Cruel and unusual punishment or a noble endeavor?
For this week’s blog, PRS have invited our associate Rachael Cowin of 2ed consulting, to share with us, her valuable experience on the topic – Management of Change.
We all remember the story of Sisyphus, cursed to spend every day pushing a huge boulder up a mountain only to have it roll back to the bottom. He was a bad man, he had it coming…
So as an engineering leader you can wonder what you must have done to deserve change management processes. Keeping on top of drawings, technical information, risk assessments and so on (and on) is a never-ending task in the real world of change and improvement. When I ask about change management in many places I visit, I am met with guilty expressions and sighs that speak of suffering – all is not as it should be.
Spoiler alert – I have no magic bullet; rather I think that we need to reframe our thinking. Instead of seeing change management as a hurdle that gets in the way of speedy improvements, it is a key part of ensuring we do it properly.
As a manager one must accept that much as water will take the path of least resistance, unchecked, change management processes will deteriorate, leaving systems and information to fall behind. Involvement and a close interest in practices is a key part of a role in engineering management – your team will follow your cues; this isn’t something that you can assume will trundle along in the background.
Rather than being an inconvenience or an add-on duty, this is a fundamental underpinning activity. Time spent assessing and updating is your investment in the future, both in safety, (about which I could speak at length) and efficiency.
Some reflections I would offer
- Review attitudes to your change process – how seriously is a lack of compliance in the system viewed, vs say, having no permit to work in place? This can tell you a lot about the health of your system.
- Are your drawings and instructions up to date? Again, this is a good health check.
- Is an appropriately qualified person directing the change to the right risk assessment process – for some development HAZOP or higher level HAZAN may be more appropriate.
- Consider periodic HAZAN reviews to counter the effect of creeping change.
Lastly, although there are no doubt improvements that can be made any organisation’s change system, there will be an ultimate capacity limit. If your update processes are failing to keep up, consider – rather than your system being broken, is your rate of change exceeding your capacity to enact it to the correct standard? I see it as a manager’s job to monitor, control and facilitate this, to ensure that assets continue to operate safely and effectively – what could be a more noble purpose?