February 11, 2013
Credit: GE Aviation
When MROs implement continuous improvement (CI) processes and are dissatisfied with the results, many leaders blame the program. But that's usually not the issue. Lack of results often stems from a lack of acceptance in the ranks. It's the human element—specifically, the buy-in and acceptance of the people in the organization—that makes or breaks an effort to improve efficiency. Knowing this, the quest to eliminate error and waste in maintenance processes becomes less about which program to use and more about how to get people on board with it.
“I've had a couple clients put their [CI] programs on pause to go back and re-boot them to gain the needed cultural acceptance,” says Brian Prentice, partner at Oliver Wyman, a global management consultancy. Prentice recently co-authored the report, “Culture Clash: Diagnosing the Strengths and Weaknesses of Your Most Important Element for Change.” In it, he explains that continuous improvement is not a quick-fix solution but “a deeply rooted and unrelenting drive to constantly enhance business processes and eliminate waste. It is a philosophy, not just a set of tools.”
A CI re-boot to get technicians working cohesively and enthusiastically toward organizational efficiency goals calls for stepping back to align three things, said Prentice:
•Leadership. Everyone in the top echelons of the MRO organization must agree on the goals and commit across all divisions.
•Incentives. All employees must understand what's in it for them and grasp that the CI program is a commitment to long-term change, not simply the initiative of the month. Done right, the “what's in it for them” can simply be working at a company that seeks, implements and values input, resulting in better conditions and processes.
•Visibility. Technicians must have constant visibility into the status of goals via e-mails, boards, texts and other means of communication that show where the organization stands on its progress. Visibility reinforces a program's importance and motivates continued effort.
Prentice helped one MRO re-boot after a failed CI effort. The MRO's approach had been to use a mobile CI team that traveled from division to division discovering ways to improve efficiency and implementing solutions.
The problem: “There was no real acceptance of this group,” says Prentice. “They were seen as acting on the organization rather than with it.” The CI team would institute changes and gain improvements, but as soon as they moved on to the next division, everyone would gradually return to doing things the way they had always been done.