team building

Team Building: Do You Guide or Direct?

How Do You Lead?

Unless you live in a cave by yourself, you will eventually be part of a team. You may even be leading a team in accomplishing some task or providing some service. When you do, will you be a guide or a director? Much depends on the team purpose.

Over the past 40 (gad!) years, I’ve had the pleasure (and pain, at times) of leading many teams. Hopefully mostly to victory. One thing I’ve discovered in that time is that using the same leadership style in all situations is potentially fatal to success. You must adapt your style to fit the team purpose, members, and environment.

Guiding A Team

So you have been tasked with managing a diverse group of individuals toward a goal. If you are also responsible for fulfilling their career growth, you should probably adopt the role of a guide, rather than a director. As a guide, you should focus more on building team knowledge and capacity and less on task completion. Achieving the goal is still a priority, but you take more time to walk your team through the process of achievement, highlighting the best methods to get to the goal.

  • Avoid the “do it myself” trap – let others take some of the slack
  • Teach, rather than dictate
  • Shadow and support, rather than be the frontman
  • Provide positive feedback continually – even if the person struggled
  • Use one-on-one coaching opportunities

The key here is to grow your group’s knowledge and confidence so that they are better moving forward.

Directing A Team

When the deadline is tight, or the task is critical to overall success, it is time to become the director. When you direct a team, it is crucial to keep tabs on what everyone is doing and when they need to do it. Start off by examing the tasks involved in achieving success. Starting with yourself, you assign these tasks to the person best suited to accomplish them. Make sure you do NOT overload yourself! Understand that you will need at least 20% of your time just to manage everyone else’s progress.

  • Maintain regular progress meetings
  • Focus on task achievement recognition, without being negative
  • Use tracking tools to monitor overall progress toward the goal
  • Keep everyone informed of status
  • Now is the time to be blunt if required

The key here is to get the job done, demonstrating to the group that there are times when they need to knuckle down and get after it.

Stay Nimble

By adapting your leadership style to fit varying demands, you can hit targets while furthering your team’s effectiveness. Ask yourself as you approach each new team or task, what leadership style do I need to bring to this?

Photo by Kimson Doan on Unsplash


Respect is The Key To Love

I tell my partner every day that I love her. That may sound old fashioned, but it makes me feel great to do it. We have been together for over 24 years. When people ask how we’ve managed to create that relationship, we point to one thing: respect. It isn’t as romantic to tell someone “I respect you” every day, but is critical that you feel that way.
Love is a word that gets bandied about too much. We use it on objects, food, outfits, whatever. What does NOT get bandied about is the word respect.
When someone says “I respect you” it forms the basis for an actual relationship. Respect is the glue that holds people together. People can fall in and out of love, and that love can vary in its intensity and depth as a relationship progresses. But respect for each other is far more binary in nature. It is either on or off.
Once you’ve lost respect for someone, it can be impossible to retrieve. And that can be the death knell of love. But if you can hold onto that respect, it can forge a bond deeper than anything else in your life.
We watch Seinfeld a LOT in our house. In one of our favorite Seinfeld episodes (The Engagement), Jerry and George decide that they need to grow up and form a mature relationship with someone. Jerry confides in Kramer about their thoughts:

Jerry: We were talking about our lives and we both kind of realized we’re kids. We’re not men.

Kramer: So, then you asked yourselves, “Isn’t there something more to life?”

Jerry: Yes. We did.

Kramer: Yeah, well, let me clue you in on something. There isn’t.

Jerry: There isn’t?

Kramer: Absolutely not. I mean, what are you thinking about, Jerry:? Marriage? Family?

Jerry: Well…

Kramer: They’re prisons. Man made prisons. You’re doing time. You get up in the morning. She’s there. You go to sleep at night. She’s there. It’s like you gotta ask permission to use the bathroom. Is it all right if I use the bathroom now?

Jerry: Really?

Kramer: Yeah, and you can forget about watching TV while you’re eating.

Jerry: I can?

Kramer: Oh, yeah. You know why? Because it’s dinner time. And you know what you do at dinner?

Jerry: What?

Kramer: You talk about your day. How was your day today? Did you have a good day today or a bad day today? Well, what kind of day was it? Well, I don’t know. How about you? How was your day?

