Lynne Hamilton, principal management consultant, Mott MacDonald
An organisation’s ability to ‘do’ asset management must be set up as a core competence.
It’s all too easy to forget that asset management isn’t just about the assets themselves. People are every bit as important.
If the people in your organisation – be they at board level or the maintenance staff keeping assets running – aren’t equipped to make or act on effective decisions about assets, then the entire process involved in running them can be jeopardised.
Ensuring the right people have the right skills and knowledge is what we call being a ‘capable organisation’.
It starts with getting everyone in your organisation on the same page, creating alignment with clear purpose, goals and processes. Then, leadership decisions must be transmitted effectively to those carrying them out. And vice-versa: those who actually manage your organisation’s assets need a way to inform management about what is happening at the other end – what’s needed, what’s possible, and what’s not.
Poor communication is too often at the heart of disjointed activities, inefficiency and poor profitability.
Decisions from board level must work down to asset level in a way that is actionable. This is tricky with objectives such as ‘we need to increase customer satisfaction’, or ‘profits in quarter three need to be higher than in quarter two’. Effective asset management involves translating the abstract to the practical.
One of the most common communication problems is between operational teams, who know the most about assets, and the people responsible for investment. Operational experience and asset knowledge are essential for sound investment decisions. Without them and relying only on data, it’s too easy for funding to be misaligned. Data may indicate that investment should be made in one area, when experience will tell you there is a more pressing need. With many competing demands for investment and cash always in short supply, it’s essential that money goes where it will make the biggest difference.
It is not always clear what changes are required to achieve organisational competence. A solution to this problem is to get help identifying skills gaps, structural inefficiencies or shortcomings in your businesses process, and then in guiding change. The solution could involve training or adding just a handful of individuals in key parts of your organisation. It might involve inducting everyone in your company into asset management, or the key could be to recognise, reposition and learn from people within your organisation already in the know. It all depends on your situation and requirements.
One thing’s for certain, developing asset management capability makes many things much easier: setting strategy, planning and delivering effectively, building resilience, and embracing technological change and improvement.
‘Capable organisation’ is at the heart of our ‘seven strengths in asset management’ model, aimed at helping infrastructure owners and operators to run efficient businesses and create happy customers. To find out more, take a look at our publication ‘Magic number: seven key strengths’ and keep an eye out for future articles.