The Smartest Businesses Know How to Learn

Leveraging the information already resident in your people and company may be one of the most effective things you can do to decrease waste, increase productivity and even the longevity of your people’s commitment to the organisation.

Is a reluctance to change holding you back?

In most cases, people are busily getting on with what they do in the way they’re most comfortable. And that just happens to be the way they’ve always done things. A natural resistance to change (or uncertainty), coupled with the tendency not to do things until they have to be done (which is often too late), can result in errors and inefficiencies that seem to be built into the system.

Many companies struggle with instituting change, let alone a practiced philosophy of continuous improvement. Yet, as we move at a faster pace and competitive advantages become more and more focused on efficiency, making change on a regular basis and constantly improving is almost essential.

According to Hunter Dean, a Knowledge Management expert and Lean Enterprise consultant at Systemix, the role of business leaders today is as much about providing vision and the traditional aspects of leadership as steering an organisation toward effective knowledge management and leveraging learnings.

Knowledge is power

“Organisations that can truly learn from their experiences, both good and not so good, become very smart, very fast. This gives them confidence and agility which makes them very difficult competition”, Hunter explains.

Knowledge management and actively leveraging learnings are both critical factors at an organisational and project level to competing successfully in today’s market. So how do you approach this in your business?

Information is not enough

Your servers and people are no doubt full of information. But unless this information is retrieved, managed, shared and integrated in an effective manner it cannot translate to knowledge.

When it comes to determining if your information is truly knowledge, consider these few questions:

If your team learnt something of value today, how likely is it that…

  • They will still be using it still in six months?
  • That new recruits or people in other business areas will learn this too?
  • They will still be using and refining this information in 2 years or 5 years?

Knowledge is something that is resident in the company, not just the people or one or two divisions. It’s like the corporate wiki that everyone turns to and learns from.

So the key competency becomes: ‘How do we embed know-how for the long haul?’

Embedding know-how for the long haul

Systemix uses the ‘Know-how Pyramid’, an illustration of how information becomes knowledge that can reduce risk, increase productivity and overall business performance. Developed by a partner organisation, Information Leadership © 2012

Pyramid full size

Working through the pyramid, Systemix move organisations from the informal know-how space to the ‘definitive’ space where knowledge now underpins the fundamental functions of the business.

The process to achieve this involves the thorough investigation of either a project team or organisation as it is now in relation to the pyramid. This will reveal critical insights into the areas where knowledge is seeping away and how it can be harnessed more effectively. Then, through collaboration and communication, people can see the insights for themselves and design a new pyramid to work toward.

“Once we have communicated the insights we gain from this process, we focus on training and developing a roadmap to strengthen the method for learnings staying learnt,” says Hunter.

Through tightening business processes and workflows, implementing mechanisms to drive improvement, measuring the right things, making information more available through hard systems and zeroing in on key messages to communicate, an organisation or team can quickly become ‘smarter’ and more effective in a short space of time.

Cultivating Work-Life Balance on Major Projects

Following the completion of major projects, we regularly hear the words success, pride and achievement but, more often than not, they are accompanied by stress, exhaustion and sacrifice. With projects being pushed to ever tighter delivery schedules, is the human element being overlooked?

With the most skilled and committed employees often being rewarded with more work and shorter deadlines, people are frequently being pushed to breaking point. Wellness Systemix focuses on the physical, emotional, mental and spiritual wellbeing of individuals, teams and entire organisations.  We believe that achieving balance is critical to a happy, healthy workforce with the stamina and motivation to remain at the top of their game.

The following points can help you to better understand the needs of your team and create an environment in which wellness and family is valued as highly as meeting deadlines:

1. Culture

Cultivate a culture of openness and honesty in your workplace in which people can freely express their concerns. People often feel defeated by admitting they have too much to do and need to feel supported by management.

2. Communication

Every individual’s level of work commitment will vary over time. Young employees may wish to contribute more in order to gain recognition in a company. Conversely, employees with young children may find they suddenly have more distractions and less time. Pursuing channels of communication will allow for better understanding of individual circumstances and allow your team to continuously adapt as a living organism.

3. Realistic Targets

Often when establishing deadlines, individuals and teams will underestimate the time they need under the pressure of the overarching schedule and the desire to please. Remember that being realistic will ultimately attain better results than wishful thinking.

4. Boundaries

With technology increasingly bringing the office back into people’s homes, it is more important than ever to recognize and reaffirm the boundaries between work hours and personal time.

For more information about wellness, culture and how Systemix can help you to implement these policies, please contact us:

e: admin@systemix.com.au

p: 1300 551 835

www.systemix.com.au

MTM Safety Forum Success

We had a fantastic day with the MTM Operations Division Safety Forum last week, facilitating an Appreciative Inquiry process for 100 of the leaders in the business.  We were proud to be part of this event and were inspired by the team’s appetite to make a profound and lasting difference. 

Great leadership, great commitment and great momentum!  

Thanks for having us on board Mike, Anthony and the SLT. 

