10 Tips for Getting the Most Out of Your Next Maintenance Assessment

Another great blog post from James Kovacevic:

Assessments are a key tool for driving sustainable improvements in you Maintenance, Reliability, or Asset Management program.

When you hear the work assessment or audit, does it send shivers down your spine?  Do you envision a week or two of some “expert” digging through your data, processes, and performance, looking to get you in trouble for something you did or didn’t do?

While some audits may be to find issues or wrongdoing, most assessments should be viewed as a key activity to improving your current programs or systems.  These assessments, are used to compare your current program to industry best practices, identifying areas which could be improved.  The assessment typically includes a Recommended Course of Action (RCOA) which highlights what gaps should be focused on first.  So, whether the assessment is driven by corporate, internally or externally, how can you get the most out of a Maintenance assessment?

1. Have a Positive Attitude

Assessments are the first step to making sustainable improvements.  Believe that the assessment is for the better and will highlight issues you know about (not so good), and those issues which you don’t know about (very good).

If you don’t have a positive attitude towards the assessment, neither will your team, and the assessor will pick up on.  The assessor will believe that you have something to hide and will work harder to uncover whatever you are “hiding.”

2. Understand the Positive Intent Behind the Assessment

Remember that having an assessment is not free and does take significant time and resources to execute.  Organizations that choose to have a 3rd party come in to do the assessment are truly looking to have it deliver improvements in the long run.

Often, when senior leadership has HP Reliability come into to do an assessment, they just want to confirm what the internal team has been saying, or they have been observing.

By understanding that the purpose of the assessment is not punitive, but to drive improvements, those involved can see the positive intent behind the assessment and be open and transparent.

3. Be Open and Transparent

When conducting assessments, I can tell a lot about the organizational culture simply by how open and transparent the team is.  Some teams try to hide everything they are doing poorly or incorrectly.  While this may seem beneficial, it causes the assessor to spend more time uncovering what they already know.  As a result, they spend less time digging into the true issues that are preventing the site from moving forward.

When you are open and transparent, additional value and insights can be extracted from the assessor, further driving improvements at the site.

4. Prepare for the Assessment

Most assessments are scheduled well in advance.  This enables the team to prepare for the assessment.  By prepare, I do not mean trying to figure out what the assessor will want to see and create documentation.

Preparing for the assessment means, gathering any information or data that the assessor has requested for pre-read.  This will ensure that the time spent on site can be more focused on diving deep into the true issues and not combing through documentation.

Also, make sure you know where to find specific documentation such as training records, maintenance records, inspections, etc.  Far too often, too much time is wasted trying to figure out where these types of documents are and who has access to them.

5. Be Available

This sounds simple, but many times what should be a holistic assessment, including HR, Finance, Procurement, Operations, Engineering, etc., is limited to just the Maintenance department.  Also, the maintenance staff is not available for discussions, tours, etc.

To get the most out of an assessment, a key representative from each department and the site leadership should be available to discuss and review various findings.  This will also assist in finding the right information to address the key questions in the assessment.

6. Listen to the Findings

While the assessor is reviewing the processes, data, etc., they often explain what is good, what is great and why they are looking for specific items of evidence.  You can also typically ask about what they have seen in other industries or organizations of the same size.

7. Challenge the Findings

Assessors have no problem updating their findings during an assessment, but no assessor likes being proven wrong about a finding in a closeout meeting.

If you believe an assessor is missing something or has something incorrect, bring it to their attention and have a discussion about it.  Assessors typically have limited time and experience in your organization, and they may miss things, so do not hesitate to bring up items that need to be corrected.  This is why a Daily Close-Out meeting is so important (see Tip #9).

8.  Act on the Findings

Once the findings have been communicated, do not hesitate to start correcting or addressing the small items.  Also, once the final report and RCOA has been received, make sure to build out a short and long-term plan to close the gaps.  An assessment is useless if it doesn’t drive actions and changes.

9. Have a Daily Close Out Meeting

To eliminate any surprises and ensure both parties are being open and transparent, a Daily Close-Out meeting is required.  During the Daily Close-Out meeting, the assessor will provide the local team with;

  • What the assessor found today (Best practices and gaps)
  • Significant concerns (what is putting the site at risk to non- compliance situations, not passing the assessment, etc.)
  • What the assessor will be doing tomorrow
  • What support or people the assessor will need access to tomorrow

During the meeting, the site team should ask questions, challenge the findings (where it makes sense) and work with the assessor and rest of the local team to set up the next day for success.

10. Schedule a Health Check

Since the assessment process is a key part of an improvement initiative, a follow-up assessment or “health check,” should be scheduled.   The health checks could be conducted internally by staff, but it is recommended that at regular intervals, those internal health checks are validated by the 3rd party.

These health checks enable the current plan to be revised based on fast than expected progress in some areas, and slower than expected progress in other areas.  Also, the health check will identify additional areas for improvement and facilitate the development of the next phase of improvements.

These tips come from conducting numerous assessments using the Plant Hexcellence Framework and other internal models, across multiple organizations on multiple continents.  It is only when organizations and team accept that assessments are a critical part of the improvement journey that the benefits of the assessment are fully realized.

When you have an assessment, do you try to hide things you know you aren’t doing well?  Or are you open and transparent?  If you are looking for an independent 3rd party assessment, please contact info@hpreliability.com to schedule a free call to see if it right for you.  Also, if you have an upcoming assessment and want to know how to get the most out of it, feel free to contact us.

Remember, to find success; you must first solve the problem, then achieve the implementation of the solution, and finally sustain winning results.