Becoming and sustaining a high-reliability organization (HRO) requires daily actions based on a set of principles. Those principles enable individuals/teams/organizations to act on emerging problems and deploy the proper resources to resolve the problems efficiently and effectively. Maintaining high reliability requires constantly being ready for the unexpected and taking timely action.
From the early books on HRO (such as Managing the Unexpected: Resilient Performance in an Age of Uncertainty by K.E. Weick and K.M. Sutcliffe) and many writings since, the HRO principles can be summarized as problem detection and management.
Problem detection calls for you to:
• seek out problems
• notice/respond to small problems before they become big
• use near failure and failure to understand system weaknesses/strengths
• not simplify or explain away problems (look across departmental boundaries and recognize the complexity of most interactions)
• use system thinking/big picture (how it all works together, affects other parts of factory); continually protect system inherent reliability.
When conducting problem management:
• expect unexpected events and ensure resiliency/capability to manage them
• make sure decision making is at the front-line level (empowered to solve problems)
• under normal daily conditions the established hierarchy is used
• when there is an unexpected critical issue, recognize where the expertise exists (the most knowledgeable on the asset issue takes the lead, regardless of title or level).
Success is about having an organization that allows this dynamic culture. It requires individuals with a mindset of problem solving, timely collaboration with others, and constantly adjusting to the situation in real time. The highly reliable organization in practice is constantly changing based on need. By attacking and resolving issues while they’re small, many problems can be resolved before they become larger problems. It only works if you have the proper mindset with a balance of problem-solving skills and social collaboration.
In my April 2021 article, “Line-of-Sight Clarity Drives Engagement,” I wrote,
“If implemented correctly, you should not have to tell employees how they contribute to their role. They should be telling you. Employee engagement will determine the new level of organizational success.”
Managing with line-of-sight clarifies relationships between goals and objectives.
The schematic illustrates a simple example.
• First, decide on the few vital goals that will make the most improvement. Decide on the reliability action items that will support that goal.
• List the expected outcomes and what needs to be performed at each level in the factory.
• Select metrics/key process indicators (KPIs) that will accurately monitor progress.
• Agree to leadership behaviors that need to be practiced to change the workforce mindset.
Line-of-sight and HRO cultures complement each other. Using a line-of-sight process keeps teams focused on what matters during daily operations and continuous improvement. EP
By Dr. Klaus M. Blache, Univ. of Tennessee Reliability and Maintainability Center (RMC)