free email newsletter - the maintenance war.

*** Topics from the front line. ***

1. Feed Forward Publications sold to new owner.

2. Tech Tips from the work place.
" UNDERSTAND DEEPLY to be right often.
" Managing men (and women) today.
" Think - "I NEED A TEAM!" - when you can't find the right answers.

3. A Good Laugh!

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Feed Forward Publications sold to new owner.

I have decided to sell Feed Forward Publications.

As of 1st September 2003 Don Fitchett, of Business Industrial Network (, will take over the ownership and operation of Feed Forward Publications.

I have worked with Don for a number of years now. I know that he is as deeply interested as I am in improving process, plant and equipment reliability, and in improving people's knowledge of what they can do to achieve it.

Don will continue with this monthly newsletter. In the first newsletter he sends to you next month he will ask you whether you want to remain a subscriber or not. I hope you chose to keep receiving it. Don has a lot of experience, important contacts and valuable knowledge to pass to you.

So why did I sell Feed Forward after being in business with it for over four years, since June 1999?

For me it wasn't a hard decision to make. I felt it was time I moved on. I wasn't coming up with new ideas to invigorate the business. And when that happens, I know that my interest has shifted.

When I asked Don if he wanted to buy the business he was very enthusiastic, keen and eager to take over. You can be sure Don will be putting a lot of energy and ideas into what he does with Feed Forward Publications in future.

I'll still do occasional guest articles for the newsletter. I encourage you to also contribute articles to Don. They can be simply a short paragraph on a good thing you saw, or did, to improve productivity and reliability. Everyone that reads this newsletter is thirsting for knowledge. Every article contributed will help someone learn something new.

My final 'Tips from the Workplace' have nothing to do with processes, plant or equipment. They have to do with you - the way you look at life, the way you present and conduct yourself and the way you interact with others. The three observations below are the result of experiences I have had over many years as a maintenance manager and professional engineer.

It took me half a lifetime to see what was going on. I hope you can get a little value from them. (TOP)

Tech Tips from the Workplace

" UNDERSTAND DEEPLY to be right often.
Albert Einstein said that we needed to think at a much higher level of thought if we were to solve the problems we have created in our society. He said that we couldn't solve problems by trying to find answers to them at the same level of thinking that caused the problem in the first place. He is deadly right!

I have seen that we create our own problems because we don't understand the long-term consequences of our decisions. We are all ignorant in many, many ways that we don't even appreciate. When we make decisions we do so from our current set of beliefs, and at our current level of knowledge. And that is the trap we all fall into! We think our opinions are right. We think that we already know what is right. We think we already know enough! Bah - what a joke!

I did a survey on myself some time back! I decided to measure how many right decisions I made. By 'right' I mean the outcomes were positive and the decision moved the situation forward in a useful way. I looked at how I arrived at my decision and then looked at the eventual outcomes stemming from it. Fortunately most of the decisions were technical in nature and the results, over time, were easy to see.

When I made decisions 'on the run', that is, based on what technical knowledge I thought I knew, what I thought I knew about the situation/circumstances and what I 'guessed' about what I didn't know � I got less than 25% right. Three out of four decisions were wrong in the long run! You may do better. I then tested my observations by watching the results of other people's decisions when they were made in the same way.

They weren't any better! In fact, depending on how much stress they were under at the time, some made less than 10% right decisions in stressful, important situations. That was a horrifying realisation for me. I thought that I actually knew what I was doing, but in fact I was pathetic in my decision making!

But the story is not finished! Because from time to time I have made fantastic, brilliant decisions that worked well, beyond all expectations. And there was a difference! There was one huge, clear, totally important difference.

When I did my homework, when I did my research, when I got the real facts and worked through the problem, I came up with 100% right answers! Here I must be honest - it's happened three times in my life! I have made three wonderful decisions that completely fixed the problems long-term. After 47 and a half years of being on this planet I have only made three excellent decisions! And I think I am lucky to have done that!

