More Than a Recurring Meeting: Habits Involving More Than One Person

I had a comment from a previous post about habit development from a colleague. How to help others develop habits that are not necessarily as internally motivated. This is a tricky, complex thing and I’m not going to pretend to have all the answers.  There are some theories about what works for differently motivated people, and I suggest some ideas below that have helped either myself or those I’ve worked with. There is also the subtlety of whether you seek to motivate peers or direct reports.

In either case, there are a few preconditions that should exist before any attempts to create a “habit” with others.  It certainly helps to have leadership alignment. If everyone’s boss also sees the value in the work you’re doing, so much the better.

Creating buy-in from your coworkers is the largest part of the work, whether you are working with someone or trying to lead a team. The habit needs to have value for two people, the underlying purpose needs to matter to everyone (This is particularly true for me as a Questioner – I’m a bit biased).  It is harder to just force a habit and expect long term benefits someday, because now you have to compete with the demands on two or more peoples time. If you find a way to make life better, eliminate a source of frustration or pain, simplify a process – all of these are good reasons to come together. I can’t tell you what the reason is that will motivate your co-workers because it is specific to your situation and relationship – ask the other person. You can be upfront about it…how do we make this work for you? Without this, you may get people to show up, but you are leveraging your relationship with them, and this is not necessarily a good long term strategy.

Recently, my colleagues and I have found increasing value in our regular meetings and working sessions because we are working to improve our process, keep everyone engaged in upcoming changes, and ensure everyone has a say in how we do our work. When we all want to be there because there is value, moving forward is much easier than the inertia when there is no habit, no ritual.

Once the hard work of getting everyone to see value in the work and to agree to commit time to it, you can start looking at some principles of habit development. They can be employed to keep things moving, fun, or interesting for both parties.

Anchor habit: a way to create habit strength by picking one thing to commit to that makes it easier to stick with other habits. For instance, if you meet to review safety concerns and all the same people are in the room, it could also be tthe time to review reliability action items (not hijacking the agenda, but piggybacking).  Generate momentum this way.

A spoon full of sugar: include items that could be considered task-oriented with something more fun.

External Accountability: Some people like to see progress and so a visual tracking system can be useful. Maybe some healthy competition can help. Knowing you are meeting someone else and they are counting on you can be enough for some one. Showing up regularly to work with someone can do two things: encourage their habit by accountability and demonstrate how you value the work as well.

I find most people I work with have a high degree of personal accountability and so don’t need tricks to complete work. Sometimes it can be the difference between making something on the important list get put on the urgent list as well.  (Though the long game is rarely about urgency.)

If you are a supervisor, freeing up time for people and protecting that time, despite other urgent demands, will mean your team knows that work is valued. Otherwise it can be seen as lip service (this is a whole other topic).

In conclusion: know why, show up, add value and then be diligent about the habit you develop with your colleagues.

Any ideas or stories of what’s worked for you?

Why Proactive Reliability? What’s in it for me?

In the last post I wrote about what proactive reliability is, and why it is important to your business. Today I want to be a little finer in resolution – the person performing the work. Many people are motivated by internal rewards, this is what I want to highlight.

Proactive reliability analysis involves a certain philosophical trust in the analysis tools (FMEA, etc.). Going into the analysis it can be daunting, and the outcome and benefits may not be clear, especially if we’ve never done it before. It’s a lot of detailed work to commit to, and all without a failure occurring that calls us to investigate (see previous post on the sexiness of firefighting). We are taking a step back and imagining what could happen – these tools help us quantify risk, which is a bit ethereal.

Why is doing the analysis important? How do we benefit from the analyzing? If you are relatively new, or even if you have been around a while but haven’t applied a systematic analysis to your process or equipment risk, it is worth noticing what happens while you are grinding through the details.

I’m talking here about motivation. To be a good reliability professional it is important to have the right motivation – it will keep you going through the details, when the outcome is unclear. Daniel Pink talks about the three tenets of intrinsic motivation: mastery, purpose and autonomy.

1. I touched on purpose in my last post. And if you don’t take pride in making your plant more reliable and your company more successful, you’re done before you begin.

