR presented at a conference I attended), if you are interested in taking the analogy further.

How do you view proactive equipment maintenance?

Respect Your Elders

This is part public service announcement.  Part reminder.

Respect your elders. “Elders” are those with much more experience than us.  They’ve built that plant from the ground up and watched it fail, then built it back up again.  They have lived the things I can only theorize about.

Lately, people seem to be in more of a rush than usual to get to the point and move on.  I’m here to remind us all that not only is it rude, it’s counter-productive. And I find it fascinating to learn the history of the place where I get to work.

So next time the person who came up with a now-accepted equation or methodology or repair plan wants to tell us how it came about, maybe we should pull up a chair and get comfortable.  Because they created it out of nothing, from their smarts and experience.  It’s obvious or logical now because they made it that way.  Settle in and learn something from the greats.  We can spare the time.

Prepping for Proactive: Set It Up and Make It Stick

Right now we are fleshing out the details of our proactive reliability plan for 2016.  Proactive plans are easier, and more difficult.  Easier, because we can take a holistic view of the potential work, and then pick where it would add the most value.  Harder to implement because it’s not Urgent.  And since reliability requires everyone to participate, as a reliability leader or ambassador, you have to convince people to look away from the Urgent to spend some time on the Important.

This is not easy to do. Proactive reliability is methodical and exhaustive.

Two thoughts: how do we set it up, and how do we make it stick?

Proactive reliability is predicated on understanding risk. This can seem nebulous, so how can we break it down into workable pieces? Risk is about what could happen, not what has already happened.  We are looking at the potential impact of failure, and what plans we have in place to mitigate it. We are casting a broad net across our shop to see any hot spots, then focusing there first. This is how we’re setting it up.

Making a proactive program stick means we have to know why it’s important and be able to explain it.  More than that, it’s about buy-in (like any change management, imagine that?) I’m tempted to rush ahead and get as much accomplished as possible, to fill out the analysis and get the “results.”  I’m learning that even though it might take longer, involving everyone in the process means more buy-in over the long run.

How do you create buy-in for proactive work? What is the right balance for involving people in the journey and making efficient use of everyone’s time?

Focus: How to Improve at More Than One Thing

Was I fast? No. But I did it.
Was I fast? No. But I did it.

You may have noticed I’ve been absent for a little while. I set a goal to post every week until the new year.

Clearly I’ve missed the mark.

When things go haywire our worldview can shrink. A boss once told me “leadership is pushing many things forward a little at a time.” I currently feel like there is a mountain of good things in front of me, but I can only scoop a handful at a time.

And I can’t do a quality job at everything, so the blog has sat on the back burner.

In that time I’ve run my first half marathon, gotten most of the way through a course on steel metallurgy, and had a first hand look at functioning reliability systems in other departments in our company.  If I had spread myself too thin, I may have done none of these things well, or at all.  I had to focus on completing the goals I set, and there was no room for other creativity.

This post is to encourage others with a similar influx of data, ideas, priorities, to focus on only the one in front of you.  Focus.  Then you will go after it and succeed, without getting distracted by all the other important things calling your name.

That’s what happened to me this fall.  I miss this blog – finding a way to crystallize and communicate the ideas and learning I’m doing is a highlight. Part of my process.

If you are like me and have had an explosion of things happening this autumn, can you share what you’ve gained by it? How do you make the lemonade?

The Windy City is Mighty Pretty: Three Things I learned from Leadership Training

Last week I participated in a leadership course in Chicago, and all the participants were women. I wrote about the general structure of leadership courses last week. After this experience, I have some takeaways and they are missing from that post:

1. I forgot about sharing stories and coaching discussions
2. I’ve changed over the years 
3. The PEOPLE.  Meeting new people, learning their stories and how they view the world, what drives them, what they strive for – it’s inspiring to say the least.

Stories and Coaching: Though philosophies are introduced, they don’t fully come alive for me until there are stories to connect to. For example, a workplace culture framework is useful to me only when I can picture people navigating within it.

When theories are applied to real life experiences, they stick better. The main difference between courses open to all genders and this one involving only women, wasn’t the theories or content, but the stories. The stories told here were told with a different lens, and there was an honesty and some direct questions that probably wouldn’t have been asked otherwise. I found some solace in the similarities between us. The benefits for me lay in the interactions between participants.

Carmen Lomellin
Guest Speaker Carmen Lomellin

Personal Growth: I’ve changed over the last 15 years. There are a few self-assessments I’ve repeated periodically (one since high school), and I’m almost 180 degrees different on certain scales.  My values haven’t changed – the core of my personality hasn’t changed – but I’ve shifted on certain axes.  

I’ve identifed as introverted since I learned what that was, but I’ve demonstrated increasingly extroverted behaviour.  Perhaps that is because, by and large, extroverted behaviour seems to be rewarded in our business culture.  However, in the time I’ve developed extroverted behaviors, I’ve also learned that introversion is not a flaw but a strength.  I still make calls that I’m uncomfortable making, purely because they make me uncomfortable.  I still need time to stare at a wall and clear my head so I can re-enter the busy extroverted place I work.  But I’m much more open and relaxed than I used to be.

Too much? Or, how I used to be...
Too much? Or, how I used to be…

The PEOPLE:  This is the magic. I like to meet new people, particularly people who are so invested in work and life.  Where did they come from?  How did they get here?  What are the strengths and experience they bring to the table?  What do they do for fun? (That one is always a great answer.) I’m not reaching when I say I was in some fantastic company.  So, thanks to you, Ladies!

In closing, I had very specific objectives for this course, and I’m happy to report I came away with the strategies and actions to work on those items.  But I came home with so much more.

Have you ever experienced a time like this – when you have a basic set of goals, and come away with much more? Met people who inspired you? What was it that made it memorable?

You Are Always Making Progress

If you’re developing a reliability program, there are generally two ways work is triggered: reactively, when a failure occurs, or proactively, through a criticality ranking mechanism. Both avenues look to identify failures and mitigation strategies. One way draws on knowledge and experience and predicts consequences, the other begins at the consequence and works backwards.

Proactive reliability seeks to look at all your assets and asks you how to have the least total cost for your organization. You take your best educated guess at which equipment needs analysis first, and get started.

Reactive work is due to a failure and root cause analysis is used to isolate the reason for the failure and prevent future reoccurrences.  It’s a deep dive into a focused scenario. It will produce several solutions for failure prevention (of course, always aiming to avoid the “belt and suspenders”) often recommending a pro-active analysis, which are then incorporated into your proactive project plan.

It can be frustrating to feel like you’re losing ground because of a failure. The “proactive” work has to stop while a “reactive” investigation occurs. A reactive event does not change your ultimate goal. It merely shows you that your first guess at proactive prioritization wasn’t perfect. The equipment is telling you it has more urgent priorities.

Reliability work is often thought of as binary and this leads to the frustration. But what if we consider it as a spectrum? A suite of tools that will get you to your goal. Different paths to the same destination. All reliability work is moving you forward towards the goal.

Dare I say “enjoy the journey?”