Shon Isenhour

Recent Posts

The Unsustainable Improvement Strategy: Three ways to ensure you fail.

Over more than ten years of consulting and training globally, I have watched a lot of companies spend an incredible amount of money to go after an organizational change in a very unsustainable way. Today's post will list three of the most frustrating and ineffective ways to make unsustainable change. Don't set out with failure as a goal or a likely destination.

Problem #1: Asking consultants to do it all for them. "But it easy to let the "experts" do it"
There are many consultants who will be more than willing to come in and do all of the heavy lifting. Consultants want as many billable hours as possible and taking it all on provides for their goal. Many of them do not drive sustainability, in fact, if it doesn't get sustained then they can come back again in a few years and sell more billable hours to right the ship. Now don't get me wrong, there may be times where you require a hired gun to knock out some elements because of resource constraints, however this should be used with caution and not applied to processes that require much organizational buy-in and change. We know organizational change is hard but it is no different than going to the gym... you can't let someone else lift the weight for you.

Problem #2: Not developing the solution from within. "Why would I develop it when I can just copy someone else?"
There is study after study that shows that the solution is most effective when it is developed from within. Without this ownership of the solution the organization struggles to implement and sustain. Are you suffering from the same issues the site that created the solution was? For example, a long distance runner does not use the same workout plan as a power lifter. Do you have the same culture? Are you at the same maturity, with the same performance gaps? You would not wear a tutu to a tractor pull just because somebody said you needed some clothes. So, don't put on someone else's solution just because it covers some of your important parts. In the end, a solution may share features or best practices but should be developed as part of a journey of self-discovery.

Problem #3: Not learning how to do it themselves. "Just give me the overview, I've got people for that"
If someone else develops it, and someone else implements it, then you don't get the education that is required to sustain it. The overview taught as the implementers are on the way out the door will be completely ineffective. During studies of how adults learn, it has been proven that retention of the material increases substantially when the content is directly applicable to the task at hand. If all of the heavy lifting has been done, then you as a learner have little reason to retain the content that is being delivered to you. Especially, if it is in the form of a 372 power point slide presentation that the guy in the front of the room is reading so he can go on to his next big gig. The best way is to ensure your organization is capable of sustaining the change is through a process where you learn best practices, apply those practices in your facility within the boundaries of processes you develop with the help of others in the organization. It is a bonus, if you can take that journey with a trusted adviser or coach that challenges the decisions you make but does not do it for you. Think of this as a personal trainer. They guide you down a path to success but they do not try to lift the weight for you.

In the end, we want to lift the weight for ourselves (organizational implementation), develop a work out plan that is based on our gaps and goals (facilitated self-discovery of the path and processes) , and work with a trainer to learn what to do and when to do it to get maximum results (learn by doing with coaching). If you implement with these three potential goals, then you will be one step closer to creating a sustainable habit and dodging an incredible improvement fail.

6 Questions About Your Reliability Vision That You Need To Answer.

Is your reliability vision driving you forward or is it just something you hang on the wall or put on the back of your business card?
Here are six questions you might use to bring your vision to the forefront and driving effective change in your organization.
1. First have you created a reliability or asset management vision? Is it clear, concise, memorable, and easily explained to anyone in the organization?
2. Have you and your leadership team practiced communicating the vision in your own words? Ensure that even though you convey the vision in different words that the organizations hears the same message.
3. Have you shared it with the whole organization and with multiple medias? Share it through video, text like brochures and emails, two way conversation, and training to all parts of the site.
4. Did your check for understanding? Two way communication is key when it comes to ensuring that what was said was heard and interpreted correctly. Ask questions. Listen intently.
5. Have you empowered others to act toward the vision with a plan and deadlines for completion?
It is critical to have a master plan to learn more about it click here
6. Did you celebrate your success? As the organization completes steps in the plan and moves closer to the vision, celebrate those completed steps. Use them to create a pull in the organization for the elements of the vision. This will make getting to that vision much easier and efficient.
These are 6 questions that many miss and hopefully you can use this as a checklist prior to or during your improvement project.

