We recently completed our ‘biggest job of the year’, the annual unit outage at Stanwell Corporation’s Stanwell Power Station (SPS). While we have completed this job in some degree for the last 15 years, this year has one significant difference – the level of staff engagement throughout the job.
We have a very good track record with the work completed at SPS, hence the 15 years, but there is always room for improvement. This year it was identified that improvements could be made by setting clear expectations, ground rules and creating a platform for increased staff engagement from the outset of the outage.
As much as we would like to take credit for this approach, it was driven by the Power Systems Superintendent. Long before the outage he expressed his desire and intent to deliver his speech to the crew early in the piece of the outage. At the time we didn’t fully appreciate what he was talking about and suspected it to be another run of the mill prework pep talk.
Thankfully, we were there on day one of the outage when this presentation was given to our team. It was clear, to us at least, that this wasn’t going to be the normal pep talk I thought it may have been.
Before the presentation began, the superintendent seemingly purposefully reached out to each individual present and had a brief introduction. This was not your typical introduction, but one in which he asked subtly probing questions to determine his audience whilst showing genuine interest in everyone present.
The focus of his presentation was on Quality and Safety. Not uncommon to most pep talks but there was a clear difference. Throughout the presentation, while still explaining his very clear expectations in these areas, he invited and asked the guys to contribute to the discussion and to provide input based on their prior experience. He laid the foundation in which everyone in the team (consisting of the SPS guys, PPAS full time, casuals and a small labour hire component) felt that not only did they have a voice that would be heard by the upper echelon of the organisation, but that there was an expectation for it to be voiced.
We’re confident to say that at the end of the presentation everyone present felt, among other things, that this outage was going to be different and that their individual efforts were going to mean something to the greater organisation.
The plan didn’t end there. Each morning, not unlike most work places, they held a daily prestart. A simple format adjustment changed the meeting from “talking” through problems and actions to something that allowed, in fact forced, everyone to contribute. The simple understanding that you as an individual would be called upon to comment and contribute made everyone come to those morning meets awake. The expectation to contribute was set from the outset and the results, content and outcomes each day showed that expectation was being met.
Throughout the course of the outage the vibe was different, everyone felt their contribution meant something to the greater plan and that they weren’t just another minion getting the job done. Over many conversations with the client and the crew leaders during the job, it became clear that they all felt the positive actions and outcomes they were seeing daily as a result of the foundation of staff engagement laid early in the piece.
The effect of the expectation spread further than the job front itself and into how we conducted ourselves throughout the outage. Particularly in terms of group communications, which has since been confirmed to have been received well and contributed to the onsite efforts.
With the outage all but wrapped up for this year with no safety issues and all quality work completed the first time, making it clear that the approach worked. While some may say that safety and quality should be a must in any job, and we don’t disagree, but on this occasion it’s all about the approach and how the team felt they could deliver the expected result perhaps more easily, and certainly with more will to do so.