Can you Message, Communicate & Engage Asset Management?

For most of us, we are not experts in marketing, advertising or communications. We are often technical people trying to explain and deliver sustainable value under the Asset Management umbrella. Top Management often doesn’t understand what we are trying to do is equally for them as it is for ourselves and stakeholders. The harder we try it seems the further away we are from bringing people on the Asset Management journey.

This article sets out to share and explain a simple model (Why What and How) in order to align an organization. Alignment is one of the four fundamentals of Asset Management. Why are we doing this? What is the message? How will we share the message and how will we engage with those who are needing to know? This approach is effective, simple and because it is based on principles very easy to adapt to the various situations we find ourselves in.

Everything needs to be driven by the Why!
Effective change can only be truly achieved when the Why, the What and the How come together. Most change journeys spend a great deal of effort on the communications (aka “The Comms”), but in absence of translating a genuine Why an organization is doing something, people will struggle to connect the dots, understand, and accept the journey ahead. People need to buy into a plan and invest on their own terms…(Whether we like it or not..We are all human!)

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The above hierarchy forms the basis of the Structured Change Framework (SCF). This is a simple model for addressing complexity. The idea is that the decisions at the top of the triangle drive the effort and the alignment required below.

Messaging (Why)
Messaging is about converting stakeholder needs (and wants) to value proposition(s). It is about articulating the Why in a manner that is clear and appealing to the majority (or perhaps minority). Messaging is usually biased in one of two ways…Cost or Revenue.

If we expand this by leveraging the notion of “Achieving the desired balance of Cost, Risk, and Performance” [ISO55000] as the basis for change, most people can understand and accept the Why.

Risk is a great stage in which to convey stakeholder needs. If we then invite innovation (Opportunity) from within the organization and we involve people, we are half way there in creating a balanced, positive tension to keep the journey moving forward and on track.

Messaging Examples
“The market has changed in recent months. Our currency is trading stronger and due to this our market is decreasing”.

“Our competitors have invested substantially in technology. We need to explore innovations in our operations”.

“Due to the increased demand for our product, our assets are being worked harder than they have ever been worked”.

“We look to merge with another organization. This will open the door to share strengths and learnings”.

“Fuel prices look to increase shortly. We have ridden the wave of luck for some time, but now we need to focus on innovation”.

The WHY tells the story behind a decision to do something.

Communication (What)
When we understand the Why and have the value propositions understood we can then move on to converting the messaging to communications. This is both art and science, but the balance should be considerate of the stakeholders and the change ahead.

Communication should be clear and concise. Ambiguous communications can create more angst than no communication at all. Clarity in the communication is an invisible line directly back to the leadership of an organization.

A good practice for constructing communications is the S.M.A.R.T. method. (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely.)

Communication Examples
“Commencing on the first day of next month the Engineering department will convert to a Request for Engineering process. This will support Engineering in understanding their work pipeline (Capacity) but also assist Engineering as the business will need t0 specify the work in which Engineering is to do. (Capability)”.

“Commencing on the first week of next month we are requesting Operations to assist Maintenance with light touch Maintenance tasks. This will provide us with a better understanding of risks before they become issues.”

The upcoming merger with Company X will occur on the first of next quarter. This is a strategic move to strengthen our market position. There are no anticipated impacts to headcount and we see this as an opportunity to grow our organization”.

Engagement (How)
With an understanding of Why we are changing and the communication outlining What will change, we are now set to inform (engage) the organization. Will it be via poster (hands off), email (push), Toolbox meeting (many to many), Town Hall (one to many) or perhaps a dedicated person(s) physically engaged across multiple sites?

Each organization is different in how they share information and engage. For example, an organization that has “fly in and fly out” (F.I.F.O.) workers or a routine shift pattern may result in people never meeting other workers. Perhaps the organization has multiple sites and in multiple countries. Perhaps there are language barriers to consider?

A Communication plan should always specify how the information will be shared and how management will engage throughout the change. Hence a “Communication and Engagement Plan” invites more people to help design the change ahead.


Change cannot be done at arm’s length!…Change is about people and therefore must involve engagement, care, and commitment.

Engagement Examples
Toolbox meetings, One to one sessions, Departmental briefings, Roadshows, Safety walks, Town halls, Emails, Face to face (One to one) or Posters.

If the Why, What and How are aligned to value in any way, you have the recipe for success!

