Ep 5: The Human Element in Reliability

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In this episode, we talk about the more personal (or human) aspect of equipment Reliability. Who is responsible for Reliability?  We know the answer is “everyone” – from top management to the experts who operate and maintain our machines. So it’s vital that we understand one another’s perspectives and responsibilities. 

We discuss how invisible obstacles can personally affect us – Comfort, the Prison of Perfection, Overwhelm, Our Thoughts, The Voices, and Fear. Fear can be the deadliest one of all.  In this episode we discuss a simple – yet powerful technique – to manage fear. When we properly manage the obstacles, we free ourselves up to become more productive and effective equipment custodians.

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Hi, Everyone. Welcome to The Heart of Reliability, where we break Reliability down to the basics, because anything without a strong foundation will eventually crumble. And that goes for Reliability too.

I’m Nancy Regan, and welcome to episode five of The Heart of Reliability. Where today, we’re going to talk about the Human Element when it comes to Reliability.

The reason why I started this podcast is because I want to bring the basics back to Reliability. I think to a large degree in our industry, a lot of people are focused on, for example, sophisticated condition monitoring equipment and techniques and software systems, et cetera. And those things are necessary. Those things are valuable. Those things can really help us to achieve our Reliability goals.

But when those more sophisticated things are focused on in the absence of making sure that Reliability is rooted in the basics, they just end up not working. I mean, best case they end up not working and, you know, worst case, we lose a lot of money and our time in the process. And time is way more important than money.

We can waste a lot of time seeking the exotic before we’re firmly rooted in the basics. My goal for the first five episodes of this podcast is to talk about what I think are the five most important basics. And the first four episodes we focused on the technical part. In episode one, we talked about what Reliability even is, what that means and, generally how we get it.

In episode two, we talked about Failure Modes – what specifically causes failure. Failure Modes are the currency of our equipment. Proactively identifying them is what puts us in a position of strength.

In episode three, we talked about Preventive Maintenance. And in episode four, we talked about Condition Based Maintenance and how to correctly assign those maintenance intervals. It’s been all about the technical aspect.

So, in this episode, I want to talk about the Human Element, because really when you think about it, no matter what kind of machine we have, no matter how old the machine is, how simple it is, how new it is, how sophisticated it is, at the end of the day, it is people who take care of our assets.

I want to focus on two things. I want to focus on people with respect to the technical aspect of it and with them, I want to talk about the more personal aspect about being a human being.

First, let’s talk about the technical aspect and the focus of this podcast again, is to talk about the basics. So, when it comes to the people within our organization, you know, we’ve heard the question asked before a lot, you know, who’s responsible for Reliability? And, of course the answer is everyone.

Everyone is responsible for Reliability, starting at the very top with management to middle management, to people who operate and maintain our equipment. And then of course, we’ve got logisticians, people responsible for our tech manuals, and so many others.

Everyone has a hand in Reliability. And when everyone isn’t firmly rooted in the basics of Reliability, things start to crumble.  Another reason is that understanding the basics and being rooted in the basics starts to develop that Reliability Culture that we often hear about. I’m going to do an episode that is solely and specifically on Reliability Culture, but I want to touch on it here. Reliability is rooted in the basics. And that means that anyone who has anything to do with Reliability needs to understand those basics.

It really makes for a cohesive team. For example, in, in episode four, we talked about Condition Based maintenance and the P to F interval and why it’s important for people to understand that. So, when people understand the basics, it brings people together because everyone gets to understand everyone else’s perspective better.

For example, making sure an Operator understands the same basics that a manager and a maintainer does. It brings people together. But then that brings me to the other part of the Human Element. And that is just talking about being human.

People operate and maintain our machines. It’s easy to think when we’re at work that we’re in the professional mode and it’s easy to forget that everyone is a human. And as a human we’ve got things going on, right? We’ve got personal things going on. Some people have personal problems and tragedies, and some people have all kinds of triumphs going on as well.

And all of these things affect us and how we interact with each other. But most specifically, what I would like to set forth is this. I learned something from a most unusual place. I was listening to a presentation by a Hindu priest and his name was Brother Anandamoy. And he was talking about duality.