Quick Thoughts on Leadership

The following are just a few thoughts on leadership that I keep discovering...
Feel free to add your own in the comments.

Be Prepared: 
If we as leaders show up without preparing or with the appearance of being unprepared then we create a bad experience for the team or group from the start.

Do not let thank you be a set of words heard only once per year:
They are simple words that mean a lot so we must use them.


Do not ask for more without first using what your team has given you: 
If we ask for a new report or document to be created take the time to look at it before asking for more. If it is not important enough to devote our time to using it then maybe we should have thought about it more before we ask for it. This can be true of resources, time, or money. We must remember not to waste any of them if we can.

We must do the little things for our team:
They both remember them and enjoy them. Don't just send that boiler plate company birthday card, take the time to write a special thank you greeting for their birthday. You should remember what is important to them and see how you can feature it though out the year. If they are big music fan maybe you send them a few itunes credits or tickets to a concert. Personalization is a powerful thing. 

If we as leaders do not provide for the team's and the individual's needs then they may not be able to hear ours:
Take time to see how things are going with your team and the individuals. What do they need? What road blocks can you help with? This extends to their personal life as well because if they are focused on the outside problems then they will not be focusing on the needs of company or the team.

Pull on the introverts and push on the extroverts:
We need to take time to insure that we are collecting the great ideas from the quite part of the team and sometimes that means we may need to hold back on those "gifted in expressing themselves." 

Demonstrate what you expect:
If we like a certain trait we must make sure it is feature in our style.

You do not have to like it to learn from it:
Whether it is presentation style, content, or the message as a whole we do not have to agree with it to take a few new thoughts or perspective from it. If nothing else you have learned how others see the world and what you must work around or through to be successful.


Leaders must remain learners :
We must not stop the study of life once we "reach leadership". Sometimes we need to hear it said "shut up and learn"

Leaders Listen  
True leadership requires asking questions and actively listening to the answers. New leaders should spend time talking with the team and understanding the situation before creating new policies, procedures or requirements. In short, Listen more talk less.

Education Without Application Is Just Entertainment: 3 things that can help create a return on education.

Having spent the better part of the last 15 years educating people from all over the world in topics like reliability, problem solving, software, and leadership, there is one thing that I have noticed. Many companies are buying a lot of expensive entertainment. Why? Ask yourself this simple question: Of the last three training sessions you attended, did you actually use what you learned to make a difference in the way your business performs? If you did not use what you learned then I can not see how that class was anything more than two... three.... or five days of entertainment.
How many Planner Schedulers have attended a class only to go back and function as a parts chaser and relief supervisor?
How many root cause analysis classes have been sold where the attendee never once performs and documents a root cause solution?
So here are three ways to help your organization create a return on your educational expenses.
Retention: To increase the amount of new knowledge your learner bring back to your facility make sure that the instructor is familiar with your process. Work to ensure the material is tailored for your processes, business situation and most importantly your audience. That off the shelf class may be part of your entertainment problem. If a person is attending software training don't send them through 5 days of training when they only need a day. This lead to a tuned out non-learner who will more than likely miss the parts that they need to know just out of sheer boredom. Take the time to map out the skills you need the person to have and the learning objectives associated with those skills. Then the training can be customized to only provide the points and topics they need to be successful. This will limit boredom and increase retention.
Application: Once a student has seen a new way to do something in the training environment they must apply the skills nearly immediately. This helps with the previous topic of retention but it also creates success and real world examples that can be used to continue the change process. We use project based learning where each student has a charter with goals and metrics that they drive by applying what they have learned and generating success and a return on our training effort. They also have a coach that works with them virtually to help with that tough transition from learner to practitioner.
Culture manipulation: As the student create success this will breed a desire to have more success. This is one way to help with cultural change.  The second is to ensure the leadership both understand the goal of the training and what process and behaviors that the training should change. This allows them to ask the right questions of the student to propel the implementation forward. "What is important to my boss is important to me." We again use the learning project charter to facilitate the discussion with the manager and the student and their project coach who is helping them along the way. With a pull from leadership and the success of quick application you can begin to manipulate the culture into the the target state.

