word cloud for Compliance asset management in social housing

Compliance Asset Management in Social Housing

I wrote an article a year or so ago regarding some home truths that exist in the Social Housing Sector, it was about things people know all about yet ignore. The purpose was to highlight what I believed was wrong with the industry from contractor relationships to internal politics/battles to prove who’s best at what they do. The mentality of ‘shout louder, get more’ is one we really need to find a solution for.


This article is going to be around how best to achieve a level of Compliance when implementing Asset Management Systems and how to accurately manage the data you own.


One of the most important things you have to consider when managing an asset is the risk, let us consider  Gas or Electric as two key asset groups that are of high risk to your operations and business; the fact is the accountability for safety and performance is yours and therefore you are responsible for it. Passing responsibility to someone to manage this (even via subcontract arrangements) increases your business risk and costs. Having the asset information and data potentially out of your control is dangerous also, and should never be considered. You really can’t dilute accountability.


One of the main points we have to consider is the need to manage assets from inception (cradle) to destruction (grave) or to put it differently from a ‘Lust to Dust’ mentality. The whole process needs to be considered as a step journey with clearly defined steps (stages or milestones) for maintenance and renewal etc. We need to know what and when our useful end of life is vs our actual end of life and the balance of probability in when to renew and when to maintain. The task of defining this journey requires stakeholder knowledge and input, in most organisations this can be a challenge because of tribal mentality that can appear at all levels of a business.


Let’s take a quick look at tribal mentality:


So, within an organisation, we have many teams responsible for, in their view, very important tasks! The operational team are fixated on the need to deliver a job to specification, yet the procurement team are more involved in the sourcing of materials within the confines of procurement law, the management team are concerned with performance, cost and timescales and the Senior team just want to know everyone is doing what they should correctly whilst planning for the future. The current mentality in most organisations is that you need a ticket or a pass to speak to the person above you or in another team. If you step outside the chain of command you could be considered a traitor and your cards are marked!


In my last post, I noticed the workforce were not working to the specification that I had written. The proposed solution was to meet with the contractor’s electricians, to show my face and provide my contact details for any electrician on site, that they could then use at any time of the day or night if they were unsure. I wrote the specification, so who better than me to call and ask advice! This didn’t go down well and the workforce was instructed not to call the client, there was then a letter sent to my management to complain. What a proactive and productive way to work!!!


Anyway, the tribal mentality in organisations would work if everything just happened as it should. The time it doesn’t work is when something goes wrong with a project timescale or a milestone is missed. It is at this point that people step into roles they have zero competence for which ultimately leads to failings that again can promote a blame culture. I used to call these people the ‘Head Boy/Girl’. The reason they step in to shout louder is not to fix the problem, they can’t, it’s completely for personal gain to show they a great worker and willing to help in any situation. The truth is they ignite a chain reaction that can’t be reversed.


Let’s look at an example which someone mentioned to me a week ago after an incident.


A business for the installation, repair, replacement and servicing of central heating systems, including the wiring and components. They are accredited by all the relevant institutes and hold numerous ISO accreditations!


So to the shop floor, a non-technical decision maker (maybe finance team member) has a great idea about putting QR codes on boilers, these QR codes link to information that helps manage the asset and administer the paperwork. That person believes that this IS not only the best way forward but the only way. But the newly formed strategic asset management team, technical compliance, data control (asset information) team requests a meeting to discuss the issues around this way of working.


During the meeting, “Have you considered when we renew or repair boilers the need to renew the QR or replace and update the asset information? What happens when the data that transfers back is not the data we have on file because an engineer kept the cover from an old boiler as a spare and replaced on another property when the tenant called to say they’d ‘accidentally buckled’ the cover on the existing. Have we considered the tenant removing the QR code or if the manufacturers can provide something”?


The decision maker is sold on the new idea and is more senior so the technical team step down and whisper to each other ‘I can’t wait to say I told him/her so’.


Having someone consider something because they’ve been sold on the idea, is different to considering something because you’ve calculated the journey, the performance, the possible risks around data control and ultimately the whole life cost. The workforce is now looking up and are demotivated and feel their ideas and vision is not worthy of consideration, they believe the decision makers choice is misguided and going to increase workload unnecessarily. The senior decision maker doesn’t care because he/she is going to look good.


The above scenario creates problems; the output your organisation gets is lowered because of the tribal mentality. This decision maker has just demotivated your workforce and created a chain reaction which is felt throughout all tribes, yet no one knows where or why it started because no-one considers talking.


Sweeping decisions in organisations have exactly the same effect. I can’t spell it out any clearer that if you don’t understand Gas or Electrical principles, don’t ever make a decision on it. Definitely don’t ever ignore the advice given by the person you’re employing to hold the baton of responsibility if you kill or injure someone.


Ensuring that you are continually improving your businesses is everyone goals! In respects to ensuring compliance? Look towards the principals of strategic asset management decision making


Below a few simple steps:


1.        Ensure your business has a top management buy-in to what asset management is and if needs be, show them the benefits!


2.        Consider who is responsible for what, and don’t overcomplicate this.


A Clerk of Works (which is a dying position and is a shame) is the organisation’s gatekeeper for quality, asking this person who manages the payments or some other menial task is pointless.


3.        Find a link between all departments, one common goal and then brand your objectives pointing everything towards that goal. Don’t restrict people from communicating with anyone. By doing this you link the teams and create conversation, you inspire them by giving the message that you’re one team with one objective.


4.        Clearly define the importance of each team. Be genuine. Show everyone they contribute!


5.        Consider what data do I need? Is there such a thing a too much data? Yes! What is the impact and balance needed?


6.        Consider people and systems for data control and ownership. You have to own your data and you have to be able to manipulate it to forecast and plan, only then do you create a journey and ultimately manage your asset as per your duty.


7.        Consider if I introduce a new asset to manage an asset, how do I manage the new asset I acquired, and this also has a life, and by doing so I may double my asset numbers, hence unforeseen costs.


8.        Define the risks using a register – DON’T FORGET ONCE CREATED, MANAGE IT.


9.        Remove ALL assumptions – if you assume something you’re not managing it.


10.  Remember – Asset management is the Co-ordinated activity of an organisation to realise value from its assets. People are assets, just as much as boilers etc?


Ryan Dempsey - CEO
Ryan Dempsey

Over the last few years I have found myself in a very fortunate position where I can implement and promote change in the Social Housing sector. My passion and drive to improve Electrical Safety continually fuels my motivation to implement slight changes to engineer and industry work patterns in the hope the mentality currently sitting in the engineering industry can change. We need to ensure the right people with the right skills and experience are working in and around the properties we provide. Not only that, we need to ensure the workforce are the people talking and helping develop the standards we work towards. Improved quality assurance and the avoidance of the 'status quo' should be a starting point in any organisations route to complete compliance. Improved compliance at all levels will improve the safety and sustainability of the properties we provide and manage. The key to improve risk management is to pinpoint the areas of risk and manage these individually. Don't over complicate a simple process. We also need to ensure those with a similar passion speak up and be counted for. It's time for change and that means moving out the old and replacing with the new. All the views and opinions on here are my own and not that of any company I am associated with.

  • Avatar
    Kam Chohan
    Posted at 10:29 am, 5th December 2017

    Brilliant read. Well done Ryan.

  • Avatar
    Gary William Sharp
    Posted at 10:30 am, 5th December 2017

    Ryan Dempsey MIET doing a brilliant job helping, promoting the fact that health and safety to our clients and customers comes first !!! Guys we are fighting to stop someone else being killed ! Get the Real Sparks working and the fly by nights hopefully the jail for unsafe practice !

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