Reliability Hacks for the Individual

Reliability can be thought of as the resistance to failure. Or, put another way, reliability is the probability of success. We usually talk about ways to make equipment more reliable. But let’s explore some tips (hacks if you will) to make you and your work resistant to failure. To increase your probability of success. These are things that you can do mostly by yourself, but that will have a ripple effect beyond just your work. Whether the current situation has you at max capacity, or with a little extra time on your hands, the time you take to ensure your personal and professional reliability will pay off quickly, and keep paying.

First things first: Organize your ToDo list. Make sure that your ToDo list is actually a doable list and organized to help you get it done. Break tasks into milestones that can be knocked out. If the same task stays on your list for longer than a week, think about if it is realistic.

  • Should it be broken into smaller, more complete-able tasks?
  • Should it be moved into the future, to a time when you can effectively tackle it?
  • Is it a repetitive task that should be moved to calendar based reminders, rather than a perpetual ToDo?
  • Does it belong on a ‘bucket list” rather than a ToDo list?
  • What will it take to complete the task?
    • What will it take to complete the task?
    • What will it take to complete the task?
    • See what I did there? If asking 3 times doesn’t work, you may need to 5-Why your tasks. If you don’t know how to complete it, the task does not belong on the ToDo list. You first need a task to define your objective, brainstorm actions to accomplish, create a plan of action, then break that plan into action steps. That is a series of entries on a ToDo list, not just one.

Organizing your ToDo list as the precursor to your Accomplished list will focus your efforts more effectively. Every task on your list should pass the SMART test. It should be Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Results oriented and Timebound. That is not to say that you should not have more esoteric, philosophic, or pursuit goals. But those belong on your life list, not your ToDo list. A focused ToDo list will help you accomplish your goals and lead to personal and organizational reliability.

Streamline metrics. By streamline metrics, I mean organize the data, goals, and metrics that you use to make decisions so that they provide the information you need to make decisions in a timely and organized manner. If your data comes from database(s), create an automated report that is delivered to you, automagically. If the database that you are working on, can’t do that, research add-ons to see if they can. If nothing else, set a calendar reminder to run the report. If the data does not come to you in a meaningful format set up a simple framework to dump the data into. The framework doesn’t need to be any more sophisticated than a spreadsheet. Your metrics should look at both absolute values and trends. Common metrics answer these questions:

  • Where is the reading currently?
    • What has changed since the last reading?
    • Where is the reading to goal?
  • What is the trend line of the reading?
  • Is the goal still valid?
  • Do I need to change the frequency of review?
  • Do we need to look at other goals in conjunction with this one?

From that information, a course of action can usually be plotted. From abandon the goal; to do nothing/continue monitoring; to stop the presses and let’s get all hands on deck! – Sorry for the mixed metaphors. Making your metrics review a consistent, repeatable process makes your decision making more reliability. The faster you can turn data into information, the more likely you are to continue to monitor.

Thank someone. How does thanking someone lead to reliability? When you thank someone for the help in your career, or life. You think about how that person changed your life. Reflection is the best way to achieve personal reliability. Thank someone and honor that thanks by upholding the work ethics that person has taught to you.

Smile. Think of your loved ones past, present and future. Think of kittens, flowers, and rainbows. Think of equipment running flawlessly, think of your outage going exactly as planned, think of all your lines running at designated rate, turning out perfect quality. Smile. Think of what makes you smile, and why it makes you happy. Capture that feeling. Being happy, centered, calm, leads you to make more balanced decisions, and to be more open and accepting. Take the time everyday to smile and enjoy feeling good. Then take that smile and pass it on. Give it to someone without the need for them to give it back. Just be happy and professional and you will find it easier to work with all types of people. You will be more reliable, and you might even inspire reliability in them.

Give back. We are each the person we are because of those that have inspired or guided us along the way. Give back to your community, including your professional community. Talk to classrooms about your job, get young folks interested in following in your career. Target those that are not traditional in your field. Make them feel like they belong and could make a big difference in the career. Reach out to training centers to see how you can help spread the word to gain interest in the field. Get active in a professional group. Write an article and share what you know. Teach the next generation, either formally or informally. Inspire someone to take up your field of work and watch how they grow an contribute. Mentor a protégé. Nothing is more fulfilling than watching a former protégé, mentor a newcomer to the field. Giving back makes you a reliable proponent of your field.

Learn something new. Minds are sort of like muscles in that they need to be exercised to keep them healthy. Mix learning something just for fun with learning to advance your professional understanding. Ideally, these are one and the same, but you know the story about Jack and no play. Learning a craft, music, balloon animals, or other skills are just as important to your curiosity as reading the latest trade journals and peer publications.

Create a job continuity book. Someday you will win the lottery, be promoted, move to a new town, or otherwise leave your current job. Creating a job book for your standardized work helps you become more reliable and will help with on boarding of the next you. Review the book annually to update it. This will only make you a more valuable employee. There is a myth that “if they know what I do they will get rid of me”. Do you really think your boss is after your job? More likely they will be impressed, not only with all that you do, but with your initiative to document the standard work, stream line the metrics, be pleasant to those around you, give back to the community, and still get a formidable ToDo list done.

Take the time to organize and make yourself more reliable. The less time you have to spend doing the routine, necessary work, the more time you have for the important, innovative work.

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