And he talked about how as human beings, we have to deal with duality. Where there is positive and negative. There is day and night. Without good, there can be no bad and without bad, there can be no good. And we’re constantly having to deal with this duality.

Now as human beings, part of that duality comes with what I call invisible obstacles, specifically seven invisible obstacles that we all have to deal with as human beings. There is fear. There are “the voices” that we hear as human beings. Things like, don’t ask that question. You’ll sound like an idiot. Don’t say that in this meeting, because then they’ll know you don’t know what you’re talking about. Who are you to be suggesting that? No one wants to hear what you have to say.

We all have these voices that attack us from time to time. And it’s just part of this duality that we have to deal with as human beings. Another big one is perfection. I call it the prison of perfection.

Well, here’s the thing. There’s nobody on this earth who expects you to be perfect except yourself. One of the most valuable lessons I learned from my mother is that we are here to be perfectly imperfect. So imperfection is part of being a human. You don’t have to be perfect. So don’t put yourself in that prison. That’s just nonsense.

Another one is comfort. Now comfort can really rob us of our most valuable asset. And that is time because we can really be lulled by comfort. You know, it’s really nice at the end of the day, putting eight hours in and then sitting down on the couch and watching Netflix or a movie or whatever, surfing the internet, looking at our phone, whatever it is we do to relax and unwind.

Comfort is definitely necessary and downtime and relaxation is definitely necessary. But as human beings, it’s very important that we don’t get caught up in comfort’s web. I’ll have more to say on that later, but just know that that’s one of the invisible obstacles.

Another one is overwhelm. Where we’ve got so much going on. A lot of times in our organizations, when it comes to Reliability, we’re operating in a Reactive Mode or Firefighting mode – running from one failure to the next to the next.

It can be really chaotic and it can make us feel very anxious. But yet we have to deal with these things. But a lot of times when we think about overwhelm, if we’re thinking about it in maybe a project or a presentation or something that we have to get done, a lot of times we’re thinking about it as a whole.

And if you just break it down and think of things in small steps, that can help. And I’ll talk about overwhelm more in, in another episode, but for now, I just want to briefly share these obstacles.

Another one, which is maybe even the biggest obstacle that we have to deal with is our own thoughts? Negative thoughts, specifically, where if we’re thinking about a project that we have to get done and we’re thinking, oh, I could never do that, or I’ll never get it done. I don’t have enough time. I don’t know how to do it. These negative thoughts do more to harm us than we may even know. It’s really important not to go there,

We can think positively, or we can think negatively at any moment in time – we have a choice to make when it comes to duality. We’re either on the positive side of that duality or on the negative side. And it’s very important not to get caught up in that whirlwind of negative thoughts.

The last one I want to mention is comparison. And that is where we compare ourselves to someone else. Where maybe someone makes more money or we think is smarter than we are, or we think is more successful than we are. Comparison is a horrible part of that duality that we have to deal with as human beings. I’ll say this about comparison. There is absolutely no mistake that you are, who you are, that you have, the physical attributes that you do, that you have, the tendencies that you have, like the stuff that you like, the things that you’re attracted to, the skills that you have. You are made perfectly for whatever it is you need to bring alive in this lifetime. And there are lots of things that we are all meant to bring alive – goals that we’re meant to bring alive, things that we’re meant to do, the person we’re meant to become.

All of that is very unique to you. So don’t get yourself into that trap of comparing yourself to other people.

I will say this one thing, and that is, if you have a desire to bring something alive, then it’s just a law of nature that you have everything inside of you to bring it to fruition. Desire is manifested power. When I heard that, it changed my life. Let me say that one more time. Desire is manifested power. It means that you have the power to bring it alive. That’s why you have the desire.

Now you may be thinking, okay, well, this is a Reliability podcast and where is she going with all of this? When it comes to Reliability and the Human Element, it’s important to recognize that if someone isn’t reacting to you the way you think they should, they might be caught up in one of these invisible obstacles and it might not have anything to do with you. And so just understanding this, you can become more empathetic to someone and maybe extend some kindness to someone where you may normally wouldn’t have.

Where maybe you might’ve just reacted and, you know, come at them. And maybe in an angry way or an unkind way. So that’s really what I wanted to say about Human Reliability is to, you know, be aware that we’re all humans and we all may be going through something. And that may be affecting a coworker that you have in a particular way.

