Reliability Insights

How to get your leaders to support your maintenance improvement initiatives 


“Management doesn’t want to invest in maintenance and reliability”. 

Does this sound familiar? 

It’s a common complaint I hear when I talk to maintenance practitioners. 

And the discussion soon moves on to: 

“Management doesn’t understand.” 

“Management isn’t supportive of continuous improvement.” 

“Management just wants to run the equipment and fix it when it breaks.” 

And on it goes. 

This is a common problem in our industry. 

We often find ourselves facing uphill battles trying to get support from our leaders for our maintenance and reliability initiatives.  

But I see this as a symptom of a much deeper problem. 

It’s not that our leaders don’t want to support our improvement initiatives. It’s because maintenance practitioners don’t know how to communicate and sell the value of maintenance and reliability. 

In this article, we’ll talk about how you can solve this problem, so you get your leaders to support your maintenance improvement initiatives. 

Understanding the deeper problem 

Maintenance practitioners often blame top management for the lack of support towards maintenance. But when you look at it from the perspective of your leaders, you will quickly realise that you can’t really blame them. 

They’ve been stung too many times with failed improvement initiatives that focused on expensive software and consultants. And so they’ve learned from experience not to trust in maintenance. That’s why maintenance is often seen as a cost-centre. A “necessary evil”.  

Acknowledge your responsibility

If you want things to change, then you can’t simply hide behind the comfort of blaming your leaders. You need to have ownership over the work. You need to take action, or nothing will change.  

You see, a lot of our problems and concerns with management are actually ours to own. Ours to address. Ours to fix.  

You will always hear complaints in the lines of — “It’s management’s fault”. But rarely do you hear someone saying:  

“I can’t convince management to invest in training “ 

“I can’t seem to get management to understand.” 

“I don’t understand …” 

You must recognize that the responsibility for addressing this problem also lies with us maintenance and reliability professionals. 

Once you realise this, you’re in the right direction. The next step is to create a business case to convince top management to support your initiatives. 

Money and Production: The Language of Management 

To effectively communicate the value of your improvement initiatives, you first need to speak the language of management—the language of money and production. 

You do this by presenting a business case that shows the benefits of your improvements in actual dollar values.  

For example, when management adopts a run-to-failure strategy for production equipment, it’s up to you to demonstrate that there’s a better way. You have to communicate to them that by implementing the right maintenance strategy, your organisation can: 

  1. Reduce downtime.  
  1. Reduce downtime and you increase production.  
  1. Increased production means more revenue.  
  1. And more revenue means more profit.  

Another example of how to build a business case is to present the benefits of maintenance planning & scheduling in your organisation. You can read the in-depth article, How to Sell Planning & Scheduling to your CEO, which explains how to use the Wrench Time Calculator to create a compelling business case with actual dollar figures

This same approach should also be used for business cases relating to improving a Preventive Maintenance Program, conducting Root Cause Analysis, or implementing a Defect Elimination program. 

If you get this right, you’ll be talking in the language of your management and leadership. 

A language that they WANT to understand. 

All you need to do is put some real, hard numbers on the table. 

Develop the Necessary Skills 

Unfortunately, many maintenance and reliability managers do not speak the language of money. Some think it’s unnecessary. Most have strong technical expertise but lack the necessary leadership and business skills to make a persuasive case. 

But these skills are necessary when you want to effectively present your ideas in a way that resonates with management. In a way that makes them WANT to support you. 

So ask yourself:  

  • What is it you need to learn to convince your management?  
  • Do you need to learn how to build business cases or understand cash flow? 
  • Do you need to know what good maintenance and reliability looks like? 
  • Do you need better presentation skills? 
  • Do you need to better understand change management? 
  • Do you need to know how to calculate return on investment? 

In short, what is the #1 skill you need to develop to get management on your side?  

Identifying and developing these skills will enable you to better engage with management and secure the necessary support for your maintenance and reliability initiatives. 

Final Thoughts 

Getting support isn’t easy. Especially if your leaders have been stung too many times by failed maintenance improvement initiatives.  

But not all is lost.  

You simply need to learn how to communicate the benefits of your improvements in actual dollar values by building a compelling business case.  

And you need to learn business skills such as presenting, cash flows, and change management so you can resonate with your leaders when you sell your improvements. 

Let us know in the comments below.