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6:00 am
June 1, 2007
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Maintenance Quarterly: Organizational Competency

0607_mq_professionaldevelopment_img1Staying competitive requires companies to strive for continuous improvement in all things, including the development of their personnel.

Traditionally, training has been limited to the individual level (and typically just for beginners or experienced people in new jobs). The need for constant improvement to stay competitive has changed that notion and brought words like kaizen into focus as a business strategy— as well as into the common vernacular. Organizations have discovered that kaizen (continuous improvement) must apply to all aspects of an organization. Continuous improvement must be the modus operandi (MO) for everything—including training.

What was once thought of as a necessary evil (or only something that an organization had to do) is now considered to be an enabling tool. Realization that ongoing training is the key that unlocks many secrets of poor productivity, poor safety records and poor attitudes and creates an environment that is alive with creativity. That creativity comes from the fact that the minds of the employees are always being challenged through continuous learning. This continuous learning prevents people from forgetting how to learn. This, in turn, makes their minds more nimble and agile, thus increasing the conditional probability that when faced with challenges in the workplace, creative and logical solutions will follow shortly thereafter.

With enough success at problem solving, the brain naturally gravitates toward eliminating the possibility of defects altogether—this is when significant improvements come. The identification and elimination of the root cause of the problem is the only true method of positive step change in performance.

One major goal
The continuous learning objective should be organized with one major goal in mind—organizational competency through clear definition of roles, responsibilities and definitive learning objectives. While employees within a company all pull together toward a common goal, their interdependencies form a complex system. Such a system is not unlike the machines that operate to produce the facility’s output.

To study an individual machine without studying its interdependency on the machines up and downstream is not acknowledging the effect that machine’s performance has on the system as a whole. Analysis of failure modes and their effects must be performed with the entire system in mind. People working together as a team are no different.

0607_mq_professionaldevelopment_img2To analyze the training and competency of one person without considering his/her effect on the team does not describe the effect of that person’s abilities or inabilities on the entire system or in this case the team.

Competency, then, has to be considered at the team level (also known as Organizational Competency). The ability of a team or an organization to successfully deliver results rests not only with the individuals knowing their roles and being capable of performing individually, but also on the ability of all those involved to work together as a cohesive

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unit. Understanding the nature of humans to be technically competent—but not necessarily socially integrated with their fellow teammates—clarifies the point that individual competency isn’t sufficient to carry the day. While organizational competency relies on individual performance, it relies even more on interdependency and collaboration.

In the past, communication was touted as the answer to team interdependency and success. The problem is that communication normally carries the connotation of sharing information for information’s sake, not necessarily reliance for the accomplishment of specific objectives. Organizational competency carries the connotation of a group effort required for success—that an effort on the part of all is necessary and that everyone on the team is interdependent on everyone else.

Mapping competencies
A “competency map” is a particularly effective tool for showing the interdependency of people and concepts. Competency maps indicate roles and responsibilities of different positions relative to specific tasks.

It is common for a particular person’s roles and responsibilities to be the combination of tasks that exist on more than one competency map. For example, the Operations Manager might be involved in tasks on the Maintenance competency map, the Asset and Operational Reliability competency map and Stores Management competency map. This clearly defines the interconnection of the Operation Manager’s position with several functions within the plant. Competency maps go a long way in breaking down interdepartmental barriers and increasing the amount of collaboration within an organization. In essence, competency maps are crucial for the eventual development of Organizational Competency.

Competency maps also should include the depth of knowledge that a particular position should have in order to successfully perform that function. This accomplishes two things. First, it paints a clear picture of the breadth and depth to which a person’s education about that topic needs to go. Second, it easily defines how much other positions can expect out of that person with regard to that topic. Bloom’s Taxonomy of Learning Objectives (Fig. 1) provides an easy to understand table that defines the levels of understanding of a given topic.

An analysis of a reliability competency map, referred to in this case as a “Reliability Task Assignment” (as illustrated by the excerpt in Fig. 2), shows not only the interdependency of the three roles within the plant relative to a single task, but also the level of knowledge required for that role (refer to Fig. 1).

A typical example of the interdependency of these roles might play out as follows:

  • A new piece of equipment is purchased for the plant as a part of an expansion.
  • The Reliability Engineer develops a FMECA table for the failure modes of this new machine.
  • Failure modes that are more prone to random failures are assigned to the Condition Monitoring group as a part of the regular PdM inspection process. Failure modes that are more time-based and failure modes for which there exists no PdM or NDT technology are assigned an interval based on preventive maintenance (PM) tasks. Some of the tasks are inspections, some are lubrication tasks and a few are interval-based replacements of certain items.
  • A cost/benefit analysis is performed for each task to determine the most beneficial interval.
  • This constitutes the Engineered Maintenance Strategy (EMS). The EMS is the Equipment Maintenance Plan (EMP) that has been optimized for cost/benefit through the use of Weibull analysis and Monte Carlo simulation.
  • For those tasks requiring PM procedures, the technical content, including tolerances, specifications and specific procedures, is provided by the Maintenance Engineer.
  • The Planner then takes those technical steps and converts them to an effective PM Procedure making sure that the correct tools, parts and consumables are called out in the procedure. Additionally, the Planner is responsible for ensuring that this procedure matches the other PM Procedures in the PM program and that version control is maintained.
  • Both the Maintenance Engineer and the Planner are responsible for interacting with the Maintenance Crafts personnel to ensure that the PM Procedure steps are technically accurate and laid out in the most efficient manner possible.

Clear definitions and focus
Given a clear definition of roles, responsibilities and learning objectives, it is quite easy to develop individual training plans, as well as interdependent training plans for the whole team. As a result, a dynamic is created within the organization whereby interdepartmental barriers are easily removed because of operational objectives that require a high level of communication and a high level of collaboration. Responsibilities are more easily shared through clarity of purpose and individual accountability to the entire team. Turf wars and power struggles become moot points as the competency maps remove all the mystique of “whose job is this?”

The importance of individual competency begins to define itself within the context of organizational competency. Organizational competency then becomes the focus. True effectiveness and efficiency are the results of increased amounts of interdependency and collaboration. All of this is enabled through an effort for continuous improvement manifested in a focus on training, not just for the new employee but for all employees—all the time. MQ

Andy Page is training director for Allied Reliability, Inc. For more information and/or to request a complete Reliability Task Assignment Chart, as shown in Fig. 2, e-mail: pagea@alliedreliability. com.


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