Tools For Business Success
Power Of Senior Teams
Management team. Isnt that a contradiction? Can senior management operate as a team?
The success of line worker and manufacturing teams has been well documented. But can the same team model be applied to senior management teams? For Georgia Power Companys Plant Hammond this was a question that would shape the future of the electricity plant.
The utility business as a whole, including Plant Hammond, has existed and operated for years in a marketplace with no competition and a regulated rate of return. Historically, if you lived in Rhome your electricity was supplied by Plant Hammond. In turn the government regulated what Plant Hammond could charge. The resultsPlant Hammond knew who its customers would be, how much they could charge and what its rate of return would be. This safe, structured way of doing business prompted a traditional business environment and management style at Plant Hammond.
It was top down management. It was autocratic. We had five levels of management from the plant manager down to the to workers in the plant, states Mike Moore, a business services team leader at Plant Hammond. The management style was top-down with a heavy emphasis on chain of command. Furthermore, information was shared on a need to know basis and departments operated independently of each other.
Our management organization had a very functional focus, Moore states. We had operating managers in each one of our functional areasoperations, maintenance, engineering and our services group. Each manager minded his own business we didnt talk.
Not exactly a cutting-edge business culture, especially during a time when businesses around the globe were experimenting with new organizational designs and cultures. But Plant Hammond was profitable with its traditional management style and change seemed unnecessary in the stable business environment.
If Its Not Broke, Fix It
So, to prepare for the new marketplace, Southern Company
initiated what was dubbed a Transformation Process at Plant
We basically looked at all the business and cultural processes
in the company. We looked at where we wanted to be, Moore adds.
The transformation process would affect all aspects of
Plant Hammond. From the tangible to the intangible changes initiated include:
Too Many Cooks In the Kitchen?
The team began by meeting offsite. The first meetings focused on defining their guides and boundaries including: sharing responsibility; expectations and roles; and needs and strengths. Billie Day, president of OnSite Solutions, a consulting firm specializing in team structures and management coaching, helped facilitate early stages of the management team.
It was an awkward situation like porcupines trying to kiss, states Day. The challenges were mostly personalego and turf. Team members had to give up long held beliefs.
After the senior management team was up and running other changes surfaced throughout the plant. Most noticeably, the new focus of the company (as evidenced by its place at the top of the organizational chart) shifted from the administrations to operations unit. The operations function is directly responsible for putting units online and keeping things running. In essence, the operations department was directly responsible for delivering the product (energy) to the customers and the new organization shifted so that all areas supported the operations department.
Its very unique for the person used to operating the old way to make this change. He struggles with it every day. Because you have to give up power, and you have to give up power on important things, not what color to paint the bathroom, Day states. If you only give up power on unimportant things people know its a game.
Members of the senior management team also increased their level of awareness and involvement within other departments functions. For example, previously a problem in engineering was an engineering problem and a problem in accounting was an accounting problem. Now, within the new culture at Plant Hammond, accountability and involvement were shared making all of the issues everybodys business.
You have to be willing to be accountable for the actions somebody else takes, Day adds. Thats the essence of having the team, instead of the individual, be the unit of accountability.
What Made It Work
The transformation process at Plant Hammond changed the organization of the business and its focus. It was a grueling process and required investment and commitments from all employees involved. But as the entire utilities industry enters a new market, Plant Hammond appears poised to excel.