As well as those three special ones, I have made many, many good decisions. And a good decision is more than sufficient in the vast majority of cases. As long as the decisions moved things forward in a positive way I was satisfied. Like excellent decisions, good decisions only come after doing the background research. The depth and accuracy of the research is the key! Look far and wide, leave no stone unturned. Nothing is what it first seems. You must know as much as possible before making your decision.

My advice to you is to at least go for good decisions every time. Do the research! Do the homework! Find out the facts! Spend the necessary time and money it takes! Then make the decision from a position of knowledge and understanding. I say to you � only when you truly understand deeply � will you have any hope of making good decisions!

Trust me on this one! Take the time to understand, to really understand what you are looking at, before making the call! You will never, ever, regret it! If it takes you months to gather that knowledge then do it. Anything less is 75% guesswork. And they are lousy odds to have against you! (TOP)

" Managing men (and women) today.
Ah - the greatest challenge for us all! How to get the very best out of people, how to become a leader of men (and women)? Here I have to say that most of what I have done as a manager of men was useless, pointless and wasteful. I don't want to kid you about that.

Yet, � from what I can see, my crew is happy, turnover is down and it seems my people like coming to work since absenteeism is low. So maybe some of what I did, and still do, worked okay. To manage men and women well is the greatest requirement in business today. And it will be even more so on the future!

I have seen that people are everything! Without them nothing happens! There are no new ideas, no new inventions, no new businesses, no new newsletters, � nothing! The start button on a machine needs to be pressed by a person. The new machine noise that started yesterday needs to be reported by a person. Measuring the clearance and tolerance between parts in a machine to be sure it runs right needs to be done by a person. It's a person that presses the keys on a keyboard to put your wages and salaries into your pay packets. Nothing, nothing, nothing happens without people!

People come first - all else comes second! You need people to be with you if you want to achieve things. That's leadership!

No one trains you in how to get the best out of people. There is no subject called 'People Skills 101'. Yet you will never succeed highly without it. Here are a few ideas that have worked for me.

(1) Get Dale Carnegie's book ' How to Make Friends and Influence People' and read it cover to cover. Then read it cover to cover again. Then read it cover to cover again. Read it a minimum of four times. As you go through it time after time, write notes to yourself from each chapter. Then abbreviate those chapter notes onto a 3''x 5" card, one card per chapter, and keep the pack with you. Look through them often when you need to work with people. Make the 30 concepts yours for life.

(2) Have you ever noticed when you feel most alive! I bet it happens when you are totally engrossed in an important issue. It's a challenge to you, it's fun, it lets you use all the best of your abilities, knowledge and skills. You love doing it, you can't get enough of it, you are so proud of yourself! Well � it's the same for everyone! That's a great realisation for a leader to know!

Yes � if you want people to love what they are doing, to give you their best, then challenge them and encourage them to extend themselves. Handout fun jobs from time to time to all your people. Sure they have to be capable to handle them, and you have to give them the time and resources to do it. But you will sure see them zoom!

(3) Be observant of what does work and what doesn't work with people. Remember that we see other people through our own view of life and the world. It is the trap we all fall into many times in our lives. We think we are right in our opinions and beliefs, but that is not possible. In fact it's statistically impossible! But if you watch what effects happen after you or others say or do something, you will learn what really does work. And then you can start using what works more often. Pretty soon you will be getting the results you want.

That's' how you pick-up 'People Skills 101' in life - by 'on the job' training and being observant of what actually, really, truly works. :-) (TOP)

" Think - "I NEED A TEAM!" - when you can't find the right answers.
You can't get the right answers to every situation yourself! The truth is you will hardly ever get the right answer if you come up with it yourself alone! Unfortunately, for many of us, our egos are under nourished and we will not ask for help often enough. Too often we tell people what to do, and we don't ask them what to do.

This is the best advice I can give you � as soon as you see that you have a big problem - do this!

Get the best brains, get the most experienced, get the best doers together that you can find and make a problem solving team. Lay the problem 'out on the table' and get the team to come up with the answer. At the very least get the team to come up with the issues that have to be addressed in the decision. GET THE FACTS - TRY AND GET THEM ALL! Then make the decision.

