Shon Isenhour

Recent Posts

Are You Forgetting Your Hard Earned Lessons? Could it cost you the war with your competitors?

This video shows what would have to be called a best practice in the world of archery and, for that matter, war, that was forgotten and lost over time. Lars Andersen has rediscovered the technique through careful study and practice.  An archer with this skill set, as you will see, could devastate the competition and possibly change the outcome of both battles and wars. Take a look and then think about what practices your company has discovered through the years at the floor level and else where that have been lost due to turnover of employees, poor documentation, poor processes and lack of focus. With the departure of the baby boomer generation we are facing the equivalent of a mass exodus of skilled archers. Time is of the essence to capture their skills and knowledge and create training plans to leverage this knowledge to enlighten future employees. It would be great to capture it from the people but you might also need to go after it else where. 
Key areas that might contain existing knowledge could be:

  • Technical knowledge could be contained in your drawings, plans, purchasing records, maintenance craftsman's little black books and Computerized Maintenance Management System
  • Operational process knowledge could be contained in log books, data historians, recipes, operators little black books
  • Business processes knowledge might be found in those dusty manual up on the shelf in your office or old "as is and to be" documents scattered here and there on servers and shelves.

Once you have the knowledge it is useless if you can not find a way to transfer it. It would be like finding the picture of the archer and putting it in your desk drawer. The power is the conversion of history to application through training and communication.
You might choose to use e-learning, face to face training, video, coaching, simulations, project based application, and blended approaches that focus on the learning objectives that are taken away from your best practice documentation. We suggest you look at what you are doing today, what you would like to do different in the future and then determine what skills, knowledge and abilities that you need to communicate to facilitate the cultural change that you are looking for. Through this process you can keep the archers shooting fast and strait and win the war with the competition.

For more information on how we can turn your team into reliability warriors, click for more information


Reliability Engineering: Glorious Work or Laborious Work?

When you think of reliability engineering, especially in manufacturing, does your mind conjure up images of the glorious work of a Reliability Rockstar or the laborious work of the forgotten few? I think we all wish, at least sometimes, our day included marching as the Grand Marshall in the Uptime Parade followed by an afternoon writing your acceptance speech for the CMRP of the Year Award ; but that really just is not the case. While becoming a reliability engineer or reliability technician is a very rewarding career, it takes a lot of hard work and does not come with a lot of trumpets and fanfare. Let's face it, if you do your job perfectly, then nothing happens... the equipment just runs, the plant just produces, and technicians and craftsmen just execute planned and scheduled work. It is calm; firefighting is at a minimum. Life is dare we say boring. So how do you get here? You have to start with the basics and facilitate your site completing tasks like building hierarchy, collecting name plate data and then determining asset criticality. This is definitely laborious work, but it has to be done and done right. This information is the foundation on which all future reliability engineering work will build. How can you collect meaningful Mean Time Between Failure data if you don't have a hierarchy or know what assets are where? Next, you need to take the hierarchy and criticality and use that to identify high risk areas and equipment. Then, begin to create asset management plans that are based on the actual failure modes not the bloated OEM PM documentation. You can do this by using anyone of the Reliability Centered Maintenance (RCM) methodologies or even just a failure modes effects analysis (FMEA). Again, this is laborious and even a bit tedious, but this has to be done and you might as well be the one to get it rolling. Once we know how the equipment fails, we can now apply the more glorious tools of Predictive Maintenance (PdM). But, if you jump here first without the other steps, you will find yourself an under achiever at best and a money wasting good for nothing gadget guy at worst. Once you get to this stage, you now ready to think about many of the more advanced rock star statistics tools, loss elimination, and RAM modeling. All of these work best when you have good solid data collected to the hierarchy within your Enterprise Asset Management Systems (EAM) and a process that demonstrates stability. With this level of focus and data, you can make the fine adjustments needed to really help the assets perform at rock star levels; then you can practice your glorious parade wave.    

FMEA: Its Not Just for Maintenance Anymore

I find it very interesting how many of the tools we reliability and maintenance engineers use within our jobs apply in a much broader sense. The obvious one is root cause analysis or RCA as it is known. It could be applied by anyone to solve nearly any problem. In fact in my workshops I have had operations, human resources, and even information technology folks learning about the processes and tools to reduce or eliminate failures. But, have you ever thought of how you can use the failure modes effects analysis (FMEA) and its derivative failure modes effects and criticality analysis (FMECA) process beyond just equipment maintenance plan development?
I find it can be used for every project that you are a part of. For example say you have been asked to be part of a team that is implementing SAP or Maximo or any other EAM. One of the first things you need to identify after scoping and charter is a  risk plan and in essence that is exactly what an FMEA creates. You can look at the goals of the project then consider what might go wrong to diminish goal attainment. Then you can use risk priority number (RPN)  from a FMECA to sort the potential issues. Lastly, the team can design mitigation or elimination steps for those failure modes that meet a minimum risk threshold. So for example, if one of the goals, or functions in FMEA speak, of the project is to complete the implementation in nine months you might consider that a site leadership change could affect the group’s ability to meet this goal. The change in leadership could mean a change in priorities etc. We would then look at its RPN by asking: What is the likelihood of the leadership changing? How bad would the leadership change effect on time project completion? And what are the chances we could detect the leadership change prior to occurrence? This would lead us to a ranked list of potential failure points or modes. We could then build elements into our communication plan and other project plans to proactively address these potential failure modes. Then, if they do occur everyone would be aware and prepared to address them.
What other RE and ME tools do you use in unorthodox ways?

Do You Need More Wedding Planning in Your Plant Outage?

So lets talk about really solid outage planning and scheduling. Not the half-hearten effort that I sometimes see organizations pass off as planning and scheduling, we want to see the good stuff.

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.

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