It never ceases to amaze me that no matter what industry you are in or how big or small of a company you work for, success is dependent on the ability to find, attract, hire, manage, develop and retain the right people.

It’s a timeless principle of business. In fact, in his book “Good to Great”, Jim Collins talks about the ability of getting “the right people on the bus and the wrong people off the bus” as one of the common characteristics among companies able to be classified as “great.” Furthermore, he implies that if you don’t have the right people on the bus, you can’t achieve greatness.

That really makes sense. However, I continue to see companies disproportionately dedicate more focus and investment into non-people issues such as technology or equipment than focusing on getting “the right people on the bus.” I haven’t quite figured out why, but I believe it could boil down to one of three reasons:

  1. You really don’t believe your people are your most important asset. That’s just the “right” thing to say.

  2. You believe that people are your most important asset, but you don’t know where to go from there.

  3. You believe that people are your most important asset, but you have limited time and resources to build the world-class organization that you want to become.

Fortunately, for those in the business of maintenance who have adopted some form of strategic maintenance strategy, it should be easy to overcome these hurdles and start moving your business into elite status. You already have a mind-set for making proactive business decisions.

Let’s just start with the concept of Reliability-Centered Maintenance. RCM is generally defined as the process of identifying the maintenance requirements of assets in order for those assets to safely operate and perform as designed at an optimal level. (To learn more about RCM, visit www.reliableplant.com and read “A Whirlpool revolution” in the Archives section.)

If the whole concept of RCM makes sense to you, why not apply that same approach to your people practices. That way, you can build a sound workforce strategy and support your business case for the appropriate level of resources needed to execute that strategy.

Moving forward, let’s do a little evaluation. When is the last time you asked these questions about your workforce?

  1. Who are the critical people in our organization?

  2. What functions and performance expectations do we have of these people?

  3. What can cause these people to fail?

  4. What are the consequences of failure?

  5. What can we do to prevent such failures?

  6. What are our options in case we determine we can’t prevent these failures?

Does this sound familiar? These are probably the types of questions you asked about your critical equipment when developing your RCM program.


Now, I agree that managing people can be much more complex than managing machines. For instance . . . Machines don’t leave you for another company. They don’t ask for raises. They don’t have feelings. They don’t need performance plans. And, they generally do what you expect them to do.

But, these are precisely the differences and reasons why your organization needs to invest more into its people than its machines. After all, at the end of the day, it is your people who determine whether or not your Reliability-Centered Maintenance program is successful, right?

John Ha is the president of Reliability Careers, a provider of workforce solutions for the reliability and maintenance industry. This business not only provides traditional staffing services for companies but is dedicated to helping customers better understand and identify their needs, produce talent through on-the-job and apprentice programs, and provide ongoing training requirements to keep the workforce on top of its game. For individual career seekers, the firm finds top-flight career opportunities in the reliability and maintenance field. Contact John at 918-388-2438 or e-mail info@reliabilitycareers.com.