When you have to make decisions, you will get them mostly correct, more often, if you get as many real facts together first. That's what is so great about problem solving teams - you get people with lots of facts and real experience together in one place and time. In one 30-minute meeting you can get years of know-how, experience and personal learning working together.

I hope you can see how powerful this approach is! It's wonderfully scary what great things you can do when people come together willingly to work together as a willing team.

An alternative approach to getting people together is to go and see them, talk with them. Draw out their thoughts and experiences. Ask them for the information and ideas you need. Read books on the subject. This takes more time, and you miss out on the benefits of teams interacting face to face. But it's better that guessing the decision yourself alone in a partial vacuum of ignorance!

BUT ... yes, there's always a 'but' with everything, � everything, � you need to have the right team dynamics to get the most out of the team. There are people I hate working with. You put me in the same building as them and I will not perform my best. It's just the way it is! It is very likely the same for lots of people. That's okay, we are what we are!

In your teams make sure the people can work together in close proximity and like being together. (You can make opportunities for people to get to like each other!)

You want the greatest amount of knowledge and experience possible in the team, because it's the depth of facts and accuracy of knowledge that influence the correctness of the answer. It's important you create the right atmosphere and environment if you want to get the best out of the team.

Trust me on this one! You will do vastly better in everything you do � if you can get people exchanging ideas and working together in harmony as a team.

Now don't think that you must lead the team! That is a very bad misconception! You must find the right person for the job. The person with the right skills and knowledge to address the situation.

For example, if you are a professional engineer and you have been made responsible to find the best way to store your critical spare parts, it would be a mistake to listen too much to you. What do university engineers know about how to store spare parts for ease of access and accurate recording? In most cases zilch, totally zilch! (Here, if I were the engineer, I would get books on the topic and read like mad to understand it. I would do my homework in great detail first! Then I would listen to those with real, everyday knowledge and experience.)

The best people for that team would be an experienced stores person, an experienced maintenance person, maybe the forklift driver and possibly the delivery driver. I'd make the engineer the secretary. He/she would keep the minutes. Perhaps they would facilitate the meetings if I didn't have a natural leader in the group, but not much more.

Can you see why you would chose those people to be in the team? Because they will have a vested interest in making their own ideas work. If the ideas came from the engineer they would never buy-in. You could guarantee from the start that if the engineer came up with any ideas at all the initiative would fail.

New initiatives will fail most times unless the ideas come from the people that have to implement them. It's human nature! That's the difference between a leader and a manager - leaders focus on the people, managers focus on the tasks.

Too many times have I seen managers and engineers put in charge of making decisions on things that they know little about. (Yes, I've done it myself many times too! But less and less these days.) The good managers and engineers realise this right away. They go and set up a team and coach the team through to the end. At the very least they ask questions of the right people and learn the real facts.

Poor managers and engineers make decisions in ignorance, or on partial facts, and then try to force the decision to work out right. But it's impossible to make a thing work right if it's built wrong in the first place.

That's why so many improvement initiatives fail, and why so many managers fail, and why so many companies never achieve great success. They have build a 'thing' that cannot work right, they haven't gone and got buy-in, and then they bust their butts, and everyone else's, trying to force it to work.

Whenever you see stress and pain in a business or work situation, you can bet that someone has designed something that cannot work the way they want it to work. Then they have to force people to make things happen. And so it all goes wrong.

This happened because it was based on wrong decisions made at the start. It was a faulty design. It was impossible for it to work right from the beginning. Forcing a thing to do what it cannot do is the surest way to an unhappy workplace and a miserable day.

Invest in making the right decisions. Things must be designed to work properly. They must work well together because it's natural for them to do so. Once you have to force something to happen you can be sure there is something wrong. Go and find the problem and address it so you can get back on course and move quickly to your goal.

That's it!
There I will leave it. Forgive me if I have bored you or offended you. It was not my intention.

