What Will Your Legacy Be?
By R. Keith Mobley, Principal SME, Life Cycle Engineering
They say that one can never go home again, but over the past few months I have had the opportunity to revisit an old client after a 24-year absence. Beginning in 1985, I spent five years with this client, a very large, integrated process plant attempting the near impossible. When I began, the plant was in serious trouble, unable to meet its customers’ delivery and quality demands. Losing money and nearing forced shutdown, it was the closest to beyond hope that I had ever encountered. After much thought, my first law (“All things are possible if you are willing to roll up your sleeves and do it”) prevailed, and with faith that all things are truly possible, we began the journey.
It was a truly miraculous transformation. Within a year, the plant returned to profitability. In the second year the plant was certified as a quality vendor by its major customers. Five years after the journey began, the plant won a national award for excellence. The progress over the five-year journey was and is truly remarkable. In my career, there have been many clients and seemingly endless challenges, but this is the star in my crown. Not because of what I accomplished but because of what the thousands of employees in that plant accomplished. For the first time in the hundred-year history of the plant, they pulled together as a team and overcame impossible obstacles. With barriers and adversarial relationships forgotten and with engaged leadership, they totally transformed the operation. The culture changed from abject reactivity to one where all things are possible. After five years, they did not need external help any longer and, with some sadness, I moved on to other clients.
I lost track of the plant’s progress after a decade had passed. During that time, the plant survived a number of management changes, downturns in business and other challenges. The culture remained strongly positive. During that time the employees continued to deliver conference presentations and publish papers on their journey, sharing their story with all who would listen. I lost track over the last 14 years until a few months ago.
Upon our return, I was amazed when, one by one, faces from the past greeted me by name and wanted to reminisce about old times. After more than two decades, they remember our time together and all that we accomplished together. They introduced me to employees—at all levels—who came later as their mentor and teacher. A growing feeling of joy and gratitude filled me. As the weeks passed, emails from ex-plant members—some working in other plants and some retired—flooded my inbox. All expressed gratitude for what they had learned and remembered with fondness the time we spent together. Considering the stress and extreme pressure we all felt during those five years, these comments were especially meaningful.
I am humbled and truly gratified by this experience. Nearing the end of a long, long career—one filled with seemingly continuous challenges—it means everything that I am remembered. When those memories are of a mentor and teacher, one who helped them grow as a professional or as a person, it is especially gratifying. To leave a legacy through those we have touched in our life’s journey is truly all that any of us can hope for in this life.
MOBLEY'S 34th LAW:
“Leave a legacy through those you have touched."
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].
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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