There is Absolutely No Reason to Hurry

By R. Keith Mobley, Principal SME, Life Cycle Engineering

Being fast is important in a race and perhaps other instances, but not when changing individual habits or work culture. Both take time and infinite patience. Change cannot be rushed. This simple fact has been the downfall of too many attempts to transform a reactive, poor performance company into one that can compete—survive—in today’s marketplace. 

Frankly, I continue to struggle with why companies ignore poor performance until it is much too late and then demand instant solutions to a sometimes decades-old problem. Invariably, they will expect miracles that require little, if any, effort on their part, and they just cannot understand why they are not possible. After all it’s not a management or infrastructure problem. Just make the workforce work longer, harder, or with less, and the problem is solved. 

Surprisingly, the workforce is just as impatient. The business reengineering process, when done correctly, requires the commitment and involvement of the workforce for periods of eighteen to thirty-six months. The first year is generally dedicated to value-stream mapping and reengineering of the processes and procedures. This effort is intensive and requires hours of concentrated work. Long before this initial effort is complete; the workforce will grow impatient and want to opt out. “Just tell us the answer or what the best-in-class process looks like and let’s get on with it,” is the typical request.

Unfortunately, neither of these demands can be satisfied. Resolving the complex factors that limit poorly performing companies cannot be accomplished with the snap of your fingers. There are no silver bullets or magic wands that will undo bad habits, ineffective processes and inefficient procedures that are at the heart of poor performance. Current-state performance must be systematically evaluated, limiting factors must be identified and solutions that will provide long-term, effective resolution must be implemented.

There is also no quick solution for workforce impatience. The only way that the workforce will embrace and universally adopt change is to go through the process of self-creation. They must understand the deficiencies in their current practices and develop solutions that will add value to the operation. Giving them the answer is not an option. They must go through the pain of creation before the new way of life is theirs.

I know what you are thinking; it’s the same rationale that we get from almost all clients. “You don’t understand. We cannot wait.” You and they will cite tens or hundreds of reasons—ranging from operating profit to loss of market share—as reasons an immediate solution is needed. While many of these arguments are based in reality, quick fixes and permanent resolutions are diametric opposites. The conundrum is that you are right; many companies cannot wait. The problems have become critical and survival is a real concern. How do you resolve both the short-term need and a permanent change that will prevent a recurrence and assure long-term survivability?

There is no short cut to the permanent solution. Patience and absolute commitment to doing it right is not optional. With that said, there is no reason that one cannot integrate a parallel, more tactical effort that can be used to stop or at least slow down the bleeding. In most cases, one can find problems or issues that can be resolved using viable tactical or technical efforts. For example, we were able to find $11.3MM in unnecessary costs in a refinery that could be saved by changing the control logic—a quick fix that could, and most likely would, reoccur without a permanent change in the way these logics are developed. There really is not any reason that temporary fixes cannot be integrated into the journey to a permanent solution. However, one must understand that temporary fixes are just that—temporary. Do not let impatience overrule logic. Do not let the short-term pressures, no matter how grave, prevent permanent solutions to the limiting factors that prevent sustainable best-in-class performance.

"Impatience Never Commands Success"

Thank you for taking the time to read this month’s letter. Hopefully, it has raised a few thoughts that will help you take the next step in your journey to excellence. I welcome your feedback and am happy to respond to specific questions. You can reach me at [email protected].

Best regards,
R. Keith Mobley
Principal, Life Cycle Engineering, Inc.

Keith Mobley has earned an international reputation as one of the premier consultants in the fields of plant performance optimization, reliability engineering, predictive maintenance, and effective management. He has more than 35 years of direct experience in corporate management, process design and troubleshooting. For the past 16 years, he has helped hundreds of clients worldwide achieve and sustain world-class performance. Keith can be reached at [email protected].

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