Up until 2008 I my career was corporate. In addition to performing corporate duties, I was often conjuring up ideas on how to “add value” at our operations, with customers, workers or local stakeholders. As any good manager would do, I tried to generate buy in for my initiatives from above and in the field (normally the operation’s leader).
What I didn’t do was take pause and think about how “another corporate program” would be received by the workers in the field. Every corporate initiative rolled out is really another deliverable for workers in the field and as a result, should be written into their role descriptions. The reality is these “initiatives” are seen as one more thing workers need to worry about, in addition to their actual jobs.
After transitioning over to operations in 2009, it became abundantly clear to me that corporate initiatives are not always well received for a variety of reasons:
- workers already have a full time job;
- this may be just one of multiple initiatives being pushed down;
- the importance of the initiative hasn’t been properly communicated;
- workers don’t receive adequate training, support or follow up; or
- workers never see or understand the benefits being derived
Everyone has “deliverables” in their roles upon which they are measured. What seems to be missing is the realization that initiatives are competing for finite resources, and when push comes to shove, operators are going to perform the tasks upon which they will be judged. Thus potentially leaving corporate initiatives only partially implemented or abandoned.
The situation becomes more complex when you add in a Project team (and its contractors). They too will have deliverables that need the support of an operations team and/or corporate office. In a mining company you could easily have three separate groups all competing for resources to deliver their “priorities”. More often than not, it is the worker at the end of the line who is burdened with delivering all of these initiatives.
I have seen many project area superintendents (whose role it is to be in the field overseeing activities) spend entire days sitting in front of computer screens to fulfill corporate reporting initiatives.
So, how do you address this predicament where different groups are competing for finite resources? I would suggest the following:
- Understand the business case behind an initiative – is it truly driving value?
- Build into a field worker’s role description the delivery of these initiatives.
- Within the corporate office, have leaders that understand and appreciate the realities of field operations
- Assure that the people required to implement have the required skills and knowledge
- Communicate, and follow up – many corporate initiatives never deliver the desired results because the entire life cycle of an initiative is not contemplated