Managers in silo structures have the greatest impact on their group’s success. So what can you do to improve a manager’s success rate?



Hello Mike,

I spoke with you a couple of years ago about the work you all are doing with Reliability Solutions. You were kind enough to send me some information at that time about managing maintenance groups.

At a conference next week one of the items for discussion is what are the Knowledge \ Skills \ Abilities (KSA’s) that a person who is a maintenance manager or supervisor should possess? I would appreciate any feedback from you on this matter.

What we want to do with this information is to identify areas where training to bridge the ‘gap’ between our current maintenance leadership and the ‘ideal state’, as well as use this information for the selection of future maintenance leaders. I would appreciate your insight.





Dear Keith

It is kind of you to consider my thoughts and ideas on corporate management might be useful to you.

I want to approach your request radically. I‘ve met a lot of nice maintenance managers and supervisors who could run established maintenance operations, but that was all they could do for the business. I imagine you asked the question because you want to challenge people to become managers and supervisors who make companies work better and more productively.

When I wrote my 2009 book titled ‘Plant and Equipment Wellness’, I began a chapter on organizational structure (see Chapter 13, page 154 in the first edition of the book). I found myself writing the same old stuff about running organizations that you get in many business management books. Then I stopped. I looked at what I’d written and thought, “But this advice hardly ever works in reality.” From my experience, the advice in books from renown corporate managers and management research academics is largely not transferable to real-world managers. They may be great suggestions that the authors believe in, but when other managers use them most fail to get the same level of success. Why was I saying the same pointless, unachievable expectations again in my book?

In an earlier chapter I’d done some simple reliability modelling of machine arrangements and wondered if you could do reliability modelling of organizations. I’m not expert in reliability engineering so my reliability modelling is open to math and logic conjecture. But at the end of my very short reliability analysis of organizations I’d ‘proven’ mathematically that managers make the greatest impact on the results of their departments, while the impact of supervisors was of lesser significance.

My simple organizational reliability analysis scared me because its results rang so true to my knowledge of the business world. I was just playing with numbers in my models, but they told a story I was not expecting to see. Managers have a massive influence on departmental success in silo structured organizations.

I already knew that meeting a truly effective manager happens few times in a working career. Nearly all managers, me included, are not greatly effective. We might think we are good managers, but if you measured your effectiveness by the money gained from your efforts in a management role: Just how much profit is your presence in the company making for the business? A poor manager destroys far more business value than they have the ability to create. I wondered what could be done about that.

You’ll see in the book that I also used reliability modelling to explore how teams work. That analysis ‘proved’ mathematically that team structures are far more successful than silo structures. From the investigation I concluded that companies need to do away with structures involving managers and supervisors and instead use teams.

If my modelling is anywhere near right, managers should have the abilities needed to clearly create worth for the organization—their efforts need to bring measurable value, i.e. make money, for the business. They should have the abilities to run departments as teams and make teamwork happen. Especially, they should be courageous and change the organizational structure and practices to stop a manager or supervisor dominating the decision making; because most of us don’t know enough to be right all the time. If a department must follow a manager’s decision, it is really important, critically important, that the decision be the best one that could have been made!

The world is full of management books and leadership books. Yet still there is not a management or leadership model that is universally successful every time it is used. This is screaming evidence that current models of management success and leadership are, at the best, far too incomplete to be useful, or simply wrong. My simplistic reliability modelling of organizations merely confirmed that managers have huge effects. In a silo structure the role of manager is vital to the success of departmental outcomes. Whether incumbents are good at management and make valuable decisions or are a poor manager unintentionally making wasteful choices will respectively make or destroy corporate value.

Managers and supervisors increase their value to companies by learning how to improve the chance of getting successful outcomes. If maintenance managers and supervisors develop the knowledge, skills and abilities that lift the success rate of their group, they will surely become a more effective manager.

If I were in your shoes the first thing I would do to answer your question is write down all the necessary outcomes your group must produce. Under each outcome list all the KRA’s that maximize the successful achievement of the outcome. That list is the knowledge, skills and abilities you, your managers and supervisors need to master; plus create the teamwork to maximize the success rate of the group.

I hope the above is useful opinion for you as to what Knowledge \ Skills \ Abilities maintenance managers and supervisors should have.


All the best to you,

Mike Sondalini
Managing Director
Lifetime Reliability Solutions HQ