Context - The Reason 'why' is Important To Maintainers

The question “Why?” has been asked by every single person regardless of age, industry, or position. “Why” does it matter to us at Bluefield?

By Colin Sheldon

It is human nature to question things and to wonder ‘why’, especially when given instructions.

Without an understanding of the reason, people naturally tend to feel disconnected or disengaged.

Those people may deviate from those instructions or disregard them altogether and choose their own ideas as the best option. But, if that same person is provided with the context for those instructions, they can buy into the importance of what they are doing.

Parallels can be drawn with the controls developed out of risk assessments.

Workers asked to use risk assessments on the floor don’t want to read 50-pages to find out why they need to do a certain action before completing a job task. A short punchy reason for the control gives meaning for the frontline workers who will be affected if these controls are not implemented.

This sets a challenge for planners, schedulers, and reliability engineers responsible for maintenance tasks to be well prepared and to critically evaluate their own instructions, who need to reflect on their conveyed meaning and whether the person being asked to do the task will be able to understand the greater goal.

Being able to understand why and what bigger picture you are contributing to allows workers to have pride and passion in their work.

Bluefield take this one step further and believes involving those maintainers in the developmental stage of the strategies they take on themselves builds even more accountability and ownership. The ‘why’ becomes their ‘why’.

While we have been talking exclusively about maintainers, this is not only an issue for the shop floor. Users of company standards can be left in the dark as to the reasons why. There are bold statements within some of these standards that have no reasoning or justification available to the end user. It becomes a fact-finding mission if you would like to know the context.

Often the supporting documentation (owners drafts/meeting minutes/notes) does not contain the reasoning either – the important conversations were not recorded, or the detailed reports were not filed.

As time goes on and memories fade, people leave and we can be left with legacy statements and requirements that we take as gospel simply for the fact they are in the standard and not because we understand them.

Bluefield is very conscious of this. A powerful method to ensure all the detail is in one place is to properly annotate and comment on the draft version. Microsoft Word offers this functionality within its ‘Review’ option with comments and tracking. Once it’s in its final state, this fully marked draft should be archived appropriately within the document management system (DMS) for future reference. This is a significant help when the standard is periodically reviewed by a new team of people who want to understand why the previous team did what they did.

A metric we don’t often consider when developing our asset strategies is people motivation, but is a factor that can make an incredible difference in the quality of execution.

Providing the context for the task gives maintainers the chance to learn, understand and ultimately make informed choices with that background in mind.

Watch Colin speak about his background and his experience at Bluefield here.