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Communication Is the Essential Key to Unlocking Asset Management Value

Award winning asset management practitioner Cliff Williams shares his insights on the importance of communication. Are you Communicating with FINESSE?
Award winning asset management practitioner Cliff Williams shares his insights on the importance of communication.

Even though there is no particular section on communication in the ISO 55000 suite, when you read it, you quickly see that without effective communication, none of the goals of Asset Management can be achieved. The fundamentals of Asset Management are Value, Assurance, Leadership, and Alignment which all require us to change our communication strategy. In the world of Asset Management, the employee on the shop floor/front line/office should be able to easily communicate how what they do impacts the achievement of the value stated in the strategic goals.


The challenge is that for most organizations the departmental goal setting is done in isolation and internal looking – forgetting to communicate the link to organizational goals -or other departments. Even worse is that this isolated goal setting often results in the biggest challenge to success – silos (I have been involved in teaching hundreds of students from different organizations – public and private – and when we discuss risk to asset management, silos always come up close to the top).

A Case Example

At one organization I was asked to facilitate a session for managers from two sites on leadership and building an asset management culture. We started the session by going over the organizational strategic objective and then asking each manager to communicate what they thought their most important goals were. When they had done that, they had to explain how their goals impacted the organization’s goals. It became obvious that there were only nebulous links to organizational goals and certainly no collaborative approach.

Accountability Without Control

When we looked deeper into these goals it became clear that people were being held accountable for things they had little control over. PM and schedule compliance was one goal that most agreed was an important contributor to the goals. When I asked who was responsible for that goal everyone pointed to the Planning and Scheduling (P&S) leader, who looked more than uncomfortable. When we explored the reasons why they often didn’t meet compliance, answers like ‘no parts,’ ‘trades pulled off,’ and ‘equipment not released’ cropped up. When I asked how many of those causes the P&S had direct control of there was silence until the P&S leader ventured ‘None’.

Communication is Missing

After we explored who would have control over the causes, we discussed what communication had been taking place between departments – None – and what forum they had for discussing issues like this – None- and how much involvement and collaboration there was in goal-setting – None.

There were other issues regarding spare parts – maintenance complaining they didn’t have the spares they needed and procurement complaining about having to instigate ‘rush orders’. The discussion on this led us to find that it was actually the same problem looked at from different sides – no discussion between the two groups. The procurement group was driven by their goal of ‘reducing inventory’ and did so blindly based on usage – the maintenance and reliability group had no measures around spare parts but did record when downtime was extended due to lack of parts.

Through the rest of the discussions the same challenge kept cropping up – lots of complaining and lack of communication. When we talked about how people were being held accountable another single theme arose, if they could provide a reason/excuse then that was as far as it went – there were no in-depth discussions with their senior managers or directors. Many of those in the room admitted that they found it very difficult to even get a meeting with their manager to talk about basic things.

Management Has the Same Communication Issues

I made my report to the company. I was very quickly invited to a session with those who were the managers/directors of the attendees in the first session. This session followed the first in pretty much every way – internal looking goals, lack of collaboration, lack of communication and lack of forums to express their concerns. Most complained that the goals their leaders wanted them to meet were not really linked to those from the first session.

When I asked how they came up with the goals for their departments they said they used industry standards or those from association websites- without making them specific to their environment. They all felt that they could do a better job of developing specific goals if they had the time and opportunity to explain them to those above and below them, but this never really happened.

Confronting the Senior Leadership Team

Along with this report, I asked for a meeting with the Senior Leadership Team which was scheduled. I was a little bit wary of the meeting but realized that if I was going to show that lack of communication was a roadblock to an Asset Management culture then I had to do a good job of communicating to them. It was obvious that some of the team felt insulted or betrayed by the comments they heard when I described how what they were doing in the way of communication – or lack thereof – was cascading through the organization.

Communication is the Essential Key of Unlocking Asset Management Value

When I suggested that things weren’t as bad as they seemed because they had capable, keen people in the organization the mood lightened. I reminded them that they wanted an Asset Management culture and that in ISO 5500X, GFMAM’s Landscape and IAM’s Anatomy, there were good guides on how to achieve it. BUT before they could hope to move towards it, they had to address the communication issue – also reminding them that communication involved listening as well as talking. I brought up the four fundamentals again and told them that LEADERSHIP (them) would need to start the communication of what represents VALUE to the organization in such a way that everyone would feel they can play a part in the ASSURANCE that assets would perform as required.


Cliff Williams is the author of the maintenance novel, People – A Reliability Success Story. He is a maintenance and Asset Management educator and a speaker at conferences around the world who believes success is achieved through People and Communication. 

Currently, Cliff enjoys sharing his knowledge and experience as an Advisor on Maintenance and Reliability for People and Processes Inc. as well as a facilitator for PEMAC’s Asset Management Program (

He has been awarded the Sergio Guy Award for Maintenance and the Asset Management Leadership Award from PEMAC. Most recently Cliff retired from his role as Corporate Maintenance Manager for ERCO Worldwide.


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