The Asset Management Lead

We all admire the excellence of precision teams like the Red Arrows, the RAF Aerobatics team.  Sheer magic!  But, believe it or not, your job in building an asset management team is harder!  This is the fifth and last excerpt of “Building an Asset Management Team” by Ruth Wallsgrove and Lou Cripps. Sorry about that!  But you can now get the whole thing from AMAZON.  No Asset Management team should lead without it!

Five: What is required of the AM lead?

AM is as much a business and communication function
as a technical one in practice.

Whoever you select to run the AM team, they must have:

1.         Some good team management skills – or be actively developed in these

2.         Communication skills to communicate and co-ordinate both upwards to senior leadership and external stakeholders (for example Boards for public agencies and other politicians), with delivery functions, particularly closely with Maintenance, and with key support functions such as Finance, Procurement, and IT.  They have to take the main responsibility for buying the organization into good practice AM processes.

3.         The ability to inspire the actions of others towards a common aim. Not only is AM about alignment to shared targets, it’s also hard to implement, and so needs people who are inspired.

4.         Understanding of the importance of good business processes themselves!

We would also include be willing to be wrong, and continue to move forward.

It should go without saying that they need to understand Asset Management, and at a minimum this means they have been through some training.  Recruiting someone from another organization who has already done AM is of course a great idea – if you can find them.  Demand wildly outstrips supply of experienced AM practitioners in North America, and indeed elsewhere.

Who is selected sets the tone and will need to lead the effort
up and down the organization.  

Lou: they must be a leader and not just a manager.  This will include knowing the direction to take the team and the abilities to get others to want to help get there.  They protect and care for the individuals, the team and believe in the cause themselves.

The lead is not required to be the technical expert: they have to be okay with surrounding themselves with experts who know more than they do.

You are building Asset Management practitioners and leads for others!

If you build a good team, there is one thing you need to prepare for: that they will get head-hunted away by other agencies looking for someone with real Asset Management experience.  This just happened to RTD’s AM Division.

Both of us find this personally painful – we tend to love our teams and the good people in them – but of course it is part of developing good AM more widely. It’s probably wise to assume that, since some of them will move, it’s worth encouraging them in good management and leadership skills all along.  And you have to want the best for the individuals on your team, otherwise you won’t be a good lead yourself.

 Some thoughts on AM team culture from Lou

I am extremely fortunate to work with great people.

But a good team isn’t just a collection of good people, although that is a huge part. To build the right team, we need to be clear on what the team would do, and what ‘we’ wouldn’t do.  How will we work together to achieve collective goals: team culture.

Essentially, we need to do this through a Plan-Do-Check-Act approach:

Clarity about the enabling attitudes – a vision of the target culture, and a clear sense of what the culture is at the moment and how it falls short of what’s needed

Communicating and encouraging these in different ways to reach different groups

Actively look for ways to measure and monitor this change

Review and adjust change strategy from lessons learnt

We have to create the right environment, where it is ‘safe to explore’: creating enough safety for people to be happy to go out in to the new, the unknown.  There are some rules, and the leader will play a fair referee on them.

Asset Management is not the only area in our society that can have challenges with experts.  We don’t mean that we need less expertise, or should not listen to people who know more than we do. But an increasing amount of research suggests that people who identify as experts come with their own blind spots; and that being smart and well educated, and knowing it, can make for worse, not better decisions.

The real issue is assuming you know more than you do – lacking humility about what you don’t know, and believing that what you know is enough.  ‘To the man with a hammer, every problem is a nail.’

In the world of asset decisions, no one person ever knows enough.

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