Here are my three ideas. What other things are you doing to make your education something more than entertainment. 

Five elements of sustainable cultural change

Change dynamics, leadership, risk identification and management, communication, and project management all must be addressed.

By: Shon E. Isenhour

A Valentines Day Message About Mismatched Communication

Mismatched communication plagues a lot of organizations and affects the implementation of new initiatives and organizational changes. This video shows a demonstration of the concept.

Thankful Thinking: 7 List of Thanks

As we start the Thanksgiving week I could not help but think about the softer side of reliability. We focus so much on the technical issues and tools that drive reliability so let us focus on the people again. So many of the task that ensure reliability and profitability are thankless and often overlooked. This week I would challenge each of you to make a list of seven people that make your reliability possible. Once you identify your seven think about what would make their day better. It may be a few kind words, a pat on the back, a note left on their desk, or the purchase of a cup of coffee at break. Make sure they know how they help through out the year and specifically why you are thankful. The why is crucial because a general thank you just does not carry as much power. 
As I think back to my days at ExxonMobil I remember a maintenance technicians who took the time to teach others, and an operator that was interested in learning the equipment and the best setup techniques, and a parts clerk who really demonstrated pride in keeping the parts defect free. Don't forget the others like the janitorial staff that make it a pleasant environment to work in and the security team that helps get your contractors through the gate each day.
We at Eruditio would like to thank all of the people that have been a part of our first two years. You all have made it awesome and we are indebted to you for your trust and support.
Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family!

Is The MTTR Metric Killing Your Reliability?

Metrics or Key Performance Indicators (KPI) are a force for good when they are used at the right time and with the right complementary or supporting elements. But, when they are used at the wrong point in a facilities maturity they can have unintentional consequences, or even worse they can drive the wrong behaviors.
An example that I continue to see causing more issues than it is solving, is the use of the KPI known as Mean Time To Repair (MTTR). When this metric is used alone, in immature organizations, or without an understanding of the unintentional consequences it can drive your organization in the opposite direction of world class performance. If your organization is immature from a reliability cultural standpoint and you choose MTTR as your focus then you set yourself up to become very reactive by being very quick to respond to failures. The facts are:
  • Reactive response is at least 5 times more expensive than planned and scheduled work . 
  • Operations will beat on you to get faster and faster at responding so that you lower MTTR. 
  • Rushed repairs are less reliable.
  • Reactive response requires more expensive spare parts stock.
  • Repetitive failures and repairs increase the chances of the introduction of infant mortality failures. 
  • You will find yourself with high skilled maintenance technicians just standing on the manufacturing floor doing nothing while waiting on a failure to occur. 
  • Pressure to make the repair as quickly as possible can lead to taking elevated safety risks either intentional or unintentional. 
Many of the sites that choose MTTR as a primary metric early in their reliability journey create a brigade of firefighters on the ready with crash carts and mounds of spare parts. What we really want is to prevent the failures from happening to start with or at least reduce the frequency. For that we might use other metrics like Mean Time Between Failures (MTBF) early on and then deploy MTTR, after we increase the reliability of our systems. This later use of MTTR will allow us to address the issues we can't prevent and to understand any training gaps and other issues that might be affecting repair times.
Picture it this way: If MTTR is all you have then your organization will create tools like crash carts and quick response teams instead of using tools like Root Cause Analysis (RCA) to understand and eliminate the reoccurring problem. From the real world, I have seen bearing quick change carts developed to speed up re-occurring failures repairs where it they had just tensioned the belts properly the failures would have been eliminated.  Five really fast 2 hour bearing replacements is still much worse that bearings that don't need repairs at all. This site needed to understand better not respond quicker.
Are your metrics driving the wrong behaviors? Are you using them at the right time?
Tell us what metrics have not worked for you and why in the comments below. 

