Building proper mindsets & behaviours for effective maintenance and reliability

Published on Jul 18, 2021

The Challenge

When it comes to maintenance and reliability (M&R), most organisations concentrate on the technical aspects of program design such as methods for planning and scheduling, root cause analysis (RCA), preventive maintenance, condition monitoring, etc. Few organisations focus on the leadership aspects of M&R, and even those that do tend to concentrate on things such as organisational structure and the mechanics of daily operating systems, without ever having adequately addressed the way their people are thinking.

A common cause for many M&R functions within organisations failing to achieve their objectives witnessed across literally every industry vertical is a lack of emphasis on the mindsets and matching behaviours required of employees to produce a reliable asset base. Correct mindsets help employees view what they see daily within the framework of a set of guiding principles that in turn allow them to employ the technical tools in their toolbox correctly. Proper deployment of these tools and processes results in the achievement of key goals: increased throughput, lower unit costs, and improved first-pass yield rates.

Four Elements of Strategy

Anytime a group of people comes together for a common purpose, they form an organisation. Often, the purpose of the organisation is to make money doing something that is in the common interest of the members of that organisation, i.e., a company. A group of people come together because they have an interest in building a new kind of product. For this group to operate, there must be an organisation not just of people, but also of ideas that provide purpose and direction. In other words, a strategy. In fact, most organisations have a collection of strategies that provide a network of both driving forces and rules for operating within the organisation.

For example, there is always, or at least there should be, a marketing strategy, a finance strategy, a shareholder strategy, as well as strategies for legal, quality, supply chain, sales, operations, maintenance, reliability, etc. Each functional group within the larger organisation should have an operating strategy that complements the strategies of the other functions such that all efforts are harmonized to produce a particular effect: product sales.


Core Values
All strategies contain essentially the same elements and are bound by the same rules. For example, the core values, as viewed through the lens of that function of the organisation, establish the identity of the group. The core values are how the group articulates its identity to both itself and the rest of the world. The core values establish the reason the group came together in the first place. The core values tell the world, we are a group of people who hold the following values near and dear to our hearts. These core values inform the organisation on how decisions are to be made. Think of the core values as a network of checkpoints through which everyone in the organisation runs all decisions. If the decision satisfies all these core values, then it aligns with the group and is, therefore, the correct decision to make. You can think of the core values as the north star, providing guidance for all members of the organisation on how to act.


Core Values to Guiding Principles
The core values inform the creation of the vision statement. The vision statement looks at the needs of the market as well as the identity of the group and states both the goal of the organisation, which is aspirational and inspirational and why the organisation seeks to achieve this lofty goal. The why portion of the vision statement is the glue that binds the how, or mission statement, to the goal. The mission statement takes the vision statement and reduces its essence into a single statement that clearly defines how the organisation intends to achieve the vision.

The organisation can now take the core values and expand them into specific, targeted mindsets that bring clarity and specificity to the core values within the context provided by the vision and mission statements. Often, the core values are presented in the form of single words or short phrases, whereas the guiding principles take those same core values and narrow the focus into specific behavioural lanes, thus making real-life interpretation much easier.

For example, let’s say we are developing a maintenance and reliability strategy for a manufacturing organisation. A core value of proactivity would be very appropriate. But once the vision and mission statements are developed, a matching guiding principle could be: “Successfully Identifying and Eliminating Process and Machinery Defects Requires Action Before the Necessity of the Situation Demands It.”

Guiding principles also go by other names such as ’beliefs,’ or ‘mindsets and behaviours.’ Either is appropriate alternative moniker for guiding principles. Beliefs are closely held concepts that are difficult/impossible to prove but the organisation hold to be either true or at least preferential in their operating context. Mindsets and behaviours also work as an alternative name for the guiding principles, as they truly are a set of mindsets, or frames of mind, within which one might be making decisions. Alternatively, it also works to call the guiding principles ‘behaviours’ because ideally, that is what the organisation is after…a set of desired behaviours ultimately reflective of the core values.


Guidance to Execution
The guiding principles, along with specific demands from the market, come together to inform the objectives, goals, and timelines the organisation refreshes annually (as market demands ebb and flow). The objectives, goals, and timelines give rise to processes, i.e., methods used to meet the objectives.

These processes then require further development into plans, tasks, and techniques for execution. Each of these elements of focus, method, and execution can, and should, have specific performance points the organisation should meet. Each performance point then should have a corresponding performance standard. These performance standards then give way to a set of metrics or key performance indicators (KPIs). These KPIs form the feedback loops for the different performance standards and help the organisation understand how well it is being proactive and delivering against pre-defined performance points.


Quality Check
This framework provides an opportunity for the organisation to perform a quality check on the strategy’s framework. Working backwards, each KPI should map directly to one or more guiding principles, and each guiding principle should be able to map directly to one or more core values.

Organisations often make grave errors with respect to integrity and earning the trust and respect of their people by having a set of KPIs with which they run the business but that is not mapped to the guiding principles or the core values. This puts the organisation into the category of ‘saying one thing and doing another,’ which can be the single greatest indicator of a lack of integrity and the number one destroyer of a leader’s image, as seen through the eyes of employees.

"Each of these elements of focus, method, and execution can, and should, have specific performance points the organisation should meet."

Core values to guiding principles:

Let us explore these concepts through the lens of a specific set of examples. Continuing with our example of developing a maintenance and reliability strategy for a manufacturing facility, we will demonstrate an example of core values with a matching set of guiding principles and complementary KPIs.

  1. Proactivity

    The guiding principles, along with specific demands from the market, come together to inform the objectives, goals, and timelines the organisation refreshes annually (as market demands ebb and flow). The objectives, goals, and timelines give rise to processes, i.e., methods used to meet the objectives.