  • The WHY must be understood before moving ahead with a change.
  • Failure to acknowledge the WHY is planning to fail. WHY is the basis for messaging!
  • WHAT is the communication, and it aligns directly to the WHY!
  • HOW is the foundation for engagement!
  • Use the S.M.A.R.T. standard as a test for communication!
  • Communication that aims at everyone will miss more people than a communication aimed at a defined audience.

Change an Org Culture vs understanding Org Culture?

Over the past few months there has been a variety of discussions, threads, blogs and articles on organizational culture. There is a strong theme in many of them that suggests that they need to change their respective culture? I question this because I am a strong believer in needing to understand the “As Is” before one sets off to the “To Be”…

A few random definitions of “Culture”
  • The collective values and beliefs of a group of people
  • The ideas, customs, and social behavior of a particular people or society
  • The behavior exhibited by people in the absence of authority (i.e. when no one is around how do people behave?)

If these definitions ring true then could it be a case that a given group of people are simply misunderstood and it isn’t culture at all its the person interpreting the culture? Could the behaviors being exhibited be symptom of a deficiency in the leadership, direction or simple communication from management?

A key attribute of a good leader is empathy…So why not start with understanding culture in an organization before setting out to change it? Who knows by actually engaging and seeking to learn more about different cultures and sub cultures within an organization may be the secret catalyst to other things like process (eg Communication) which in turn could aid surfacing the true or complete culture and not just part of it?

Lead with your weakness

Have you ever been in a workshop or meeting and there is that awkward moment because you realize that the manager doesn’t understand the topic at all. Does the manager choke? Do they try to demonstrate their limited knowledge with a few key words or ideas? Does the manager ask a question in such a way that provides them with enough idea to bluff their way forward?

This week I was assigned a temporary role in the organisation that was new to me. It is on a short term basis and while I have an idea of what goes on I am in no way an expert! I made the conscious decision to declare my lack of knowledge to the team up front but at the same time countered this with my enthusiasm and optimism to deliver the short term deliverable. (over the Christmas break as well)

I held extra workshops for people who were also in the team (some remote) as they too were relatively new to this temporary role. I am please to say that at the end of the first week everyone is on the same page, we have all shared our strengths and weaknesses and had a laugh along the way…

Goes to prove that honesty is the best policy. I have also learned that my weakness can also empower people.

Converting Negative Energy into a Positive Alignment

I sat in a meeting today where 3 parties debated (argued) over why they needed to do something “their way”. It was one of those meetings I wish there was a blackboard to run my fingernails down! I drew 3 circles on the whiteboard representing each of the issues highlighted. I checked for reasoning that I had captured them correctly. Going around the room one person thought I should make their circle larger than the others. I reiterated that it was to capture the core issue not the impact we thought it created…

To claw my way out of the “hole of despair” I quoted a few of the organisational strategies that were commonly known. I treated this as an exercise so the room felt I was weighing into which issue was the biggest detractor from a named strategy. After writing the strategies on the whiteboard I asked which issue “wouldn’t” impact one of the strategies and everyone agreed they all would impact them in some degree.

At this time I drew a Venn diagram linking the strategies to the issues. (Strategies was the middle circle with the outer circles representing the issues) It was at this moment the room started to see that we are all in this together and it was all connected. It was a tough 90 minutes but the perseverance paid off.

Morale of the story…”Don’t fight the negative, channel it”

Facilitation begins before the meeting invite?

I  observed a workshop that was meant to be attended by 20 people but only a handful had turned up. This is not only a waste of time for an organization, but also sends many silent messages. Communication breakdown, incompetency, lack of interest, weak leadership and the list goes on and on. The old “first impressions last forever” is irreversible…

If you have ever facilitated a workshop you know your “sleep at night factor (SANF)” the evening before. If you have planned everything well you are in a position to steer the workshop on the front foot. If you haven’t planned well you can often fall into the trap of reacting (on the back foot) or even worse defending yourself which completely undermines the workshop and erodes your credibility as a facilitator
I have met both introvert and extrovert facilitators but the thing that the successful ones have in common is “early engagement“. If you had a choice of receiving an invite to a workshop via email vs a phone call from someone explaining the need to have the workshop first, I’m pretty sure most people would appreciate a phone call first then the email invite.
Early engagement sends a message of care, consideration, respect and gives the attendee a sense of belonging. It also provides a facilitator another level of engagement during the session…for example…”Thats a great point Mary. Peter had a similar view when I spoke to him during the set up of the workshop. lets explore how we can take that further” This simple technique has allowed me to build the “collective intent” before I start my sessions…
Where do you start to build the “collective intent”? At the start of your workshop or before?