Safety Excellence Partners: Mindful Safety Leadership

In October 2013, Safety Systemix joined forces with three other industry leaders – Generative HSE, Amberwise and OHS Leadership – to establish Safety Excellence Partners (SEP). We are deeply committed to evolving safety management globally, across all industries, organisations and projects to realise the vision of eliminating worker injury; by working with our clients to develop World-Class Safety Leaders and High Performance Safety Cultures.

Closing the gap between good or business as usual and world class safety performance has become a critical business imperative for many industries. Every company, every industry and every country have varying degrees of sophistication in their approach to safety management. Despite the existence of well-established safety management systems, there is more often than not an inconsistent level of safe working behaviours and practices throughout organisations and projects.

Recognising the need to address the human side of safety and to create a work place comprised of a critical mass of individuals who rapidly promote and improve safety performance is the first step. Organisations wanting to advance this type of engagement are commissioning and embedding recognised Safety Culture and Leadership programs to empower their leaders, management, staff and contractors at all levels to participate, contribute and take ownership for the safety of themselves and of others.

SEP’s programs are based on emerging philosophies, principles and state of the art approaches in the OHS field. The need is for Safety Culture and Leadership to powerfully address the human factors in order to win and lead the hearts and minds of staff, workers and contractor personnel at all levels in their organisations. Our clients use the SEP’s approaches of cultural transformation, inspirational leadership, coaching and consulting in concert with existing safety practices, to accelerate the development of leaders, managers and entire employee bases in order to facilitate the next leap in their safety performance.

To enable this next leap, SEP introduces a creative approach to health and safety culture, leadership and management; with a focus on creatively addressing the disparity in beliefs, attitudes and commitment that exists within projects and organisations and creating a genuine and shared mindset for health and safety excellence.  The mindset is about making safety more personal and compelling for everyone. Achieving health and safety excellence requires engaging a wider audience of people to participate in the safety conversation. This challenge is made achievable by launching and embedding a program in which staff and contractors already have a self-interest in and commitment to.

For more information, please visit: www.safetyexcellencepartners.com

The Cascading Effect of Poor Project Governance

Projects can fail as a result of poor decisions or management at any stage from the initial tendering through to procurement and delivery. Almost always, the delivery team gets the blame, but a closer look reveals there may be other issues.

According to recent research by Caravel Group and Melbourne Business School, major project success rates in Australia are around 40-50% and this poor result can be attributed primarily to failures in governance.

These are the findings of a ‘self-assessment’ survey of approximately 100 public and private sector board, CEO and senior management-level project participants across a range of industries.

Governance at it’s worst?

We’ve seen the catastrophic results of poor governance play out with the Queensland Health Payroll disaster. In his recent report into the matter, Former Supreme Court judge Richard Chesterman QC plainly states “The replacement of the Queensland Health payroll system takes a place in the front rank of failures in public administration in this country. It may be the worst.”

In his report, Chesterson identifies numerous failures on behalf of both the State’s management and the supplier, IBM. But regardless of the blame and finger-pointing that takes place in the aftermath of a failure like this, it’s difficult not to draw the conclusion that better Project Governance could have led to a much different outcome.

Lessons to learn

The payroll fiasco will most likely be remembered for the pricetag – an estimated $1.2 billion in taxpayer dollars to remedy a $98m project – but according to Ken Lowe, Managing Director at Systemix, a Melbourne firm specialising in the management of complex projects, those close to the industry can learn much more from the findings.

Ken has been brought in to recover more projects teetering on the edge of failure than he can remember and in picking back over what’s gone on, he has to agree that in too many cases, governance was almost always found lacking.

“Often it takes some time before a (governance) team can acknowledge something is seriously wrong, even though failures usually don’t just happen. There is always a string of poor decisions that ultimately culminate in issues that simply cannot be ignored any longer.” says Ken.

Time Pressures and Project GovernanceThe real reasons for failure

It would appear that in many cases, human issues can get in the way of making good decisions or failing to recognise bad ones quickly enough in a governance team.  The reports highlighted in this article, as well as Ken’s experience reveal that good governance can be hijacked by conflicting motives, team dysfunction, accountability issues, poor leadership and even a lack of understanding of the true meaning of governance.

Graeme Cocks, Melbourne Business School Professor says “Too many governance teams are stacked with ‘stakeholders’ to secure buy-in rather than people with proven ability to govern projects. These people are often heavily conflicted and have no accountability for their project governance role.”

There are numerous instances in the Health Payroll Enquiry that also highlight how human issues impacted on outcomes. In fact, the summary of the enquiry is littered with human failings, stating that much of the trouble came down to ‘unwarranted urgency and a lack of diligence on the part of State officials.’ And in relation to a particular aspect of the IT, it is believed that fear of failing motivated poor decisions; ‘Decisions were made to press on regardless of other considerations which ought to have had a bearing on the direction of the Project.’  Lines of responsibility were blurred, and obvious conflicts of interest ignored.

“There are two key elements to good governance. The quality of the decisions made, and the quality of the team making those decisions: The two work hand in hand.” Says Ken Lowe.

The purpose of governance is to ensure a project meets the desired outcomes. The governance team is the advocate of the owners. It is tasked with the role of providing clarity around accountability and responsibility, and ensuring clear lines of communication exist at all levels.  Once this framework is in place the governance team provides oversight and monitoring around fulfillment of the strategic intent as defined in the agreed business case.