2. Completing an FMEA will improve is our mastery. We will know our process better when we apply this methodology. We also get to implement recommendations that improve our process and reduce risk, increasing mastery further.

3. This will eventually feed our autonomy as well because our decision-making can be backed up by our analysis.

Notice the next time you are required to apply an analysis that seems like a lot of work, without a sure outcome. We will benefit from the journey too.

Getting to the End Goal: I Like Metaphors

This one is about running.  I find it a pretty good metaphor for reliability work, and I’m all about the metaphors. I’m still a novice, and I’m looking to achieve new distances right now. This involves me following a training plan with set mileage and gradual improvements towards an end goal. This past weekend I finished the Chilly Half Marathon in Burlington, with a dramatic improvement in my time.

This one is also about discouragement.  Bumping up against my perceived limitations and realizing I’m going to have to change something, going to have to get a little uncomfortable. I haven’t been logging the splits I wanted to meet my Around the Bay goal (see my 2016 goals here).  Getting distracted by pace is discouraging if the end goal is distance.  It’s helped me to look at where I was and how far I’ve come, but even that doesn’t always work.  Similarly, reliability work can mean taking the long route to get to the end goal.  It helps to have that end goal clear in sight, and a plan to get there.  It can also be hard to keep going when you don’t really know what the end goal looks like (a complete, perfect maintenance program? Reduced budget? Reduced risk? Engagement of others to build a foundation?).  Uncharted territory means a few stumbles and wrong turns and detours.

This one is about persevering and prevailing. Not to be the best that ever was (though certainly that’s a laudable accomplishment), but to be the better than you were.  Better than you used to be. So you can accomplish things quicker, more surely, than in the past.  Figuring out what the end goal feels like, not having it be a sentence or line item.  This could be developing rapport with a colleague as you work through a project together.  Or it could be nailing a maintenance strategy for a piece of equipment, and knowing what to do next time.  My run last weekend felt like victory to me for these reasons.

And this one is about getting comfortable again fast, so you can conquer the next goal or project.  Always learning, getting steady with your feet under you, and using that new base of experience to do more.

Either way, I’m learning a lot.

How about you?  Any favourite metaphors for reliability?

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?

KPIs: Use ’em and Lose ’em

Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) are a hallmark of business practice.  They should help us manage our business and drive improved performance.  But KPIs are tools to achieve our goals, not the goals themselves. Many struggle with how to choose the right ones, and there are some good guidelines out there. It’s just as important to determine what level of detail is appropriate and how to say goodbye.

A KPI has to be meaningful to the person being held accountable.  There should be a direct link to the business and strategic plans for our organization. We should always know how our work adds value, and it’s particularly important when determining KPIs.  One way to figure that out it to use a KPI tree. Start with the strategic business objectives and work down into the details. The level of KPI we care about should be the same as the level of the business you can impact. It’s demotivating to be held accountable for ones not in our control.

We can’t track everything.  KPIs should reflect what is important right now. “Right now” can mean the time horizon that the strategic objective is valid, but KPIs can change as progess towards to the objective is achieved. Consider:

  • How we communicate KPIs and their link to performance will make the difference whether we are successful. 
  • Too many KPIs and we become over-saturated and don’t know what to work towards.  Maybe we have too many strategic priorites (which means they are not sufficiently strategic). Maybe we can’t let go of old KPIs because they feel comfortable and successful. 
  • The effort that goes into to tracking it. Is it worth the effort, or would we be better off using that energy to make progress? 
  • Who needs to know? (see above for what we can control)

A organization’s KPI is “tons of steel per year.” An Operations shift may have KPIs for safety, quality, etc. Tracking OEE might give us insight into what to work on, a way to focus some effort. But it won’t fundamentally change what our business is about. It’s an enabler and should be treated as such. Maybe that’s why we struggle.  

When priorities change, so should KPIs.  We can’t change priorities every day, nothing would ever get done. But don’t invent useless or noise-generating KPIs, and don’t cling to ones that are out-of-date.

How do you manage KPIs in your organizaion?  Do you struggle with any of the items above?  What would you change?