Five things will keep your asset management program strong during leadership changes.
Asset management programs are unique within the larger sphere of management systems. Like all management systems, asset management programs have many interrelated parts that must work together. On the other hand, asset management is concerned with producing value over the long term, which is usually de-prioritized over periods of short-term stress. You can do five things to keep your programs strong during leadership changes.
1. Scale Back
Asset management programs involve the entire organization. It is common to find several dozen initiatives or projects in a Strategic Asset Management Plan (SAMP). Leadership changes introduce uncertainty in everything from organization structure to funding.
In the case of Mount Pleasant Waterworks, there were several dozen active projects when the new general manager assumed his duties. The number was reduced to fourteen projects within the first six months, reduced further to ten, and then expanded to seventeen by the end of the first year. Scaling back enabled the organization to focus on the most critical aspects. It also allowed the asset management program to find its equilibrium as new, concurrent changes were being made across the organization.
2. Actively Engage Senior Leadership (avoid committees)
An asset management program utilizes many cross-department committees as a long-term management system. Senior management's energy and time commitment usually gives way to a culture of committees after the first few years of implementation. New energy and commitment must be re-established each time a senior leadership change occurs.
For MPW, that meant re-establishing the asset management steering committee to include the general manager and his direct reports. All of the working committees were asked to wrap up their current activities. Several working committees were re-formed and re-chartered; however, many were eliminated to provide mid-level and front-line staff more time to focus on their primary job duties during the leadership transition.
3. Focus on a Problem
Asset management programs should show their greatest value during times of organizational stress. Asset management should be part of the solution and not be perceived as part of the problem.
For MPW, one of the key problems for the chief financial officer was reviewing the labor hours and inventories at audit time to ensure capital and operating expenses were properly assigned. While MPW had always had stellar audits, there was both perceived and real value in working on associated work order management, inventory processes, and monthly supervisory reports. The execution of this new project pulled the organization together and provided a valued focus for asset management.
4. Do the Fundamentals Well
Asset management requires a structured, steady approach over the long term, regardless of the short-term climate of an organization. Four primary areas of focus are constant – asset inventories, asset valuation, and asset condition assessments – plus keeping current with the associated work processes and data management systems.
MPW was in the process of a final Maximo update to prepare for fill conversion to Maximo 8.0, performing a new Customer Information System (CIS) to Maximo work order upgrade, and launching a new geospatial information system (GIS) master plan. All three major information systems improvements were kept on schedule based on their value.
5. Continue to Promote
Communication is cited by the ISO 55000 international standard and the Institute of Asset Management as critical for any asset management program. Little practical guidance is provided. Many asset management programs fail because they do not generate an appreciation for the value they provide.
A new general manager, some reorganization, and tough budget choices during an inflationary period dominated MPW’s first year of leadership transition. However, regular monthly updates were provided to the board of directors and an annual report was provided in a public forum. Asset management was a priority before the leadership transition and continued to be after it.
This article provided five things – scaling back, engaging senior leadership, focusing on a problem, doing the fundamentals well, and continuing to promote – that you can do to keep your asset management program strong during leadership changes. Asset management programs are systems with many interrelated parts that must work together. While asset management is concerned with producing value over the long term, programs must continually show value in the short term to survive.
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