Jerry: Boy.

Kramer: It’s sad , Jerry. It’s a sad state of affairs..

Jerry: I’m glad we had this talk.

Kramer: Oh, you have no idea!

It’s hysterical, and we actually quote it on a nearly daily basis as an inside joke. But it points to one of the most misunderstood parts of a great relationship: respectful communication.
When you respect another person, it is natural to want to get their point of view. In all my years of extensive (100,000 miles per year) travel, I made a rule out of speaking to her each night. We still make time each evening to have a conversation before bed. It can be about something as menial as what we’re doing the next day, or as important as where one of our girls is at in their life.
I value my wife’s ideas, desires, and feelings, as much as my own. Our relationship is based on building each other up. We create opportunities to support each other against what the world is throwing at us every day. And we do that by communicating with each other.
In business, my most important task was creating a strong team. That meant fostering an atmosphere of respect in the workplace and between team members. Central to that was the role of open communication, encouraging feedback, and making sure people respected each otherI like to think that team building was one of my strongest contributions to the success of my company, and it was all based on ensuring mutual respect. I’ll be writing about team building a lot in the future.
We may not always agree on a course of action, but we must respect each other’s contribution to the discussion.
When you think of ways to great strong bonds with people, make sure you take steps to ensure that the importance of mutual respect is never trivialized. It is critical to success in every part of your life.
And while I will still always tell my wife I love her every day, what I’m also saying is that I respect her.
Comments and thoughts are welcome, as always!

Zen and the Art of Learning

The art of learning is a key skill for any successful life. Zen teachings and stories can show us better ways of approaching that art. I became interested in Zen in the mid 90’s, after a journey of self-examination that resulted in deciding that we alone are responsible for our own fate. No supernatural, theistic, god-like interventions for me.
I read many books on the meaning and practice of Zen, building my own interpretation of how I would live. My favorite is Zen Flesh, Zen Bones that contains the original 101 Zen Stories, compiled in 1919.
A Cup of Tea is the first koan in the book, and sums up what I have come to believe is the most important lesson in life. We are burdened by the weight of our own history and opinions. Only by freeing ourselves from that weight can we be fulfilled


Nan-in, a Japanese master during the Meiji era (1868-1912), received a university professor who came to inquire about Zen.

Nan-in served tea. He poured his visitor’s cup full, and then kept on pouring.

The professor watched the overflow until he no longer could restrain himself. “It is overfull. No more will go in!”

“Like this cup,” Nan-in said, “you are full of your own opinions and speculations. How can I show you Zen unless you first empty your cup?”

How does this koan help us to be better at learning? Approaching new ideas free from “opinions and speculations” allows a person to absorb them more completely. This learning skill is a requirement for being able to adapt to rapidly changing situations in life and at work.

I have an ability to research, explore, and learn new things quickly. When researching things, I find it helpful to empty my mind of expectations, previous knowledge, and extraneous influences. This way I can quickly filter through multiple sources to find the nuggets of gold. I will then write my results down, making that learning more permanent.  

Finding A Cup of Tea and absorbing what it means was one of my most important life lessons. Learning how to learn is a key to success.

I’ve added a page to the site that contains the links to all of the 101 Zen Stories. Check it out!

My Selection Of Razors

Shaving, and other rituals

 I love shaving. There, I’ve said it.

I own 5 different razors, two brushes, assorted creams, gels and accessories. Some might call this egregious, but I call it perfect. Each of my four safety razors has a different aggressiveness, weight, and size. When I haven’t shaved for 7 days, I reach for the Feather: a marvel of japanese engineering. If I need a quick freshening, I’ll grab the Merkur. The Muhle is a daily driver. When I am in a huge hurry, I have a Gillette Fusion as a backup, but it rarely gets used. It doesn’t feel like I actually accomplished my perfect shave.

I also use different shaving creams, based on mood, facial hair length, or light level in the bathroom. I use a predefined set of strokes, always starting from the right side of my face. I then move left under the jaw, then finish up in front the mustache and chin area.

This is one of those rituals I love – it forces me to take time to do something right. No slap-dash approach to a daily chore for me. Shaving is an art, one that gives me a sort of inner peace.

