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Most people were aware of the misuse of the priority ranking system. They knew that if they wanted attention quickly, all they had to do was to raise the ranking. Maintenance did not have the authority to question these, and operations allowed practically anybody to assign the priority. Nobody bothered to read, understand, or apply the existing priority definitions. We proposed a new authorization system where only priority C jobs would be authorized by the operations shift foreman. Priority B jobs went up by one level to the operations supervisor, and Priority A jobs by two levels to the section manager. We expected that with this system, the need for a higher priority would be challenged at each stage. This would improve the quality of the ranking.

Communication and Training

The two of us decided that all the supervisors in operations and maintenance, section managers, and support department heads had to be brought on board to share our vision. We compressed the week-long session we had attended into one lasting two hours. We sold the idea to management, persuading most of them to attend the presentation as well. Because of the numbers involved, we conducted 10 presentations, with 10-12 people on each occasion.

Presented with the philosophy, examples of best practices, and opportunities, most attendees responded favorably. Toward the end of each session, we explained the effect of incorrect priority setting and our suggestions on how to tackle this issue. There were some people we could not convince, but there were also many who shared our enthusiasm and were eager to start the journey.

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