Bluefield is often asked to assist companies to turn around the performance of their equipment reliability and availability. When we are presented with a reactive environment we almost always find misalignment between the key sections; planning, execution, and reliability. In the worst cases, people are nervous and are looking to blame the other areas, which creates further misalignment. It is never possible to fix these situations by just working with one section. It always requires cooperation, no surprise!
What is required to enable cooperation between all areas?
We learned a long time ago that successful teams require three key elements.
First, they must have people with complementary skills. This is always already in place. There are different technical skills in every team, people who are strong in different machines and people who are strong in the processes.
Secondly, it is essential that everyone is committed to common performance goals. This is almost always in place, everyone has the same availability targets, department budgets and mine targets are clear.
Lastly, successful teams need to have people who are committed to “an approach for which they hold themselves mutually accountable”. This is almost always the problem. Even when the business processes have been documented in the greatest level of detail and people have been taken through them until they are almost ill!
So how is it possible to get this required alignment and commitment to a common approach?
Clearly, there are many answers to this question. Here we have shared our thoughts and approach.
The key, from our experience, is in here “For which they hold themselves mutually accountable". Similar to any sports team when they agree on a game plan it does not go to plan from the first game of the season. They have to go back to training and discuss where their game plan broke down. They must actually talk about it openly and honestly when people do not follow the agreed approach and allow for changes that make the approach more achievable.
In Bluefield, we utilise a working agreement toolkit to get these agreements written down and create the alignment. The working agreements are the practical details that sometimes cannot be written as part of the business processes, they sometimes site specific or are related to the standards that people accept when work is completed as per the business process. In addition to the agreement, we also agree on the required course of action when the agreement is not followed. This sets up the required commitment and enables the open discussion when the goals are not met.
In reality, informal working agreements are created all the time when people start working together. The problems often occur when there is staff turnover and new people have different ideas on how things should be done. It is important to get the teams together to discuss the agreements from time to time until these become part of the culture.
Just by getting an alignment and common standards agreed on how problems will be overcome it is possible to see significant improvements in equipment reliability performance as the planning, execution and reliability efforts become more effective.