How Can Maintenance Managers Improve Their Career Prospects?

Nov 13, 2020 9:09:07 AM

By: Gerard Wood

Over my years working
in corporate maintenance roles across multiple sites, I watched some maintenance managers careers get cut short with some companies just due to the relationship between them and their direct GM.

On occasions I watched a relationship break down to the point where it could not be saved as the maintenance manager was asking for more people/resources, and then the replacement arrived, asked for the same additional people/resources as the previous manager and received it.

Maybe they asked in a different way? Maybe the GM thought well he is asking for the same so it must really be needed? I don’t know for sure, but it is definitely about confidence and doing what you say you will do.

I was also working on a project recently where I reviewed the corporate approach to Asset Management, and it reminded me of watching these relationships break down. The corporate AM team were trying to improve the AM capability in the business, however there was a perceived lack of buy in or ownership at the executive levels.

The strange thing is that everyone wants the business to improve but when the AM team or maintenance manager talks about AM concepts, improving policy, work management or strategic objectives such as an improved defect elimination culture, in my opinion few senior leaders from a finance, mining engineering or other background really understand or genuinely buy in to these initiatives.

Not because they don’t want more from their assets, but because they don’t really understand what it means and as maintenance professionals we tend to communicate in our own language, or because they don’t have confidence in the initiatives delivering on the stated business outcomes.

Some years ago, I provided a guy as an interim maintenance manager for a GM. I told the guy, who had never been a manager before, do not talk about more downtime, more resources or AM jargon. Talk only to the GM about reduced risk, more tonnes, and more profit. That relationship worked out very successfully and even to this day the GM still holds this guy in high regard.

When this maintenance manager arrived, he asked for an additional project manager to look after a shovel shutdown that was imminent, but he asked it by saying would the GM like less downtime on the shovel shutdown. Of course, the GM said yes, and he got the additional project manager, who did deliver a reduced shutdown duration.

I believe that if the AM community truly wants to improve the businesses that we work in and further our own career prospects then we need to talk about the same things that drive our GM, COO, CFO and CEO needs. Usually this is reduced risk, more tonnes, and more profit. While strategic initiatives like Defect Elimination programs, planning systems improvement, master data improvement and improved strategies should deliver these outcomes, nothing is as clear to the executives as seeing the machines operating with more production and less cost. If we link our language with the direct drivers of the mining plans such as machine productivity then we align our strategic plans to these outcomes, and then deliver what we say, the executives are always happy and their confidence increases.

I even think that a "strategic plan" that has the main machines, their production and cost outcomes as the strategic pillars and the initiatives as the actions to drive the outcomes is much easier to digest for the executive team.

So, in the end I believe, and I have witnessed improved career prospects from the maintenance managers that speak in the GM language and deliver on what they say they will do.


Download the Ten-Question Assessment Worksheet here.