A governance team should operate within an agreed governance plan.  Its members should have a mix of skills and experience to ensure that there is an understanding of all aspects of the specific project and (importantly) of governance principals.  The most common departure from these principals is around conflicts of interest, usually arising from stakeholder representatives.

Systemix works with large organisations, public and private, on high-yield project performance solutions. The Systemix heritage was built largely on our expertise in commercial modelling and commercial alignment processes.  With a deep understanding of the systemic interplay between the commercial and psychological contract, Systemix has successfully established the commercial basis for many projects, programs and services agreements.

How Lean can Revolutionise Your Performance

By far the most impact you can have on a project outcome is at the outset, where during the pre-design and design phases, you set down some immovable frameworks inside which your project will evolve.By the time you’re at the pre-construction phase and beyond, it’s highly likely there’ll be a range of inefficiencies built into the project which will result in some kind of resource wastage.

Taiichi Ohno, whose founding role in the development of Toyota subsequently birthed the concept of Lean Manufacturing, identified 7 key types of waste:

1. Defects and mistakes;
2. Overproduction of goods not needed;
3. Inventories waiting the next stage in a process;
4. People waiting for something to happen or materials to be available before they can proceed;
5. Unnecessary processing, doing things which are not required;
6. Too much movement of people; and
7. Transport of goods that are not really required.

The same basic wastes of resources occur just as much in most projects as they do in manufacturing, causing expensive losses of time, money and even morale.

Obviously, the planning work you do at the outset can greatly reduce waste, but how do you manage if the systems in place are already inefficient?

Whether you call it Lean Manufacturing, Lean Construction or simply Lean Enterprise, essentially what you’re talking about is the elimination of inefficiencies and waste with a high-performance culture and a process focus. The result is improved profitability, happier clients, more engaged people and increased sustainability.

Lean Construction boosts performanceOld school vs Lean

Let’s take Lean Construction as an example and compare it to the traditional approach. Construction is notorious for the amount of time wasted as people stand around. That’s because typically, most attention goes into planning projects but very little on design or redesign of procedures. Add to this a strong hierarchical structure, where few people are involved at the top end and communications flow generally one-way from the top down, and it’s easy to see why the traditional approach results in almost every one of Ohno’s key waste areas.

Lean Construction takes a different approach. Firstly, there is a recognition that the grassroots work team have knowledge and ideas that could improve outcomes – sometimes resulting in enormous tangible benefits. Secondly, there is a methodology in place for this knowledge to find its way back to the leaders of the project or organisation. And finally, there is the compounding effect of the two… a more productive, more engaged workforce that delivers a better end result and an organisation that becomes literally ‘wiser’ with each completed project.

When Lean doesn’t work

The concepts of empowerment, communication and collaboration can send chills down the spines of many business leaders. Not because they don’t make sense… but because they seem so nebulous and difficult to manage. Afterall, moving to Lean (in any form) is about making a lasting cultural shift… Something that so many have tried and failed to do.

Perhaps it is helpful to consider what Lean is NOT, in order to understand exactly how it works. Lean is NOT warm and fuzzy. It’s not about ‘team building’ and high fives and staff barbeques. It’s not about cutting back to save money or increase profitability. These can (and often are) outcomes in a Lean organisation, but they’re not the basis. Often, failure to benefit from the Lean approach comes from targeting these outcomes directly and not the fundamental shifts that enable them to occur.

the algebra of high performance

Lean = business intelligence = improved performance

The Lean approach is extremely formulaic and scientific. High-quality implementation involves careful examination and questioning of everything from a strategic level to a detail level, from design to implementation. The goal is to create predictability and reliability at every stage. The outcome of that is a greatly increased likelihood to meet all your objectives including client satisfaction, timeframes and budget.

By harnessing collective intelligence every step of the way, everyone who participates begins to think differently about the work they’re doing together. Claude Levi-Strauss captures the essence of this change in thinking; “The scientific mind does not so much provide the right answers as ask the right questions.” People working in Lean organisations have an increased desire to learn about how to solve problems (and from actually solving problems), which leads to a desire to understand the root causes of problems, which results in a sense of urgency to address root causes of problems. Ultimately, this creates a culture that strives for continuous improvement.

Lean actually provides leaders with information and questions that can fast track organisational and competitive advantage. By unlocking the wisdom inside your organisation, you’re better able to anticipate future obstacles, problem solve quickly and act on new opportunities. Plus, through careful analysis and redesign of the processes in your organisation or project, your business or project can become more efficient, productive and profitable.

High-yield project & business performance solutions

Systemix works with large organisations to increase efficiency, profitability and sustainability with Lean performance concepts and many others. We guide you in identifying and capturing high-yield efficiency and performance improvement opportunities both in a project context (Lean Project Delivery) as well as in the organisational setting (Enterprise Efficiency), using an array of methodologies and techniques.

Working with business leaders to create a Lean culture at a project or organisation level, Systemix addresses the critical factors of both people and process to create significant outcome improvements.