I hope we meet sometime soon. I think we will get on well together. It's been a pleasure serving you.


A Good Laugh!

AND FINALLY - From Noel Whittaker's financial newsletter.

Insight into the minds of 6th graders: The following were answers provided by 6th graders during history test. Watch the spelling! Some of the best humor is in the misspelling. (Check the budding programmer in #6)

1. Ancient Egypt was inhabited by mummies and they all wrote in hydraulics. They lived in the Sarah Dessert. The climate of the Sarah is such that all the inhabitants have to live elsewhere.

2. Moses led the Hebrew slaves to the Red Sea where they made unleavened bread, which is bread made without any ingredients. Moses went up on Mount Cyanide to get the ten commandments. He died before he
ever reached Canada.

3. Solomon had three hundred wives and seven hundred porcupines.

4. The Greeks were a highly sculptured people, and without them we wouldn't have history. The Greeks also had myths. A myth is a female moth.

5. Socrates was a famous Greek teacher who went around giving people advice. They killed him. Socrates died from an overdose of wedlock. After his death, his career suffered a dramatic decline.

6. In the Olympic games, Greeks ran races, jumped, hurled biscuits, and threw Java.

7. Julius Caesar extinguished himself on the battlefields of Gaul. The Ides of March murdered him because they thought he was going to be made king. Dying, he gasped out: "Tee hee, Brutus."

8. Joan of Arc was burnt to a steak and was canonized by Bernard Shaw.

9. Queen Elizabeth was the "Virgin Queen." As a queen she was a success. When she exposed herself before her troops they all shouted "hurrah."

10. It was an age of great inventions and discoveries. Gutenberg invented removable type and the Bible. Another important invention was the circulation of blood. Sir Walter Raleigh is a historical figure because he invented cigarettes and started smoking.

11. Sir Francis Drake circumsized the world with a 100-foot clipper.

12. The greatest writer of the Renaissance was William Shakespeare. He was born in the year 1564, supposedly on his birthday. He never made much money and is famous only because of his plays. He wrote tragedies, comedies, and hysterectomies, all in Islamic pentameter. Romeo and Juliet are an example of a heroic couple. Romeo's last wish was to be laid by Juliet.

13. Writing at the same time as Shakespeare was Miguel Cervantes. He wrote Donkey Hote. The next great author was John Milton. Milton wrote Paradise Lost. Then his wife died and he wrote Paradise Regained.

14. Delegates from the original 13 states formed the Contented Congress. Thomas Jefferson, a Virgin, and Benjamin Franklin were two singers of the Declaration of Independence. Franklin discovered electricity by rubbing two cats backward and declared, "A horse divided against itself cannot stand." Franklin died in 1790 and is still dead.

15. Abraham Lincoln became America's greatest Precedent. Lincoln's mother died in infancy, and he was born in a log cabin, which he built with his own hands. Abraham Lincoln freed the slaves by signing the Emasculation Proclamation. On the night of April 14, 1865, Lincoln went to the theater and got shot in his seat by one of the actors in a moving picture show. They believe the assinator was John Wilkes Booth, a supposingly insane actor.This ruined Booth's career.

16. Johann Bach wrote a great many musical compositions and had a large number of children. In between he practiced on an old spinster which he kept up in his attic. Bach died from 1750 to the present. Bach was the most famous composer in the world and so was Handel. Handel was half German, half Italian, and half English. He was very large.

17. Beethoven wrote music even though he was deaf. He was so deaf he wrote loud music. He took long walks in the forest even when everyone was calling for him. Beethoven expired in 1827 and later died for this.

18. The nineteenth century was a time of a great many thoughts and inventions. People stopped reproducing by hand and started reproducing by machine. The invention of the steamboat caused a network of rivers to spring up. Cyrus McCormick invented the McCormick raper, which did the work of a hundred men. Louis Pasteur discovered a cure for rabbits. Charles Darwin was a naturalist who wrote the Organ of the Species. Madman Curie discovered the radio. Karl Marx became one of the Marx Brothers.


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