Day: August 30, 2013

Metrics & Culture

Hello everyone! I’m back at Michigan Tech after a second summer with Caterpillar. Although I wasn’t working directly with continuous improvement during my internship, I had a conversation about metrics and how they affect the culture and empowerment of employees that was a really big “aha!” moment for me that I wanted to share.

Before this conversation, I had primarily thought of metrics as data that you track to make decisions on what improvements to make, and then for tracking improvement success. It hadn’t really occurred to me that what you track and how you track it really affects decision making and empowerment of the front line workers.

The example we talked about in this conversation was how a customer’s maintenance department might track their performance by tracking their ability to stay within their monthly maintenance budget. Unfortunately, with employees knowing that they are being judged by how much they spend on maintenance, there are instances where some maintenance that should occur goes undone so that the metric can be met; the employee isn’t empowered to make the right choice. As a result, sometimes money is saved on preventative maintenance in the shop… only to have a more costly failure occur in the field, increasing both the maintenance costs and causing a loss in productivity.

In this case, an alternative to the dollar amount metric would be tracking the frequency of maintenance to track success: the goal would be to only have the machine down for planned maintenance and reduce the number of unnecessary failures in the field. This metric would empower employees to make the right choice about choosing to do preventative maintenance before a failure occurs, which is overall going to have a positive impact on the business!