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Expectations, Execution and Engagement


During my many years of promoting reliability and operational excellence, I’ve opined that the key to achieving these are the attributes discussed below.

Executive sponsorship is essential, but it goes beyond simple permission. In the best companies I’ve seen, executives actively demand and support reliability as the foundation of operational excellence, much as they actively demand and support safety. A reliable plant is safe and cost-effective! If you believe in safety, and we all do, you must believe in reliability, and put the right processes in place to achieve it.

The best, most reliable companies have an excellent production and maintenance partnership. The two functional areas work closely together to eliminate defects wherever they occur that create unreliability. They often also share measures that facilitate that collaboration, such as maintenance and repair costs and production and maintenance schedule compliance. The defects that create unreliability, attendant costs and missed schedules are coming from both functions, requiring a collaborative approach. As Edgar Schein, business theorist, psychologist and professor, observed, “As task interdependence increases, teamwork and collaboration become increasingly critical for organizational effectiveness.”

As task interdependence increases, teamwork and collaboration become increasingly critical for organizational effectiveness.
~ Edgar Schein

Finally, there has to be a process for shop floor engagement, such as structured improvement time. For example, once a week or once a month, you might put together a cross-functional team from production and maintenance to restore an asset to like new condition or review and update a procedure or process. Doing this routinely provides an environment for shop floor engagement.

With all that said, and in support of these fundamental principles, I’d like to add some additional suggestions.

Expectations and standards must be high. I once heard someone say, “The lowest standard you set is the highest standard you can expect.” I have seen this in practice, so it’s essential that we set challenging, but achievable expectations and standards, and that we reinforce these through simple rewards, even a simple “thank you” or “good job,” or in some cases, challenging poor behavior. You must have good standards, processes and tools, and provide the training and development for application of these.

Execution is a must. I would rather have a mediocre plan that’s well executed than a superb plan that’s poorly executed. It’s best when you have both. Battling “entropy” is a constant challenge, requiring considerable attention, discipline and energy. Related to execution, training and development are essential.

Engagement is essential, particularly on the shop floor. Nothing changes until the shop floor does things differently (better); if you want to understand the problems with the work, talk to the workers and get them involved in making the work better. Getting them participating in actively making the changes necessary to solve the problems they know about is a critical element in the improvement process. As previously noted, having structured improvement time, walking the floor to ask about and resolve problems, and training workers to better operate and maintain the plant are key to that engagement. Engaging the shop floor is key to reliability and operational excellence.

Ron Moore

Ron Moore is the Managing Partner for The RM Group, Inc., in Knoxville, TN. He is the author of “Making Common Sense Common Practice – Models for Operational Excellence,” “What Tool? When? – A Management Guide for Selecting the Right Improvement Tools” and “Where Do We Start Our Improvement Program?”, “A Common Sense Approach to Defect Elimination,” “Business Fables & Foibles” and “Our Transplant Journey: A Caregiver’s Story”, as well as over 70 journal articles.

Ron holds a BSME, MSME, MBA, PE, and CMRP. He can be reached at

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