I was born in Pennsylvania and grew up near Philadelphia. Philadelphia is referred to as the City of Brotherly Love, and is home to Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell, the Philadelphia Phillies and great-tasting cheese steaks, just to name a few. It's also known for a famous American patriot, founding father and citizen named Benjamin Franklin. I have always admired Ben Franklin for what he accomplished in life and what he did for America and human society as a whole.
Franklin was born in Boston and moved to Philadelphia as a teenager. He was always very curious and clever. He was a self-made man. He wasn't born into wealth. He wasn't content unless he was learning and working on something. Ben's accomplishments are lengthy and impressive. He's best known for his kite-and-key experiment that proved lightning was electrical energy. This led to his invention of the lightning rod, which, according to the people in his time, "tamed lightning." This was a great benefit to society since lightning was the cause of many house fires. Some of his other accomplishments were: establishing the first fire department, establishing the first public library, founding the University of Pennsylvania and Franklin & Marshall College, inventing bifocal lenses, and writing Poor Richards Almanac.
Throughout his life, Ben practiced the knack of building allies. He formed "think tanks" - organizations that had a common purpose of learning and helping society. He believed in the synergy of many people. He also is well known as a foreign diplomat and was one of America's first ambassadors to another country. In fact, his ambassador work with France during the Revolutionary War is considered to be one of the turning points in the struggle for American independence. Ben convinced France's leadership to support the American cause in the war - first monetarily and eventually with the French Navy and troops. Ben knew that in order for America to be successful, it needed help from allies. Ben was a master at building allies in his personal and political lives. Americans yesterday and today benefit from this ability.
I believe that to be successful in the maintenance and reliability profession, you also must network with peers and build allies. Little can be done alone and in a vacuum. In your company, a maintenance and reliability leader must build allies with operations and other disciplines such as finance, engineering, procurement, sales, marketing and human resources. All disciplines need to be part of the improvement team and have input and help in the M&R improvement process. Development of cross-discipline M&R steering teams in a facility, business unit or company is one approach that works well. This action reinforces the position that maintenance and reliability improvement is a total organization initiative and not just a maintenance issue.
Many people have asked me, "How do you start an M&R improvement process?" My typical response is that it begins with M&R education and then follows with leadership. I believe you must find, educate and develop an ally in one or a few operating departments who will allow and support your M&R improvement process in their area. Then, concentrate on making them successful. This normally means concentrating on solving their operational and maintenance problems, and making their equipment healthier. This will result in better customer service, and more production at less cost over time. When this improvement occurs, they will receive the acknowledgement and praise for the improvements. The success, acknowledgements and rewards will cause others to want the same results and they will seek M&R improvement team for their area. I've seen this happen several times in several levels of an organization.
Additionally, networking outside the company is important for benchmarking and learning what others do. I recommend membership in the Society for Maintenance and Reliability Professionals (www.smrp.org). Involvement in SMRP has given me access to experts in the maintenance and reliability field. It allows me to talk to and learn from people actually doing and executing the M&R process in their company. This practical knowledge and advice has been extremely helpful in Cargill's journey in M&R improvement.
In summary, building allies is all about making other people successful by helping them achieve their dreams and goals. Helping others will help you to achieve your long-term goals.