Embarking on an Integrated Operations (IO) journey can be one of the most valuable undertakings you and your organisation can pursue. Like all things of great value, it carries with it an inherent amount of excitement, potential, risk and fear. Addressing these in a way that not only convey the proposed value but also develop a sense of excitement, anticipation and urgency is one of the most important aspects to ensure your project gets off to a flying start.
In our experience there is three important aspects to deal with when developing a business case for an IO deployment. As a starting point when communicating anything of great value, it is ultimately the bottom line value that counts, and there are ways to think about and describe these that will ultimately build a very strong business case.
Secondly, programs of this nature regularly involve large scale change, and impact the organisation at a fundamental level. By treating a deployment like this as a true business transformation, there is opportunity to build a degree of ownership and excitement in the program at the frontline, and ensure a smooth and productive transition to full operations.
Lastly, it is important to talk about the impact programs like this can have on the operating culture of your business, and how you want to maximise any opportunity this will present. The impact that a well deployed Integrated Operations program can have on your people in terms of leadership, transparency and continuous improvement is immense, and to get the most value out of it, you should plan for it.
Bottom line benefits
People get excited by results! In the end there should be a compelling bottom line story to convey for any large business optimisation project. In Integrated Operations that is achieved by understanding the baseline performance of your business in the various Integrated Operations Benefit Areas, and painting a compelling picture as to how the deployment of your programme will improve each of these areas over time, and create cumulative value as your Integrated Operations Capability matures.
This is also the perfect time to identify and make the case for the resources and support you would need to realise these benefits. Apart from the structural benefits you get by virtue of physically implementing this new capability, all the implementation phase benefits require additional resources to fully harvest the low hanging fruit that becomes apparent once you redesign the way people work and collaborate. For example, increasing your process effectiveness requires people skilled in process optimisation and redesign, whilst collaboration benefits can only be achieved with the right type of leadership development.
A common reaction from senior leaders in businesses thinking of deploying an Integrated Operations program, is that they see a large Integrated Operations Centre a say, “I want one”. This is understandable, because Operation Centres are new, modern, and it makes people feel “cutting edge”. However, a properly deployed Integrated Operation program is much more than an Operations Centre, which forms only part of the overall program.
The true value of these programs lies in their transformative potential to bring a much higher cadence of improvement to your operations, and it is important to understand and highlight how the improvement culture that can emerge out of these environments will add value. By getting people excited about being part of that journey, many of the traditional change management obstacles can be countered with a sense of shared purpose.
We know that highly productive continuous improvement cultures can emerge whenever people are provided with the right context, tools and the right leadership behaviours to support and guide them. Integrated Operations deployments therefore present a great opportunity to explain how the deployed technology, which normally represents a sizeable part of the project cost, will empower people to work in ways that were not possible before, and therefore enable teams to be much more productive. Changing the way in which people can add value lies at the heart of true transformation, and building on these points will make for a compelling business case.
Impact on Culture
No one would like to admit to having a horrible operating culture, and most successful businesses do have great elements to their organisational culture. However, IO deployments provide you with an excellent opportunity to enhance the winning parts of your culture already in place. They also have the potential to add some elements for which these environments are just naturally geared. Culture is a complex topic, yet we feel there are three cultural elements that really comes into their own when done right as part of an IO deployment.
A mature continuous improvement culture does not happen by accident. It is underpinned by a very deliberately designed process, is actively nurtured and driven by all levels of leadership, is supported by the right tools and methodologies and is celebrated every step of the way.
Apart from the great production and financial results you can achieve by having your entire workforce actively engaged in looking for meaningful ways to improve your business, a well-designed continuous improvement culture is also a very effective tool to manage employee engagement. When done well, the performance of your continuous improvement program becomes a barometer as to how well your teams are doing in general. We have seen many times how a dip in the performance of these programs points to a source of unhappiness that has not come to the surface yet. This provides leadership with a powerful leading indicator as to the general welfare of their teams, and is something to accentuate in the business case.
Building a culture of transparency can be scary. In a world where functional excellence prevails people are mostly accountable for the performance of the inner workings of their teams, and the scrutiny from the wider organisation is normally limited. Moving to a world where the impact of your actions can be seen and often felt by the wider value chain can be challenging.
To build a culture that thrives on transparency and capitalise on all the collaboration benefits available to an IO deployment, the following points need to be addressed upfront in your business case:
- Drive the point home that data transparency is vital to understanding your business’ performance, and in order to optimise your value chain in real time, time, effort and money should be spend to build a fit for purpose, robust data platform.
- Poor data structures lead to poor transparency. A trusted Single Source of Truth data set allows people to engage with the underlying business processes highlighted by the data, as opposed to continual arguments about whose data is right.
- Highlight and re-inforce that a culture needs to be nurtured where data serves the purpose of showing people when they need to offer and ask for help. It is not there to hunt poor performance of people; it is there to highlight process deficiencies and where teams need assistance. This is the role of leaders.
In order to achieve many of the desired benefits of an IO deployment discussed so far, a significant change in the behaviours of both leaders and employees are required. Too many IO deployments do not achieve their full potential due to a lack of focus on or understanding of the required behavioural changes required from both IO personnel as well as site operations.
Leaders in the IO program need to lead with influence and humility as autocratic leadership styles in these environments is a recipe for disaster. IO leaders must have relentless focus on the performance of the entire value chain, and be disciplined in showing that whole of business thinking is the top priority. They also need to foster strong peer relationships across the organisation as most of the actual dynamic optimisation benefits happens at the peer level.
Site based leaders on the other hand need to display trust in the IOC’s capability. This absolutely needs to be earned over time, yet site should always ask “how can we help them help us”? Both site and the IOC leader should be clear about expectations from each other without falling into the RACI trap. However, being very clear about the fundamental operating principles allow for effective decision making in the grey areas of life.
The deployment of an IO program has the potential to significantly improve productivity and performance of your value chain. While many of the highly referenced deployments to date have been high cost due to the inclusion of very expensive centres, the realisation that the value is in the people and processes, enabled by technology solutions, has seen highly successful, low cost, IO implementations in a variety of sectors globally.
Please contact the team at Global IO to discuss how this approach may benefit your business.