Best Approaches for Changing a Maintenance Culture

Noria Corporation

Best Approaches for Changing a Maintenance Culture

"What is the fastest way to change the maintenance culture at a plant?"

Fear often is the quickest path toward a change in the maintenance culture. When personnel understand that there will be immediate and severe repercussions to their actions if they fail to follow the rules and regulations, poor habits change in a hurry. However, while there is short-term success with this path, the negatives almost always outweigh the positives. Fear can be a great motivator for change, but it also creates adverse side effects within a department and usually is only a temporary fix. A better option for long-term success is to employ a systematic approach to change where individuals at all levels are involved.

The more you understand what affects the culture, the more you will begin to realize that it must be established over time. This type of change is generally a two-way street as well, so whether your plant’s practices and behaviors are transitioning from good to bad or vice versa, it is not going to happen overnight. This is a process, not a project, and it must be a focal point that remains at the forefront of everyone’s minds.

A change in culture often fails due to several factors, such as not obtaining buy-in, lack of understanding, poor execution or the site not being ready for change. Eliminating existing behaviors, setting new priorities and developing proper habits can help to streamline the change process. This must be initiated and maintained by upper management so everyone realizes that the new practices and behaviors are vital to the organization and are here to stay. An emphasis should also be placed on maintaining these new habits. Documentation and audits will go a long way toward driving this continuous message.

While rarely will a sustainable culture change occur quickly, a few approaches and tactics can aid in streamlining the process to ensure behaviors are modified and sustained in a healthy, positive manner. A systematic approach often will include developmental steps, such as:

  1. Identify an owner and a team.
  2. Evaluate the current status of the site.
  3. Set detailed short-term goals, broad long-term goals and non-negotiable actions.
  4. Establish a path forward with proper documentation and processes.
  5. Develop awareness across the plant.
  6. Reward individuals, groups and site success.
  7. Assess, revise and document the program.

Adopting a similar course of action should result in a strong plant in the near future and enable long-term achievements as well. Remember, sustained success is built not only by the current group leading the program but also by the documented processes that have been put in place. Finally, keep in mind that your site’s culture will almost always correspond to the reliability of your equipment.

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