You want a proactive maintenance team that gets work done quickly and with minimal errors. It all sounds great in theory, but the reality is that proactive teams still face obstacles. Work gets delayed, and mistakes happen. How you handle these detours makes the difference between a high-performing maintenance team and one that's just, well, average.
In this post, we'll provide an eight-step framework for leading your team through change like a high-performing maintenance team so you can tackle obstacles and roadblocks like a pro.
What does a high-performing maintenance team look like?
A high-performing maintenance team has a common goal with a clear vision of where it's going and how it will get there. It works proactively and as one unit to resolve conflicts. It is fearless, embraces change, and always finds new ways to improve.
How to identify where change needs to happen
Identifying what change needs to happen and how quickly it needs to happen is a skill. For example, you can look at reporting data to see where problems occur and their impact. The more impact an issue has on the team, the quicker a solution needs to be found.
Types of change in maintenance
This kind of change is often something that the maintenance team has little control over. Things like supply-chain demands, natural disasters, and pandemics are examples of environmental changes that maintenance teams deal with.
This change involves more than just the maintenance department. Examples of organizational changes are shifting to remote work, changing leadership teams, or removing or adding to core products or services.
This kind of change is something that affects the way technicians do their day-to-day job. It could be anything from making work orders mobile using software to changing the frequency of your preventive maintenance plan. These kinds of changes need to be handled with careful thought and planning because any errors could lead to costly downtime, or stalled production.
How to lead a high-performing maintenance team through change
Now that we understand what a high-performing team looks like let's take a closer look at the eight steps you can take to achieve this by leading change. These steps are practical and applicable in any maintenance team, regardless of size. So, let's explore these eight steps in more detail.
Set a shared goal
Teams that have clear shared goals are more likely to achieve them. It helps them understand how their work contributes to the bigger picture, builds trust, and fosters a collaborative environment. It also offers a clear action plan when things get a little hairy.
How to do it: Use a framework like the S.M.A.R.T model to identify goals. The S.M.A.R.T. model stand for specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound. They’re used as a framework to guide your goal-setting process by clearly laying out the expectations and details of your goal. It also helps ensure that the change aligns with the broader organizational goals. This will help keep objections at bay and make generating the buy-in you need from key stakeholders easier.
Have a plan
Now that you have a goal in mind, it’s time to build a plan to help your maintenance team achieve it. A plan helps high-performing maintenance teams know where a project's start, middle, and end are.
How to do it: Consult with key stakeholders during the planning stage, this will help air out inconsistencies, grey areas, and missed opportunities. The more involved stakeholders are in the planning stage, the more likely you are to execute the plan from start to finish.
Have clearly defined roles and responsibilities
It’s difficult to do work efficiently and effectively while trying to continuously improve, when you don’t know what’s expected of you.
How to do it: A way to define roles and responsibilities is through something like the RACI matrix. RACI stands for responsible, accountable, consulted, and informed, and is a great framework for knowing who needs to do what and when during the change management process. Here is an example of how maintenance can use RACI to delegate common maintenance tasks:
Example of using the RACI matrix for maintenance work
Use tools and technology
You'll need resources and information to execute change like a high-performing team. If that information is difficult to get, you’ll lose any advantage it provides. That’s why it’s important for your operation to create a large resource center that’s highly accessible. This empowers your maintenance team to be proactive in their work.
How to do it: Digitize manuals, plans, and other resources into a program that can be accessed by any technician at any time, from anywhere in the plant. This makes the information easy to access and reduces the time that would otherwise be spent searching for answers instead of doing the work.
Use data to make decisions
Data tells us so much about maintenance and our team. It shows you how much you’re spending, how much time maintenance takes, and how often maintenance is being done. But when your team is in the midst of change, data can also serve as a point of reference or check-in to ensure things are on track.
How to do it: Use data to see your progress in your maintenance plans. Consider creating reports based on departmental goals and pulling them regularly during the change process. Once you’re in the habit of doing this, you can create benchmarks to determine the progress of your tasks. Check trends and adjust the plan accordingly so you can continue making improvements that align with those goals.
Listen to feedback
Buy-in is super important. It’s easy for management to force change on their team, but at the end of the day, the technicians are the ones who will feel the effects of the change the most. For example, if you are implementing a new technology, your adoption will be low if the people who should be using it aren’t comfortable with it.
"You never want to overwhelm your team members,” says Joe Colvis, Maintenance Manager at Daikin Comfort. “Sometimes technicians can feel overwhelmed and have anxiety when having tough conversations about roadblocks that are keeping them behind in their work.”
How to do it: Ensure you are doing frequent check-ins with team members. Regular check-ins help to gain trust and free them from any bias or scrutiny they may have felt prior if they brought up any issues. Set up training sessions based on feedback, this way, your team can use the new technology confidently. Combat any hesitation by explaining that change is intended to help them do their work, not to create more problems.
Celebrating success doesn’t have to be reserved for the end of a project or the end of a quarter. Let your team know they are fully supported and empower the group. You can do this by celebrating team wins, when a team member is impacted positively, or when a roadblock has been overcome.
How to do it: Company-wide shout-outs, team-building activities outside of the office, and time off are all excellent ways to recognize your team's success.
Scale over time
Implementing change over time stops you from overwhelming people. Start with a change on one team, with one task, like work orders. Then move to the next phase. This ensures that the change impacts each area of the business in a beneficial way.
How to do it: Find the problems that are draining the most time, money, and effort, then look to fix those first. Continue the process until you’ve implemented the change across the entire organization.
Change takes time and so does building a great team
Building a high-performing maintenance team is no easy feat, but it’s achievable with the right mindset and approach. Remember, a high-performing maintenance team is one that has a clear vision, works proactively as a unit, embraces change, and is always looking for new ways to improve. So, take charge, set a shared goal, build a plan, define roles and responsibilities, use tools and technology, and leverage data to make informed decisions. With these steps, you can create a culture of collaboration, openness, and transparency that will help your team reach new heights and tackle any challenge that comes their way.