Did the ISO 55000 PC251 miss a word
By Cliff Williams
The PC251 team that developed the asset management - management systems standard 5500X may have missed the one word that is essential for achieving sustainable asset management.
June 8, 2021
By Cliff Williams
The PC251 team made some great steps in identifying that the long known, but not often stated in a standard, fact that leadership and workplace culture are determinants of realization of value. They further explain in (ISO 55000 2.4.2 c).
1) Clearly defined roles, responsibilities and authorities.
2) Ensuring that employees are aware, competent and empowered.
3) Consultation with employees and stakeholders regarding asset
This is first time that I know of where something as nebulous as leadership and workplace culture has been included in an ISO standard, but I am not sure it was given as much guidance as it should have. Then again, the topic could very likely require its own ISO standard and still would not be able to cover all of the variables that exist in both leadership and workplace culture.
Still, they did provide guidelines, and I believe that if we follow these guidelines we will be well on our way to implementing an effective asset management system, or at least have the basic requirements and foundation to build on. But to complete the process, I think we need to add the mystery word that I think they missed.
Just to give this some context, I have been teaching the fundamentals of asset management for the last five years – for employees of numerous organizations from all types of environments – manufacturing, utilities, municipalities and engineering. During these sessions we discuss their current state and what are some of the obstacles to them improving their asset management performance.
Most of the participants want to believe they have a good basis for moving forward with asset management and often dismiss the idea that there are obstacles. They contend there are not really any obstacles. But it’s just that they don’t necessarily fully understand the nuances of asset management. Once they grasp the nuances they will be able to move forward quickly.
What we find as we progress through the training, is that they actually haven’t grasped the complexity and scope of asset management and as such, not been able to recognize these obstacles.
Many of the students feel that they have a good hold on point one where people understand their roles and their authorities, and have made progress on point two with people getting used
When I ask what is in the way of them progressing further and becoming more adept at asset management, after some discussion around the topic, the majority seem to come to the same conclusion; they usually bring up one word: silos. Now, this is not the word that PC251 missed.
This usually prompts more discussion around points one and two, and when we get a little deeper we find that, yes, people understand their roles, some even understand how they impact others, yes, they have authority and yes, they are empowered – but no one is checking that they are using those attributes to better asset management; no one is actually measuring their success. Having authority and being empowered are nothing new. We talked about them in leadership education for years, but we always accompany them with the mystery word: accountability.
None of this works if we do not hold people accountable for their actions; hold them accountable for advancing the asset management journey. When we allow people to remain in their silos and not hold them accountable, we are reinforcing that as long as we tick the boxes and proclaim that we are employing asset management, then we are doing fine. Listening to the students, as this seems to be the current state of play for most of them. They are trying to move forward but constantly bump into silo walls, and when they look to leadership, they see that they have moved on. They have ticked the boxes of points one and two, and consider the job done.
This is where point three comes into play: Consultation with employees and stakeholders regarding asset management.
It should not only be about sitting down and discussing asset management in general, or what the organization hopes to gain from it. It needs to be where leadership create the culture for asset management; they need to show that they clearly understand the roles that people play in the process, provide expectations from people, set their goals and give them objectives so that everyone is clear as to what success looks like.
Too many times this does not happen and so people do not truly understand if they are winning or not. It is a bit like playing hockey but forgetting to put out the nets. Everyone is playing hard (at least for while) but they do not know whether they are winning or not. The side effect of this is that the ‘hard play’ and the bruising checks quickly stop and people stand on the blue line and dump the puck down the other end of the ice.
Maybe if the PC251 team had added the word “accountability” to point one so that it read: Clearly defined roles, responsibilities, authorities and accountabilities.
It may have at least raised the idea that leadership includes accountability and prompted leaders to view how well they hold their people accountable.
Now, accountability is not exclusive to asset management, and should form part of every leader and culture. But because for most organizations asset management is going to mean a change to the existing culture, it is essential to make it sustainable.
For most people the word “accountability” brings in negative connotations that involves some form of discipline or chastisement. Sometimes this is true, but it really should be the last resort of holding someone accountable. Why not view them as learning opportunities where you can correct behaviour by increasing understanding, supporting efforts, changing approaches or removing roadblocks, etc. The goal as a leader should be to garner the best efforts of the people you are working with, and as a leader in the asset management environment, to derive the greatest value from those assets by holding them and yourself accountable. MRO
Cliff Williams is author of People – A Reliability Success Story. He is a maintenance and asset management educator, and a keynote speaker at conferences around the world, who believes success is achieved through people. Currently Cliff shares his knowledge and experience as an advisor on maintenance and reliability for people and processes, and asset management with TMS asset management and is a facilitator for PEMAC’s Asset Management Program.