PENCIL-WHIP-IT…Let’s Lie to Ourselves


January 2015


PENCIL-WHIP-IT…Let’s Lie to Ourselves


The test-cells being toured looked great.  Their 5-S score was a solid 4.5.  I stopped at a line of compressors to review the TPM, Total Predictive Maintenance, sheets.  “Impressive,” I said, flipping through pages of small print items.  Initials were at the top of each page with a line drawn through all the items.  Clearly, there was no way a person was taking time to go through all the items every day, given their recent headcount reductions.  My tour-guide confirmed this fact.  I was witnessing “pencil-whipping;” going through the motions without doing the work.  “What’s the one, single most important item with “kill me” potential to the equipment that must be checked every day?” I asked.  My guide quickly pointed to a small gauge. “This, then, should be the only item on a daily TPM sheet.”  But here’s the dilemma:  does the organization want form or substance?  Is it more desirable to have exhaustive TPM sheets that look good to which people give “lip service” or simple sheets that people honestly do?  What I witnessed is risk being introduced into the organization.

  • Risk of management believing the equipment is ready to perform;
  • Risk of the workforce learning that falsifying documents is desirable;
  • Risk of bad data informing decisions;
  • Risk of the workforce deceiving management because management doesn’t want to know the truth.

Pencil-whipping documents is subtle and introduces risk to the organization.  It is organization-deception creating the perception of good management, but is like termite infested wood; looks solid but has no strength.  Save your people from this ethical dilemma.  Simplify mandatory forms to what people can really do and help them stop lying to you.  Start the New Year off on the right foot with honest data and honest transactions.


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