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Is Senior Management Falling Asleep? How to Concisely Communicate Reliability Assessments

Senior management has limited time and cares about a few key things when it comes to reliability assessments. Are you putting them to sleep? Or are you Communicating with FINESSE?
Senior management has limited time and cares about a few key things when it comes to reliability assessments. Are you putting them to sleep? Or are you Communicating with FINESSE?

The systems thinking required to conduct a reliability assessment is not easily put into words. However, great communicators have found the formula for getting it done. This article provides a proven approach and four tips to communicate reliability assessments concisely.


The Seven Steps of a Reliability Assessment

This is my standard seven-step process for reliability assessments:


  1. Establish the problem/function statement.

  2. Verify and calculate future stresses (loads/demands/flows).

  3. Establish the system condition and asset performance history.

  4. Perform system reliability analysis.

  5. Evaluate the ability to predict unreliability and accept the associated risk.

  6. Determine mitigation and improvement alternatives (decision analysis).

  7. Document and communicate (communication)


Human factors or human interfaces are aspects of most physical systems. Human factors have tools and approaches that are not common to other fields of practice and are often overlooked by many physical systems professionals.



We Need An Approach

We need a specific approach for effective communication of issues involving high levels of complexity. Without an approach, our focus is too high in the clouds or too low as we move through the forest from tree to tree. FINESSE provides a viable, proven approach.

Remember, philosophies are for philosophers, theories are for academics, and approaches are for practitioners.



You Have About 1200 Words

Most people can speak between 100 and 150 words per minute. If an executive gives you 10 minutes worth of their time, then you have about 1200 words to make your case.

Realistically, you have about 3 minutes (or less than 400 words) to hold their interest. Impossible? Not really, because the best communicators do it daily with all types of issues. That's why having a viable, proven approach to your communication is so important.


One Methodology: Focus on the Barriers First

My methodology changed about five years ago when I started focusing on making my reports and presentations more accessible.

Previously, I had taken the team-based, corporate approach of bringing all of the information from different disciplines together. We’d craft our key messages and start whittling down the slide deck. We had good inclusion on the front end, but we seldom were able to reduce the number of slides and content enough.

Now, I focus first on the needs of people with hearing, visual, and language challenges. That means fewer, more concise words and fewer, more relevant visuals. The fight to build up from this lean position is easier than reducing from a massive position. I also find that sometimes I don't even need visuals to make my points (also known as “get the key message into something less than 400 words”).


Some Key Items to Discuss

Beyond good fundamentals of effective communication, we must also answer the mail on what most senior managers need to take from a reliability assessment.

The Basis of Design Is All Over The Place

Most facilities and infrastructure systems are the product of multiple management teams, designers, and contractors. From a systems engineering and reliability perspective, the function statements (the basis of design) were different with each version of enhancement.

The definition of reliability is the probability that an item will perform its intended function for a specified interval under stated conditions. It is difficult to determine the probability if the functions, time periods, and assumed conditions differ.

Most senior managers are surprised by the variation in the basis of design of their key facilities and infrastructure systems.



Single Points of Failure

Reliability Block Diagrams (RBDs) and Fault Tree Analysis (FTA) are the bread and butter of reliability assessments. Remember, the RBD is the positive state (what it takes to be successful), and the FTA is the negative state (what causes the system to fail). Inverting the logic FTA into an RBD is one way to make sure the logic is correct.

A key outcome for most senior managers is the single points of failure generated from the RBDs and FTAs.


Mean Time to Repair (MTTR)

We can talk for days about the finite differences between reliability, unreliability, risk, and resilience in system performance. Avoid that trap – remember, you only have about 400 words for your key message and 1200 words total.

Most senior managers want their systems to be dependable, and dependability is best proxied by the Mean Time to Repair (MTTR). Another way to describe risk is that it is defined as surprises, and having a key system down for an unexpected period of time is the surprise that most senior managers seek to avoid.

A key outcome for senior managers is to understand what parts of the system could be down for extended periods.



Prioritized Solutions

Solutions from reliability assessment come in terms of fault tolerance (some form of redundancy) and fault avoidance (such as lower stresses and better components). Remember, we are looking at the system and not individual assets. 

Senior management wants the most viable three solutions. Prioritize by criticality, capital cost, ease of implementation, and alignment with other projects.



Concisely Communicate Reliability Assessments

Avoid putting senior management to sleep. The systems thinking that is required to conduct a reliability assessment is not easily put into words. However, great communicators have a formula for getting it done. Are you Communicating with FINESSE?


Join us for April's free webinar on communicating reliability assessments.

Join CWF for April's free monthly webinar on communicating reliability assessments.

The systems thinking required to conduct a reliability assessment is not easily expressed. This free webinar will provide tips for addressing the three most important things that senior management wants to understand and a methodology for developing the report and presentation.

Two case examples will be used to demonstrate presentation structure and visuals that are recommended as good practice.


Communicating with FINESSE is the not-for-profit community of technical professionals dedicated to being highly effective communicators and facilitators. Learn more about our publications, webinars, and workshops. Join the community for free.


JD Solomon is a licensed professional engineer (PE), Certified Reliability Engineer (CRE), and Certified Reliability and Maintenance Professional (CRMP). is the author of Communicating Reliability, Risk & Resiliency to Decision Makers: How to Get Your Boss’s Boss to Understand and Facilitating with FINESSE: A Guide to Successful Business Solutions.


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