Some of my other rituals are less glamourous, like the nose and ear hair trimming. I actually have a Groom Mate Platinum Nose Hair Trimmer. This sits comfortably in the back of the shaving drawer until needed. A few spins of the tiny appliance and things are tidied up nicely.

I handle finger and toenails as quickly and efficiently as possible. This is so non-glamorous, I usually hover over the toilet to catch the scraps.

We are all inner obsessive-compulsives in regard to some aspect of our lives. It must come with the lizard brain lurking behind us all. For my girl, its cleaning. It just makes her feel calm and complete. Shaving is the same for me.

You don’t need to travel great distances, or learn meditation techniques to find an inner calmness. You can get it from everyday life.

What To Demand From An Asset Management Solution

When building a solution for advanced asset management, there are things you should look for.


Asset management planning activities and analysis are labour intensive. Implementing an enterprise asset management solution improves efficiency through integration and software tools. This reduces the effort for data extraction, spreadsheet manipulation and custom database management. You can expect efficiency improvements on building baseline plans. Analysis activities may benefit even more. Complex analysis tasks that took weeks may only take hours or even minutes to complete.


The timeliness of the analysis delivers improved confidence in the results. Executing more iterations of the planning activities improves the quality of the plan. Active integration to data sources reduces the lag between data changes and the plan. You might see an improvement in data timeliness from 3-6 months old data to one day old. Advanced tools deliver analysis results based on this data in a shorter time. Regeneration of a version of the plan after a change can go from days to hours or even minutes.


Transparency improves the defensibility of the plan to both internal and external reviewers. Transparency improves the confidence the organization and its stakeholders have in the plan. The commitment to funding and execution is easier to get. Transparency should come from audit trail of all changes. The ability to drill-down into the calculation of each value to find the basis for it is critical.


Take Risk exposure into account in the plan. Use risk measures to create an optimized plan based on risk. This will improve the effectiveness of the asset intervention investment. This results in doing the right work at the right time, to the right asset. The organization must optimize the combined capital and operating cost for the inventory. The plan must include planned and unplanned costs over the lifecycle of the assets. Using a base-line age-based plan, calculate savings comparing to the risk-based optimized plan. This can result in high savings, as the potential for improvement is very large.

A Life Becoming Reason

I used to write for a living, as a marketing and human resources director for a small cleaning supply firm. That meant writing every day, pretty much all day. Then I became a technical writer and documenter for software. Again, writing all day. I became a software developer and company executive after that. I spent the next 15 years growing a small development house into a large enterprise software company. My writing became reduced to emails, proposals, and marketing blurbs, no long form stuff allowed! I got out of the practice of daily writing for 15 years. Now, after selling the company, I am attempting to retrain myself to get back into writing. I have nothing but time, and no need to go out and get a “real job”.
So now comes the hard part. Actually forcing myself to write every day.

“Management”​ is Key to Effective Enterprise Asset Management!

We’ve talked about the enterprise and the asset, and their roles in EAM strategies. Now we need to act!

Determine Risk!

Risk is the ultimate measuring stick for gaining the biggest impact, and letting the important assets speak loudly to our investment plans. Determining risk across all asset types sounds like it could be a daunting process. But, we know what is important to our organization, and we know a lot about our assets, so if we combine it with a little more “real world” analysis, we can find a clear way forward.

Risk, simply put, is the product of the probability of an asset failing and the impact of that failure, less any mitigation strategies that we may have in place.

Probability of Failure (POF) and Failure Modes

Assets fail, but they can fail in different ways, at different stages of their lives, for different reasons. The trick is to make a prediction of failure far enough in advance that we can actually plan for it. The simplest way of determining the POF of an asset is to flip the condition curve upside down, and watch for the asset to hit the bottom of the curve. A method that has more usefulness as a key to managing risk is to look at failure modes.

The first step in figuring out the POF of an asset is to sit down with the people who actually look after them and list out all the reasons they need to replace those types of assets. Do they get hit by cars, fall down on their own, use too much power, cost too much to fix again?

There are four key modes of failure:

  • A failure of capacity, like a distribution network that cannot cope with demand.
  • A failure in the level of service, when an asset fails to deliver the minimum acceptable customer experience.
  • A failure due to economic efficiency, like an asset that costs more to operate than it does to replace.
  • Finally, and most common, physical mortality, when the asset simply ceases to function.