I want to leave you with one tip about these invisible obstacles. Something that I have learned about the biggest one. And I, that I think is the biggest one, the deadliest one to our hopes and dreams and our goals. And that is fear. Now here’s what I’ve learned about fear. All fear is real, but there are two kinds of fear.

There’s valid fear and there’s invalid fear. We’ve all experienced real fear before, right? I don’t know. Maybe you find yourself in a city late at night and you walk the wrong way and you find yourself in a really dark street. I’m speaking personally, this happened to me one time in New York City. And I was really scared. I just went the wrong way and it was late at night and I was scared and rightfully so. That is a valid fear to be afraid because something could have happened to me.

But then there was that other kind of fear, that invalid fear, the fear where we think maybe I’m not good enough to do that, or she’s going to think I’m a moron if I say that, or, I’m not even going to try because I’ll probably fail at it.

You know, usually when we’re feeling afraid of something and it kind of stops us in our tracks, it stops us from even moving forward. That’s an indication that that is an invalid fear and there’s a really effective way to deal with it. The most effective way I’ve learned to deal with it is this. Now you may think I’m a crazy nut with what I’m about to say, but I promise you, I’m not a nut and this works. This is thermodynamics.

We know from thermodynamics that energy can neither be created or destroyed. It can only be transferred from one form to another. There’s no denying that fear is energy, because when you’re afraid, you start to get hot. You start to sweat. Maybe you start to shake.

You feel a different way. So that’s definitely energy. Some people may say to just forget about the fear and do it anyway. Well, you can’t forget about the fear because you can’t just eliminate it because it’s energy. But you can change its form. So, here’s where you may think I’m a nut, but I promise you, it works.

I use this technique almost daily. What I want you to do with that fear is give it a name. Yes. Actually, name it and give it a job. Maybe you’re going somewhere on the weekend and it’s going to be a place where it’s going to be really tough to park. You can give that fear a job, give that energy the job to find you an open parking space, right up close to where you’re going.

Maybe there is a particular brand of yogurt or something that you really like and they are often out of it. Give it a job to make sure that that the right amount is there for you that you want to buy.

You can give it any number of jobs. One job that I often give that my fear energy is I tell it to go, give me a good seatmate on an airplane to either leave the seat next to me, empty, or just find, you know, a nice person who won’t talk my ear off and doesn’t stink.

I’m telling you this technique works. I’m not a crazy woman. It’s thermodynamics. Energy can neither be created or destroyed. It can only be changed from one form to another. Another technique is maybe you’ve got a meeting coming up and it’s with someone who maybe there’s a little bit of animosity between you and the other person.

You can give that energy the job to kind of smooth things out before you get there, right? Tell it to go work with that other person and let them know that you are coming from a sincere perspective and you’re going to come there in kindness. And you’re going to really listen to that other person’s perspective. You see, it’s just thermodynamics.

What you can do is you can take that energy, that fear energy, and let it work for you. And what that does is, it gets it out of your way and it lets you take the next step forward. So, there you have it. Giving that energy a job gets it out of your way so you can focus on what it is you need to do, whether it’s a personal goal or a professional goal.

And when it comes to Reliability, that’s a big job. You’ve got a lot of people that you have to influence, and you’ve got a lot of technical stuff that you’ve got to get done. So, give that energy a job and get it out of your hair.

And remember, any one of these invisible obstacles, fear, “the voices,” perfection, comfort, overwhelm, and our own thoughts – negative or positive. All of these things could be affecting the people around you. So just remember that and remember to be kind and remember that someone may be going through something that you don’t know about and that’s maybe why they’re being cranky.

So, there’s the technical part of Reliability. And there is also the Human Element to Reliability. Remember both are important to achieve the Reliability goals that you have set forth in front of you.

I’m Nancy Regan. Thank you for spending your most valuable resource with me today for this episode of The Heart of Reliability. I look forward to seeing you in the next month.

I’m Nancy Regan. Thank you for listening.

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Nancy Regan

Welcome to The Heart of Reliability with Nancy Regan. We focus on Reliability basics because anything without a firm foundation will eventually crumble ~ and that includes Reliability!

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