  2. Prevention

    Preventing a problem is always better than fixing one. Rare is the case when prevention is not cheaper, easier, and quicker. Prevention of a problem can be more easily worked into a production schedule than an emergency repair, thus causing no interruption to productivity. Finding these problems early, through a comprehensive inspection program, reduces the need for troubleshooting.

  3. Analytics and data-driven decisions

    Modern inspection methods, investigative techniques, and knowledge of decision algorithms are so advanced, that gone are the excuses that ‘we did not know’ or ‘we could not have known'. There is no such thing as a failure that simply occurs without rhyme or reason. There is no such thing as being unable to collect meaningful data on the system and use analytics to develop an effective management strategy for the problem. The use of analytics to make data-driven decisions should be an ironclad expectation of any modern M&R strategy.

  4. Efficiency

    Efficiency is defined as effectiveness without waste. Waste comes in many forms, all of which translate easily to an unnecessary level of effort or resources applied to the management of an expectation. Many organisational structures in the M&R space are not fit-for-purpose and therefore lead to more effort and resources spent to manage a situation or a process, or that process or situation is not managed, or managed well, at all.

  5. Standardisation

    Once a situation is stabilised, standardisation should be the next goal. Standardisation allows for the expansion of a concept across a network of people to produce identical results and is necessary for optimisation to occur. Standardised processes also represent the first step in sustainability. A sustainable process is both transferable and expandable—transferable to other people who must now follow the process and expandable to larger groups of people as the need expands. No better example of this exists than in the M&R space, where work procedures allow technicians and engineers to expand their reach into other areas of specialisation and simultaneously expand the capabilities of the M&R function. Through standardization of processes and documentation of processes, any qualified technician can follow the procedure and fix the machine or conduct the inspection.

  6. Progress

    Progress is a must. Continuously progressing in both knowledge and experience is the only way to grow capability. An atmosphere of continual learning, both through investigations and lessons learned, as well as more and better training, is to be considered a must. Technological advances in new machinery alone demand constant training. This is required if we want M&R staff to be able to see through problems based on their deep knowledge and not just react because they believe they’ve seen that situation before. The way to improve the knowledge and skill base of your M&R people is through constant training. Leading companies understand this and deploy new ways of immersive training approaches designed for effective adult learning to sustain the knowledge.

Core Values/Guiding Principles/KPIs Interaction

"Continuously progressing in both knowledge and experience is the only way to grow capability."

Core Values/Guiding Principles/KPIs

Core Values Guiding Principles Metrics
Proactive Make early detection and early elimination (ED/EE) of process and machinery defects the cornerstone of your M&R operating system. ED/EE Work % (Goal: 40% of maintenance labour)
Proactive Be proactive. Act before the necessity of the situation demands it. ED/EE Work % & Emergent/Urgent Work % (Goal: <10% of maintenance labor)
Prevention Eliminate conditions, behaviours, and practices that produce process and machinery defects. Failure Modes Analysis (Goal: Top 20%-30-% Critical Systems) Root Cause Analysis (Goal: Top 5 Categories of Downtime)
Prevention Leverage a comprehensive inspection program to dramatically reduce the need for troubleshooting. PM/PdM Corrective Work (Goal: 50% of Maintenance Labor)
Analytics/Data-Driven Identify and eliminate the latent causes of all chronic and unexpected process and machinery failures. RCA Completion % (Goal: 100%) & RCA Tasks Completion % (Goal: 100%)
Analytics/Data-Driven Base all equipment, investigation, and data management strategies on an understanding of failure modes and effects. Failure Modes Reviewed/Updated (Goal: 2x Annually)
Analytics/Data-Driven Use risk-based algorithms for decisions concerning resource allocation and equipment strategies. % Work Scheduled via Algorithm (Goal: >85%)
Efficiency Maximize manpower utilization and minimise process downtime with aggressive and superior planning. Scheduled Compliance % (Goal: 90%)
Efficiency Ensure the organisation structure has functional roles and spans of control that support best-practice performance. Day-in-the-life of (DILO) studies of Key Positions (Goal: Annually)
Efficiency Make efficiency (effectiveness without waste) a hallmark of what you do and what you expect of others. Planned Work % (Goal: >90%) & Schedule Compliance % & Planned Work Estimates (>85% Accuracy)
Standardisation Leverage standard work documents to coach and train the workforce, ensure the quality of execution, and eliminate dependency on “machinery-specific experts”. Work procedure quality (Goal: ALL procedures reviewed annually)
Progression Expect and enable your people to continuously advance their knowledge and skills in all fields of maintenance and reliability. Monthly training hours per technician (goal: 8 hours per month per technician)


Misalignment between what the organisation says and what the organisation does can destroy the integrity of your company. When leaders say one thing and then do another, the organisation can become confused about what to do and when to do it. Alignment is key and begins with the articulation of the core values of the group. It extends to the guiding principles you ask your people to use to guide their actions and decisions. Alignment is complete when the metrics and KPIs used to run the business and guide employee efforts match well with the company’s guiding principles and core values. This alignment sends a strong message to the organisation about how it operates and provides a clear pathway to successful actions and decisions.

"Alignment is key and begins with the articulation of the core values of the group."

Quick Wins

Steps your organisation can take now

Step 1
Work with your teams to establish and articulate the core values of the group or function. Ensure these core values are complementary (or at least not contradictory) with other functions within the organisation. A simple checklist can be used to determine where your organisation is on and off target.

Step 2
Expand those core values into a set of guiding principles that are easy to understand and provide a lens through which all decisions and actions can be viewed.

Step 3
Ensure all operational metrics map to these guiding principles.