Honesty and transparency are essential values of any well-functioning team. These two characteristics have the power to turn fear into trust, hesitation into commitment, and division into solid coordination. Both in his career as a consultant for asset performance management, and as a father of two young children, Senior Manager John Natarelli has mastered the art in utilizing these values to turn conflict and disagreements into cohesion and alignment.
By Jennifer Layer Adams
Manufacturers are operating at their best when all assets are performing to their limits, without compromising reliability. But very often maintenance and operations teams don’t work together to achieve that. Sometimes alignment is soiled due to the structure of the organization or commitment to continuing to do things as they always have been done. “Changing this business as usual culture is key to operational excellence," says Natarelli who was recently called on to a Texas based petrochemical site to help identify why their routine outages, also known as washes, were growing in duration over the recent years despite the fact that shorter durations had been demonstrated as achievable in the past. After spending some time with the various departments, he quickly noticed a disconnect between the operations and maintenance teams.
“The two teams were not aligned on the scope,” says the experienced consultant who joined T.A. Cook in 2012. “The main goal of operations is to make sure their processes are running as smooth as possible. If factors are getting in the way of that, they want them to be fixed asap. Knowing that the unit would be coming down for a wash they’d try to multitask and have the Maintenance team fix other things that were not related to the wash – and not critical. Hence the duration of the wash would extend past optimal time and instead of the unit being down for 4 days it would be down for 6.”
Having dealt with this kind of scope misalignment at other petrochemical sites in the past, the consultant knew just what to do. “Since we had an integrated team, we had an onsite resource pull historical wash data as well as reliability and process data that provided real numbers on how the equipment was performing,” says Natarelli.
Once the data was gathered to show what durations were possible within the site’s current capacities, Natarelli shared this analysis with the teams. He brought the production and maintenance teams together and directly explained how a lack of collaborated intention and focus between their teams is what was causing the misalignment in scope and thus the longer than necessary durations.
”Receiving honest critical feedback is sometimes difficult to digest”, says Natarelli who knew that he had to make space for two way conversation and an atmosphere of open communication so none of his recommendations could be construed as disrespectful or misguided.
“I took some time to listen to their concerns, especially operations because it was their equipment,” says Natarelli. “But having been very clear and forthright with our objectives from the start, this added a level of trust and respect. Plus once the data was presented and the financial benefit was made clear – that made the conversations easier as well.”
After years of being a consultant and a father, Natarelli has mastered the art of removing barriers to alignment and encouraging cohesion between different teams to allow for ideal goals to be achieved. By creating an honest and open dialogue with the site teams throughout the project, alignment was established and the duration of the washes was effectively reduced.