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

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

Tenders: Key Elements of a Winning Bid

When it comes to awarding a tender, there are many factors an Owner will take into consideration and it is important to know that decision making is rarely based purely on price. Whilst price may be a major factor, Owners are on the hunt for the team with the greatest capability to deliver good cost and non-cost outcomes over the long term, especially when it comes to service contracts.

Teams win tenders

With this in mind, a winning bid team must clearly demonstrate their inherent capability, both in terms of experience and an authentic cohesiveness. Owners are assessing your teams inherent capability in a number of ways, some more intuitive than others.

As well as initial target costs (and beyond the written submission of technical aspects of your solution), your team will be assessed on:

  • A demonstrated capability to drive efficiency in future years via initiatives yet to be identified;
  • their confidence in answering questions on its proposed solution
  • the way they interact
  • visible quality of leadership
  • the energy it projects

Owners realise that a successful project requires a strong and united team whose collective force will assist them in delivering on both known KRAs and overcoming the unknowns that will appear along the way. When bids are competitive in terms of price and approach, the strength of the team becomes even more critical in the decision making process.

Winning TendersSubmission basics

Here are some basics to keep in mind when you’re working on your next submission:

Meet the team

To have a good chance of succeeding, a proponent must be represented at presentations or interviews by the key team members that it proposes to assign to the job.  Typically the owner does do not want to meet the marketing team – it wants to meet the people that will deliver the services – hence it is important that the team presenting the proposal has full ownership of the written submission content, and comes across as a fully prepared high-performance team committed to the job.

Forget the sell

Under a closed-book tender or arms-length selection process the focus of the effort is to “win the job”.  However, proponents who approach a long-term services contract selection process with that focus are much less likely to succeed than a proponent that focuses on “delivering the services”.  The Owner’s evaluation panel is always more impressed by a team which is knowledgeable and enthused about its proposed approach than one which is just out to sell.  Aside from the subtle shift in messaging, a focus on delivery forces the team to understand the client’s issues, risks, opportunities and challenges, and start developing ideas for addressing these – which is the foundation for becoming the team they want to appoint.

Build the team

A well-directed proponent team will focus on delivering the services and their internal team dynamics.  By the time they get to presentation or interview stage they are already performing strongly as a team – for instance they are obviously comfortable with each other and are relaxed even under interview pressure; they give answers or engage in conversations quite naturally; they support each other yet are able to debate and challenge each other; there is no sense of hierarchy in the team (senior members naturally defer to other team members where appropriate); and they understand and believe the content of their written submissions because they have obviously been closely involved in the content.

There are no shortcuts to achieving this kind of team performance and non-price impact so it’s important for leaders to immediately start the team spending time working together with a common focus.  Furthermore, it is important that the nominees for senior roles are fully involved in team preparation, as a senior leadership figure who is not “bonded” with the team can be quite damaging to client perceptions.

What goes into a winning tender6 components of a successful bid

Ken Lowe, Managing Director at Systemix has worked with numerous proponents across a range of industries in preparing successful tenders. He has identified 6 key ‘streams’ in the preparation of a successful bid:

1.      Market Stream

This part of the process requires investigation to understand the key drivers of the project as well as the stakeholders, Key Results Areas and current trends. This information then informs the development of a unique selling proposition, potential ‘win themes’ and honest “why us?” elements that fit with your brand as well as the Owners value drivers.

2.     Commercial Stream

At this stage of the process, the focus turns to establishing internal alignment and developing a compliant and innovative offering.

Key activities in this stream typically include the following:

  • Understanding the Owner’s proposed commercial framework
  • Focussing on aspects which will make a ‘fair’ offer look less competitive or which present opportunities for a ‘fair’ offer to look super-competitive
  • Quantifying and pricing risks or costs passed to the Service Provider under the Owner’s proposed commercial framework
  • Identifying an optimal balance between ‘compliance’ to the proposed T&Cs (minimising departures which the Owner must concede) versus ‘departures’ (minimising headline price to be offered)
  • Reviewing the potential for innovative alternative offers (particularly around incentives & risks) and ranking them in terms of acceptability and impact
  • Supporting one or more reviews of the final offer from a commercial and legal perspective
  • Preparing the team for commercial alignment discussions or negotiation sessions.

3.     Organisation & Culture Stream

With a basic framework in place, the team has begun to form and this stage is about cementing the operational structure and organising principals at the foundation. The team and its leaders must take steps to understand each other’s skills and knowledge (and that of the team as a whole) in order to work effectively and plan ahead, and work also begins on developing a “vibe”. The all-important non-price elements of your bid are now being built.

Key activities in this stream typically cover:

  • Identifying the principles which should be used to shape the organisation structure for the proposed team, then developing a coherent structure enabling clear accountability and agility
  • Developing a charter of operations as a focus for the goals and culture of the proposed team
  • Developing skills and knowledge in technical, human, and commercial areas which are relevant to the ‘essence’ of the solution and the approach being offered
  • Developing  the “vibe” – working with the team in a variety of real task-related situations whilst simultaneously developing shared awareness of self and team dynamics, and building the skills and behaviours that underpin high performance
  • Ensuring through mock interviews and workshops that that a high-performance culture will be tangible during selection and delivery.

4.     Staging & Methods Stream

It’s time to work on the project and develop an appreciation of job challenges and overall strategies for delivery. As well as the technical aspects of delivery, the team should spend time on framing and expressing integrated methods and approaches and developing the skills to communicate those effectively.

5.     Pricing & Targets Stream

The proponent team needs a clear philosophy and plan for price and target development and should have an approach through to post-award phase. With this in place, the focus can turn to ways to fast track mobilisation to ensure success.

Key activities in this stream typically include:

  • Building a clear pricing philosophy for both input costs and margin, that aligns to the published evaluation criteria
  • Developing a pricing plan with clear tasks, accountabilities and timelines for constructing each price and non-price target required in the tender submission
  • Testing the emerging price proposition against the pricing philosophy, in particular with respect to pricing of risks and coherence with the commercial terms
  • Developing the approach and process for continuous improvement, including credibility of ongoing cost reduction methods, and the right balance between known improvements and ‘good faith’ expectations.

6.     Submission & Logistics Stream

The design, development and production of a physical document is the final stage in the preparation process. Start by developing a structure and writing plan, refine content and then plan review and management.

“These workstreams are the visible manifestation of a proponent organisation which – to be successful – needs to be driven by an effective ‘core’ of management, leadership, and strategy / governance”, Ken explains.

Working through each area, and tailoring them for the individual client, the Systemix approach prepares proponents for both the price and people evaluation they will encounter during the process.

Good Leadership wins TendersThe importance of leadership

Generally, teams that ‘crank out the tender’ without creating an environment of effective management and leadership, are often perceived by the client as focused on the sale rather than focused on excellent delivery.  Whilst task-focused management is essential to get the tender in the box, a high-performance team (with a high probability of success) requires effective leadership and governance.  Any buying decision is highly influenced by intangible factors as calibrated by the degree of trust between buyer and seller, hence attention to these underpinning factors is essential.

When Systemix works with project teams, they focus on maintaining an undercurrent of conversations and interventions which enables effective functioning of the team – both during the bid phase and during delivery – always with one eye on the leadership dimension to ensure that the management, leadership, and governance is enabling the team to be the best that it can be.