And when we say AM culture, does it have to be a culture war?

Some days, it all feels quite hard.  We know that infrastructure Asset Management requires a change in attitudes, in culture, and that’s no fun to anyone who just wants to get on and manage assets well.  I teach AM, and always say that the tricky bit is attitudes, using co-operation and longer-term thinking as two culture shifts we need if we don’t have them.

But some days it seems more than this. Why does IT think IT assets are special, and so shouldn’t be subject to the same AM planning and prioritisation processes?  Why doesn’t engineering care about information – not just as-built, but the need for any evidence for their decision processes. (“How do we know what benefit we will get from better information?”, an engineering department wrote recently in opposition to a data improvement initiative.)  Why is Urban Planning not interested in any conversation about the current state and utilisation of the physical assets, and how did they come to despise maintenance (why does anyone despise maintenance)? Why do operations, executives think they don’t need KPIs? What do they think they are arguing for?

AM is on the side of good, evidence-based rationalism: wanting to do the right thing based on logic and facts. It is very hard for us to deal with people who are not.

Some days it feels rather like attempting to argue with an anti-vaxxer, or a Trump supporter.

Obviously, when they look at us, they don’t see champions of logic and good sense.  Maybe they see a threat – but what do they tell themselves? Answers, please….

4 Thoughts on “And when we say AM culture, does it have to be a culture war?

  1. Great post and really important issue – ISO /TS 55050 talks about disconnected silos of financial and non-financial AM. Ruth highlights the data/information level thinking – a solution is clear within one silo – renew assets to manage risk. The finance silo says – we don’t have the money. The political silo says – we can’t put tax up. And they are all talking past each other in the language of their silo. Knowledge can interpret the trends and apply a common language – that is why knowledge management strategy is important.

    Wisdom decisions are then made at the board/political level on what can we afford, what we can and can’t do, who pays and how much, what is our risk – service level – cost tradeoff and then how we bring our stakeholders along to understand that this is the best compromise for everyone and how we look after people that are disadvantaged by the decision. That part really needs reliable information.

    • Agreed, Jeff, and perhaps we could start by the board ensuring that everyone understands more clearly what it is exactly that the board, or council is aiming at – their desired outcomes? This would make information not only more reliable but more relevant. It would also serve as a point of common reference when the different silos, focusing on their own needs, disagree on what direction should be taken.
      A few years ago I made a point of asking asset managers what was the most important issue facing their board or council. Not one referred to anything other than assets – and nearly always to the asset issue of most concern to them, which I strongly doubt was the issue of most concern to the board. I would not be surprised if asking other specialists generated similar self serving results. In the absence of a common aim, what else is there?

  2. Soundarapandian Srinivasan on April 18, 2021 at 12:51 am said:

    “Some days it feels rather like attempting to argue with an anti-vaxxer, or a Trump supporter.” How true!
    We need to understand why the culture of lack of cooperation and short term gains came into being in the first place. The culture, is the creation of the top level or the C suite. In many organisations, the bosses have not had exposure to the different functions prior to moving into the top slot. Most likely they have come up from operations and they have been brought up in a culture, where production at any cost was being pursued. The operations was deciding what the other functions will do and when purely from the perspective of short term operational requirements.
    We can see the positive changes happening in the industry in a small scale, where long term requirements are being considered in a holistic way. As with every change, the momentum will pick up once the critical mass is reached.
    Till then, we as Am professionals can only keep nudging the top management to move towards holistic management by showing them the benefits, especially the impact on the bottom line over a period of time.
    Our focus has to be on bringing about the change of approach in the top rung. War on existing culture is not a solution, as war means a victor and the vanquished. What we need is a change of heart and a win-win conclusion

  3. Adeyemi John Falade on April 20, 2021 at 4:29 pm said:

    I refer to one of Penny’s quotes on this forum – ‘the way we see the world depends on the world we see. It’s so true. I’ve learnt not to bother arguing with Anti Vaxxers and other conspiracy theory types.
    I am in the middle of a change management process as a change agent in the defense industry. Like with most change management processes, everyone agrees ‘Change’ (to their own point of view) is necessary.

    The Engineers/Management are convinced that surely if everyone just follows the graphics on the whiteboard, we will hit bulls-eye on the target displayed in no time. Except, of course, they don’t know what they are doing. The shop floor reckons the management is so lost in the world of charts and data they don’t have a f********g clue what happens in the real world.

    I have the task of translating the intent of management to site teams in parade ground language whilst filtering feedback back up to management in much tamer language. In both cases, putting up strong arguments on behalf of either side when needed.

    What I am trying to say is, we cannot sell asset management in an asset management language. Most of us are territorial and will guard our space from the ‘intruder’. One way of knowing the other is with the language they speak. We have to sell it in different languages using different approaches to different silos. The truth is, most people want to make things better and make better things. They just want to do it their own way. The trick is getting people to do what you want whilst making them think it was their idea. Taking a step back and letting the ‘people’ take the credit. Negotiating when appropriate and using the big stick when necessary.

    In the past, I’ve used ‘IT server room performance improvement plan'(neutral language) rather than ‘Server Room Asset Management Plan’ (intruders from that world language) as a project title to get IT’s attention. I made sure I used them to do most of the work to boot. At the end of the day, it had all the same elements, same structure, and same info as an AM plan. But to them, it was their plan. I passed it on to management as an Asset Management Plan at the end of the day.

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