Consequence of Failure (COF)

Once we determine how an asset can fail, and how likely it is at any given time, we must determine just how much impact that failure will have on our organization. The organizational objectives and overall asset management strategy are a great reference when we start to try and quantify that impact.

Typically, we start by looking at an asset’s failure impact by creating several scales, and ranking the impact of a failure on those scales. A typical approach is to look at social, economic and environmental impact of failures, but your COF scales can take whatever form is important to your organization.

The critical thing is that the scales are relative – so that they can be applied across the asset inventory. This is the key step – allowing us to compare apples and oranges, wires and transformers, substations and properties, all on the same scale.

Ranking by Risk

Once we have POF, and COF, we can combine those to come up with a risk priority. Each asset can then be ranked according to the exposure that the organization would experience if the asset failed, based on multiple causes of failure. The end result is a risk priority number (RPN) value for each asset in the inventory.

This value can be used to drive inspection frequency, insurance valuations, environmental mitigation strategies, and other regulatory activities, and also rank competing events and activities.

By having a clear grasp on our asset data, we gain enormous clarity in understanding the scope of our activities. Not only does our reporting become simpler, but we are able to quickly answer questions about current valuation, condition and risk exposure. This flows automatically into our updated asset management plans. The result is we can separate out the most critical assets from the pack, and act on them first.

Building Asset Strategies

Knowing what we can do is critical to managing asset performance. Knowing whenand when not to do it is just as critical. Managing asset inventories is the art of balancing operating and capital costs, determining the best point on an asset’s life cycle to inject activities or interventions to keep the costs over the asset’s life at their minimum, while maintaining the value of that asset to the organization.

Capturing Asset Behaviours

The key to developing these strategies is to work directly with the asset managers, and extract the institutional knowledge they have about how those asset actually perform, and what we can do to them in order to keep them performing in the real world.

That does two key things for us: it gives us a great start in building a decision tree to predict future investment requirements, and it captures that institutional knowledge on how best to maintain those assets.

Once we’ve documented it, it will serve as the starting point for new staff as they come on-board, shortening their ramp-up time dramatically. The resulting decision logic, when applied to individual assets, generates a lifecycle forecast of what can be done to the asset over the course of its life, complete with costing, risk impacts, and value contributions.

The product of this is the list of pending asset events and activities, based on everything we know about our asset inventory, and using our own institutional knowledge.

This can then flow into the defined asset model and be used to generate ongoing forecasts of investment requirements.

Each asset contains all of the attributes defined for it, such as age, in-service, material, diameter, voltage, etc. It also contains a set of events and activities that have been generated for that asset based on our strategy, predicted values of future measures, and probability, consequence and risk profiles.

By doing it this way, we can make continual improvements to the asset-type definition and strategy, and apply it to our asset base to get better predictions and plans as we move into the future.

We can also set up alternative strategies, failure modes, and decision models to play what-if scenarios with our asset base. The key output of all of this is our needs list, for next year, the year after, or 10 to 50 years out.

Elements of the Asset Management Plan

All of the components of the asset management plan are now in our hands, and can be used to generate the plan at any time. These components include the textual entries that describe the current state of the asset group populating the plan, as well as the raw data that populates the tabular and graphical elements of the final plans.

A typical asset management plan should include:

  • Asset base (inventory counts by asset sub-type)
  • Asset failure modes (failure modes for each asset type within the group)
  • Asset costs (unit costs for replacement, maintenance and monitoring)
  • Projected inventory (graphical representation of asset counts for next 10 years)
  • Age profile (graphical representation of asset age by year)
  • Consumption profile (graphical representation of the percentage of asset life consumed)
  • Health profile (graphical representation of asset base condition)
  • Maintenance program (graphical representation of asset OPEX projections for next 10 years)
  • Planned replacements (graphical representation of asset replacement events for next 10 years)
  • Future cashflow (graphical representation of OPEX and CAPEX investments for the next 10 years).

So we have concluded our journey in developing asset management plans using enterprise asset management best practices. We’ve seen how defining organizational priorities help drive asset inventory improvement, and ultimately the format and function of the planning process itself. We’ve also seen that EAM without actual asset data is like paint-by-numbers without the numbers – pretty random! Finally, using management best practices to determine asset priorities is critical to getting the most out of every precious dollar!

