Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Looking Back for the Keys to Sustainability

From time to time I get to go back and visit plants and facilities that were clients of mine from years ago. This week happens to be one of those weeks. I find it so exciting to go back and see what they have held on to, what they have improved, and where they have slipped back and why. Interestingly I see different things in each site. Some sites progress with continued focus on reliability, others moving  into other initiatives like lean or six sigma and build off of their reliability results further building success and a third group lose focus and slides back toward the old norm and the reactive philosophies of the past. These sites have many reasons why they slip back including leadership changes, union issues, retirements, sudden changes in the market place.
The question for today’s blog is how do we lock it in? How do we sustain the cultural change that has been or is being completed?
The plants that have the most success have done these four things.
First they have moved past a champion model. Reliability for them is more than just one person’s vision. They do not have one single leader for the initiative that either charismatically leads the pack or forces compliance within the site. They have many folks who see the benefits of reliability and evangelize it consistently. Nearly all implementations start as a champion model with a key leader but the sustainable ones work this down into the organization and develop and army of like-minded drivers that demonstrate that reliability is the new way we do business.
Second, they communicated broadly as they implemented with a plan, consistent activity, and increasing site involvement. These groups start by going through a risk analysis of the transformational change. They look to understand what might go wrong and what they can do to mitigate that risk. They communicate at every stage of the process and the message and media changes based on the risk and the needs of the impacted. They focus on situational leadership and provide the individuals with what they need to help them progress through the change and then sustain.  In short they plan their communication and they work the plan increasing involvement and pushing toward the tipping point and increased likelihood of sustainability.
Third, they have a clear goal, vision, and business case and they reject things that go against that vision.  If the vision changes then that is fine but they work hard to communicate the changes. They evaluate all initiatives site wide and include only the ones that support the goals. Of those they select they sequence them in a way that supports and allows them to build. This means they may do a part of one initiative with the required resources and then complete a section of another selected improvement strategy knowing that they will build on each other and help improve overall site performance. If they take this approach then they build a system unique to them that can be developed without overloading the resources and provides for stable continuous improvement.
Fourth, they use metrics effectively. They don’t focus on every metric all the time they focus on the metrics that drive the behaviors that they need to change at that moment. Once the behavior is changed and becomes the new norm then they move their focus to other metrics and other behaviors.
There are other factors that come into play but these are some key success factors that seem to be present for success and sustainability.

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