As a plant manager, you are most likely no stranger to assessments. Assessments measure current plant performance against desired performance and identify the gap between the two as the improvement that needs to occur. A comprehensive assessment is a valuable tool to indicate the relative quality of the fundamental aspects of your plant’s reliability and integrity programs; however, they should not be treated like an audit.

An Assessment is NOT an Audit

 It’s important to note that an assessment is not an audit. An audit, in its simplest terms, is a pass or fail result that must be documented and enforced. An audit is built from the outcome of an inspection and demands actions from findings.

An assessment refers to an evaluation. It is an estimate of what is going on with a certain process and whether there are new risks or benefits to be considered. The purpose of an assessment is to evaluate how well your plant is managing and executing reliability and integrity programs.

 What Makes an Assessment Valuable?

 Assessments provide feedback and allow you to measure your programs against best-in-class industry standards to see where your performance ranks. They are aimed at continuous improvement. By looking at key focal points, you can develop a strong understanding of how your program performance addresses the areas of risk, cost, and compliance.

To get the most actual value out of your assessment, it’s important to make sure that your assessment identifies current performance levels in relation to target performance goals. Evaluating Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) can help make sure you’re on the right track.

For example, if you are going to do an assessment of how to get the most return out of an asset in the safest and most responsible way, it’s important to know how your actions will affect related KPIs. The assessment can help estimate how much improvement you will get in that metric by changing certain practices.

How Assessments Drive a Culture of Continuous Improvement

 If you’re like most managers, you can probably identify with the challenge of getting buy-in from your employees when implementing a continuous improvement program. This is partly because anytime change is desired—especially when it focuses on changing human performance—it requires a shared vision to get people to come on board. People like to stay in their comfort zones; they need motivation to change from the norm and to maintain their changed behavior. Assessments can pave the way by helping to provide that motivation.

For instance, when improvement occurs as a result of an assessment, it makes everybody’s job easier. And when you structure it that way to your employees, you provide the reason needed to get their buy-in up front to participate fully in the assessment. This opens the door to creating a culture of continuous improvement, and using assessments as improvement tools will drive that culture moving forward by harnessing responses to change and creating competitive advantage.

At the end of the day, assessments provide the feedback that drives improvement and can help ensure that your continuous improvement program includes a mindset and approach that engages workers and drives efforts toward sustainable changes for the better.