Listen to Your Assets! Critical steps to an EAM Strategy.

You can do asset management without a strategic plan. It’s called “just-in-time” planning, and it is this reactive response that organizations should avoid by utilizing a more strategic approach. If we want to use asset data to inform enterprise activities, we need a pair of “what’s important” glasses first. That enterprise approach was discussed in my previous post.

Now, we need to focus on the actual THING we are attempting to manage: the asset! The “asset” in asset management is not just the object itself, but also everything we know ABOUT that asset. In many situations, asset managers are forced to make decisions about what to do with assets with little or no input, for a several reasons:

  • They can’t see ALL of the assets at once, so they have an invalid scope.
  • They don’t have a particular piece of information about the assets, so they need to assume some (perhaps critical) data, such as how old it actually is.
  • Data about real-world behaviour is scarce, so they can’t predict failure.
  • They don’t know how the asset fits into the overall system – is it active, a spare, in a critical role?

Once we have established our enterprise priorities and determined the guiding measures and outcomes we want to use in our asset management plans, we then start to fill in the blanks to ensure we are making the informed choice of what to do, when to do it, and what to do it to.

Build an Enterprise Inventory

The first step is to try and get a handle on EVERYTHING we own. Knowing WHAT we own is the basis for pretty much everything else that is important. Without an accurate inventory, how can we be sure of the true scope of our capital and operational requirements?

What Do We Own?

Assets exist in multiple source systems, and organizations can use a master data approach to bring them together in one consolidated view. The goal is to create a complete inventory of ALL of our assets, in one central space. This way we can be more confident in determining the scope of projects and plans. This inventory contains as much physical information about the asset as possible.

Where Is It?

Second, it’s good to know where our assets are physically located. Having all our point and linear assets in a GIS system will aid in filtering activities based on proximity or when we are looking for opportunities to do more in a specific location to reduce total costs. Being able to see where an asset is, and what is under or next to it is critical to define a synergistic approach to planning.

How Old Is It?

Third, we want to know how old that asset is – what’s its in-service date? In some cases, like older underground inventory, that information is lost or never existed in the first place. In those instances, we make assumptions about asset age based on other characteristics of the asset or where it is located. As we get better and better data via inspection and/or works history, that inventory will become more accurate over time.

These core physical characteristics form the foundation for starting to get our assets to “talk” to us and contribute meaningfully to the asset management plan.Working with the personnel responsible for managing the asset inventories, gaps in physical characteristics can be completed by applying assumptions to the asset inventory.

Extend Asset Data

Once we know the basics about our assets, we can start extending our knowledge with more analytical data.

What Is Its Condition?

Our first and most important piece of data is the condition of the asset. Wherever possible, we want to reference an actual inspection record. Age is NEVER the most accurate representation of this. Two assets that have the same “life” when they went into service can have dramatically different stories to tell, based on where they are. Wherever data is available, the organization can reference the latest inspected condition of an asset to reflect its true state of repair.

How Long Will It Last?

We also want to know how long each asset should last. What is its useful life? Manufacturers tell us one thing, but reality can be very different based on many other factors. Getting our engineering or works crews involved in defining how an asset will actually behave in the field, under real conditions, goes a long way to really getting a handle on our potential investment requirements.

What Is Its Organizational Value?

Ultimately, you will want to determine the actual value of that asset. Costing can be done on a unit cost basis for most assets or determined based on size or capacity. Or, there could be a detailed estimation or insurance valuation. The important thing to remember is that the real value of an asset to our organization is based not just on cost and condition, but also gets coloured by the strategic priorities of the enterprise!

Asking Our Assets Questions

So, because each asset in our inventory has an age (or approximation), how much it will cost to replace, how long it could potentially last, and what condition it is in, we can start asking questions of that asset inventory to form the basis of our plans.

Inventory Report

We can report on the entire inventory at once, across all asset types. A base count by asset type for all assets forms the initial part of the asset management plan template.

Age Profile

We start by asking for a purchase history, by asset type, by replacement cost. We follow that up with a consumption profile, showing how much of our assets’ lives are used up.

Health Profile

Health profiles are also available now, as we can ask our inventory to give us the breakdown of assets by their condition.