Not Running From the Saber Tooth Tiger: Reactive to Proactive Leadership in 3 Steps.

Life pushes us to be reactive and we learn it from an early age. When we are young, we stick a fork in a power outlet or touch a hot stove and then we react. That becomes the predominant learning style as we grow. It is how we learn the concept of cause and effect. But later in life we are told that proactive is better but, this goes contrary to what has shaped us up to this point. Why would I want to be proactive? Why should I change? That is not what my past has reinforced.
So lets answer those questions first, and then talk about how we can become a more proactive leader moving forward. While reactivity allowed or ancestors to run from the saber tooth tiger, proactivity would have allowed them to not run into the saber tooth tiger in the first place or at the very least show up with spears for protection. Proactivity lessens the chances of needing reactivity which has been scientifically proven to lower the blood pressure in people like me (Cake loving non-athletes). High blood pressure is mostly bad so, we want that metric to trend down to a point. Why stir up the chemicals and hormones of stress if you can identify the risk early and address them before they attack you like a saber tooth tiger.
So how do we do it? No matter what project or task you want to manage or lead proactively you can get started with three steps.
First, decide what success would look like for the task or project. What are the goals? How do you know you have won? Knowing these elements first helps with the follow on activities.
Second, ask yourself what could go wrong that could jeopardize your goals or success with the task or project. List out each of these risk. Some will involve people. Some will involve resources. Be a real Negative Nancy and list as many as possible (get out you inner project negativity). Once you have the risk listed then prioritize them. I use a simple 1(low risk) -10 (high risk) scale with three categories multiplied together to rank the risk list. The categories are: severity, likelihood of occurrence, and ability to proactively detect. Once this is complete you can move onto step three.
Third, you create a plan to address the high risk items early before they occur. Many of the steps to address the risk will be communication action items that will need to be drafted in advance to explain that an issue is expected and that this is what we are doing about it proactively.
We could spend the rest of the day discussing the intricacies of proactive project and task leadership and management but these are the three overarching steps you should be taking to keep from being eaten by the saber tooth tiger you are trying to manage.

Five questions you have to answer before your next change initiative.

We all are part of change initiatives and interestingly the majority of them fail to deliver the results expected or projected. When we look back at the ones that failed to deliver, we find many that were destined to fail from the beginning because of the way the change was unveiled and communicated to the affected individuals. Below are five question that are crucial to answer upfront, repeatedly, and through multiple medias. I will demonstrate the questions using a hypothetical Enterprise Asset Management System (EAM) or Computerized Maintenance Management System (CMMS) implementation as the example and share a few elements that satisfy a portion of the questions.  
1. Why are we doing this? 
 Example: Tell them about the transparency the new EAM provides.  You might also share the fact that it is connected with all of the other management systems from procurement and human resources and it allows the business to be better managed by tearing down the walls between these departments. In the end it will make the business more efficient and will help us to surpass our competitors. 
2. What does this look like?
Example: Show them the master project plan for the EAM roll out with the dates and areas of focus. Allow them to drill down into the plan so they can see the details where it is of interest. This will help with the next question. 
3. How will it affect me? or What's in it for me?
Example: Show them how the new system will change their current role. Hopefully you can show them areas where the new system is easier and better for them. This can be done with the work flow process maps or the RASI or RACI documents that were created during the blueprinting phase of the EAM implementation.  If RASI or RACI is a new acronym check out this post here.
4. What do you expect from me?
Example: This is where you can take them through specifically the "R's" or Responsibilities relating to their role. These are shown in the RASI documents. These responsibilities are what is required for the process to work effectively and it shows what you need for them to do specifically to meet the needs of the change.
5. What can I expect from you?
Example: This is where you might share the "R's" that you own and what you will also provide from an "A" or accountability standpoint.
These examples only begin to scratch the surface of the information that you need to provide but should give you some context for each question. Please take the time to plan out how you are going to communicate each of these points out to all the different groups that will be affected by the change.
 If you have other questions that we should consider please add them in the comments below. 

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