While attending a recent conference, an industrial leader told me that he was impressed by Cargill employees' focus and attention to the details of maintenance and reliability processes.

I was somewhat surprised by this comment, but after some reflection, I would agree with his assessment.

In my career at Cargill, I have been conditioned by the culture of my employer to be curious and to always dig to know the details of a situation or subject. One of the best lessons of my career came in the second year of my work life. While serving as a third-shift manager, I was told that we had "a small incident with a front-end loader" at one of our product-loading areas. I failed to go look and see. The next morning, I communicated to my bosses that we had a small incident. This "small incident" turned out to be a big safety incident that had required my immediate attention. I was embarrassed, and justly criticized.

This incident burned into my mind and future behavior that you must go look and see and seek the details in all matters. In his book "The Toyota Way", Jeffrey Liker explains that Toyota calls this process "genchi genbutsu". Translated, this means, "deeply observing the actual situation in detail." Toyota leaders are expected to understand the details on the shop-floor level. They are conditioned to look and seek the details in every situation. Advancement depends on demonstrating this behavior and skill.

I recently have been introduced to "Bloom's Taxonomy of Learning Objectives." According to the Web site www.businessballs.com, Dr. Benjamin Bloom led a team of educational psychologists that developed this system in 1956. The goal was to develop a system (taxonomy) of specifications to enable educational training and learning objectives to be planned and measured properly - improving the effectiveness of measuring mastery instead of simply transferring facts for mindless recall.

Bloom's Taxonomy provides a structure for planning, designing, assessing, and evaluating training and learning effectiveness. This process has been applied in training and learning business for the past 50 years. The six categories are:

  1. Knowledge: You can recall basic information about a subject.

  2. Comprehension: You understand the information and group meaning of concepts.

  3. Application: You use the information in new situations to solve problems or produce results.

  4. Analysis: You can recognize hidden meanings, see patterns, organize parts and identify components of ideas.

  5. Synthesis: You can draw conclusions on related knowledge from other areas. You can generalize from facts and use old ideas to create new ones.

  6. Evaluation: You can compare and discriminate between ideas, assess the value of theories and make choices in reasoned arguments. You can verify the value of evidence and recognize subjectivity.

I believe that to effectively lead a maintenance and reliability improvement effort in a facility, group of facilities, business unit or a large global company, you must go look and see and dive into the details. You must attain the Bloom's category of 3 (Application) or 4 (Analysis) on many or all of the M&R subjects. Today in industry, though, many managers aren't even aware of the basic theories on these topics, and they haven't even reached the first category.

Tim Goshert is the worldwide reliability and maintenance manager for Cargill, one of the world's largest food and agricultural processing companies (more than 1,000 facilities worldwide). He is responsible for the company's global reliability and maintenance initiatives and is chairman of the company's Worldwide Reliability and Maintenance Steering Committee. Tim is an active member of the Society of Maintenance & Reliability Professionals (SMRP) and serves on its board of directors.