We start to project things too, at this point.

Condition Profile

We can generate a condition profile for individual assets or entire asset inventories, which shows the value or condition of assets in aggregate into the future.

Future Replacement & Repair

Using our projected remaining life, we can determine when we will need to inject CASH!

By putting everything into one place, and looking after a few basics, we are now able to get a much better handle on what the asset base is really looking like at any given time.

Creating an Enterprise Asset Management strategy? Start with the Enterprise!

Define Enterprise Priorities First!

In creating an enterprise asset management strategy, it is important to maintain a robust process for achieving a valid, defensible result. The core truths in Enterprise Asset Management (EAM) are that organizations and assets continue to have needs, and resources are always scarce in relation to those needs. Assets don’t care that we don’t have enough funding to cover requirements; listening just to the assets is like listening to a crowd – it’s just so much noise. Relying on unplanned maintenance to maintain inventory is akin to allowing a five-year-old to select dinner plans. You end up with no consistency, and high risk. Letting inventory data alone suggest a plan is just not sufficient.

So how do we decide what to do? How do we build our capital requirements in a logical way? In EAM, the question we need to answer is “Where do I best spend my first and last dollar?”

The answer is that the first dollar should be spent where you get the most impact, and the last dollar where you have no choice. Determining those points is a matter of defining guiding principles, building asset data, and designing a robust management strategy to achieve a balanced asset plan.

As asset stewards, we can’t afford to make wild guesses about what things are important to our organization, or we risk doing things that have little impact, or even worse, a negative impact on our current state. Assets themselves have no knowledge of enterprise goals and priorities; they just tell us that they need attention. Before we can make good decisions about which asset needs are important, we need to start by examining our own enterprise priorities. We start with a strategic plan.

That plan contains a set of value propositions that are core to your enterprise.

  • What is our target market?
  • Does that market rate level of service or value most?
  • What products or services are we offering?
  • What benefit are we providing your target market?
  • What other alternatives to our offering are out there?
  • What proof can we provide that we are telling the truth?

When we can clearly state what is actually important to our organization, we can get a foundation for solid decision making.

From Policy to Strategy to Objectives

By paying attention to the priorities of the organization, we can start to generate the guiding principles that will drive how the EAM process should function. Looking at the ISO-55000 standard for managing physical assets, we see that it closely follows the traditional Deming-based “Plan – Do – Check – Act” cycle.

The “Plan’ is the critical starting point of this process, and the new ISO 55000 model includes the development of an asset management policy based on our organization’s strategic plan. The policy outlines the organizational parameters that must be followed in managing physical assets.

This policy can then inform the development of a targeted asset management strategy, which defines the overall approach that should be taken for managing our assets, in light of the stated priorities.

The strategy then aids in the generation of the objectives that the organization needs to achieve in order to manage the asset base strategically, and build plans that reflect the needs of the organization.

There are many ways of doing this, but in the end, it boils down to creating a set of measures that take the value proposition and overall strategic plan of the organization, and turns them into scales that can be applied to balance asset requirements.

Risk, cost, value, condition, reputation, environmental impact, profit, to name but a few, all can come into play. They can then serve as a framework for balancing competing and conflicting activities, to gain the most impact.

Defining the Output Determines Requirements

Alexander Graham Bell said: Before anything else, preparation is the key to success. Once we have an understanding of what is important to our organization, and the strategy and objectives we need to achieve those things, we can define what success will look like.

Strategic objectives are great, but nothing helps find holes in our inventory or understanding quicker than starting to define what attributes, measures, graphs and analysis results we want to create. It’s tough to report on condition-based asset value if you do not have asset condition, or value, or both.

True preparation is deciding where you need to end up, and then allowing everything you do to contribute to that destination. For this purpose, it is important to have defined a standard Asset Management Plan template, which is to be used across the various asset groups. By keeping this template in mind, gaps in asset data and analysis can be addressed early in the process.

By defining what success looks like, based on true strategic objectives, we create greater clarity of purpose as we attempt to manage our assets. Using this new focus, examining asset requirements takes on new meaning, as each new need can be measured against the priorities of the organization. In the end, getting clarity and focus allows us to act strategically, with less wasted energy and more impact.