Sunday, October 16, 2005

Breaking the Mould - Forword

Foreword

Breaking the Mould is an extraordinary performance improvement process.

It is unique in that it does not use surveys, questionnaires, systems analysis or models for strategic change.
It sets out to change attitudes and relationships in the workplace.

It does not set out to change the organisation or the structure of the business, neither does it rationalise or downsize.

These experiences, which are Breaking The Mould, have been
documented and developed into a performance improvement process which is easily adaptable to any work situation, be it on the shop floor or in the office.

The stories are about the power of ordinary people when they are allowed to become powerful.

Breaking the Mould is what has to happen to make that change.
Most people want to do a good job, and want to be able to take pride in their work.

When they don't do a good job it is normally because they are being denied the support, the materials or the feedback that they need.

These are stories about what happens when people are allowed to become as good as they can be, when people stop telling them what to do and start to give them the tools they need to become powerful.

These tools are Support, Encouragement, Respect.

The stories concern themselves with events on Drilling Rigs in South America and the North Sea.
They tell of what occurred to allow the crews to take ownership of their work and some of the extraordinary performances which occurred when the old mould was broken.

An eighthundred percent performance improvement on one rig in three weeks was recorded, which new level of performance was then sustained.

There are accounts of how semi literate, inexperienced crews in the South American jungle were taken from the performance you would expect from them, to a sustained world record in only two months; of roughnecks in the North Sea saving their company 27% (£3.9 million) of their operating budget in a single year.

This book tells how these changes happened and how the same astonishing levels of performance are available for everybody wherever they work or live.

It is about people first and last and how to give them what they need to become extraordinary.

Involvement of the workforce is normally acknowledged as a vital
ingredient in the success or failure of most management driven
changes or initiatives, whether it is keeping the work site tidy,
discovering efficiencies in a production process or implementing a
safety programme.

In each case we only truly succeed in improving performance if we
generate a change in behaviour that sustains the change in performance in the long term.

To do this the work force must become involved, and in order to become involved there has to be something in it for them.

Nobody will change their behaviour unless they experience a "Win"
when they make a change.

There are many incentive and bonus schemes which work well in the short term.

The reward however soon becomes an expectation and loses its power to act as an incentive.

We humans as a species are fiendishly adept at defeating these engineered solutions with strategies which will allow us to continue to gather the reward without changing our behaviour.

The reward which cannot be bought costs nothing.

Imagine your department is due for a business review and you are well ahead of the curve with your preparation.
On Friday afternoon it is announced that the directors of the parent company will be in the country and the review will now take place on Tuesday instead of the following Friday, to allow them to be present.

Your boss asks you to bring your schedule forward, this requires you to work all weekend to be ready.

Your efforts allow you to make the presentation on time and you are
relieved that the directors do not appear displeased.

This is a familiar story of response to a pressure that is both difficult to resist and increasingly expected.

Now one of the directors walks across as you are packing away and says,
"I'm sorry I couldn't rearrange my schedule to fit in with your original
programme, thanks for your presentation, that was impressive."

Now, how do you feel?

The effort to give that feedback cost the director a few seconds of his time but the result is that now you can leap tall buildings.

Feedback which is Appropriate, Positive and Timely costs nothing.

Involvement is not an instant concept which can be bought.
It has to be built up slowly and is the result of repeated experience.

Practising feedback within the team on all sides makes each member of the team become more involved.

In time confidence in their value within the team will increase and individuals begin spontaneously to produce ideas and suggestions because they know their opinion will be listened to and respected.

This level of involvement is not a trick. It is the result of a long-term
change in the behaviour of the whole team.

How this change in behaviour is achieved is the real story.

Who it affects is the real audience.

Peter A Hunter

www.breakingthemould.co.uk

and at

www.hunter-consultants.co.uk.

Breaking the Mould - Chapter 1

Chapter 1

Meeting Señor Schmidt

I was a performance coach working for a company of Management Consultants based in Aberdeen, Scotland, and had just finished four months working on a semi submersible drilling platform on the very edge of the continental shelf in the North Atlantic to the West of Shetland.

I was filling in for a colleague who had started the project twelve months before but had been forced to leave when another company made him an offer he couldn't refuse, more money.

The original contract was not to be renewed so my job was to be a billed bum on a seat for the last two trips while the project wound down.

The winter had been severe in that part of the Atlantic where severe was the normal description for the weather in summer.

It had been a difficult trip so I wasn't too upset when I was able to board the helicopter for the last time and wave goodbye to the rig.

Home at the beginning of December, I put my feet up and waited for news of the next project, hoping all the time that nobody would have any emergencies until after Hogmanay.

There is still something special about the West Coast of Scotland at New Year that cannot be bought or bottled, although there are a number of distilleries that get very close.

I received a call in the first week of January from my office in Aberdeen and after a very rapid run through the New Year's greetings I was asked if I wanted to go back to Venezuela.

I had been to Venezuela several times before but was curious to learn a little more about the project before I committed myself.

This time the job was for a drilling contractor.

I would be working a new oil field in the centre of the country away from the traditional fields in the west.

The client was a partnership between a French Oil Company and the National Oil Corporation of Venezuela.

The country manager for the drilling contractor had six drilling rigs in the country.
Five were in the west and had been on hire for many years.

The sixth had arrived in the country six months ago specifically to work the new field.

The rig was drilling wells which went down to around a thousand feet then turned horizontally to drill along the thin oil bearing sand layer.

The oil was thick and heavy and flowed very slowly.

To create the production levels required the rig would drill up to twenty-four wells in each location, moving the rig about fifteen metres between each well.

When the wells were completed the production would all be brought together at the surface in a single large manifold.

At a business review shortly after Christmas the South American partners had told the drilling contractor, rather unsympathetically, that if they did not achieve a radical change in their performance then they could pack the rig up and ship it back to where they had come from.

The country manager had not been expecting this reaction and for a while was at a loss, he had been doing his best and did not know what he could do to improve.

He remembered hearing of the work that I had done in Europe in similar situations and although for this size of operation I was going to be expensive, he was growing very short of cards to play.

My job was to go to Venezuela and turn around the performance of the rig.

That phone call was the first of two.

Did I want to go?

The second call a week later was to tell me where to get my tickets.

I was lucky that I had to pack in a hurry because in retrospect, if I had considered everything that I didn't know about the project, where I was going, what I was going to do, where I was going to stay, what I was going to eat, I would never have been able to lift my bags for all the contingencies for which I would have packed.

As it was, the only extra item I packed was a mosquito net.

The altitude of the site and the lack of standing water meant that I never heard a single mosquito in the four months I was there, but it was still a comfort to have as I travelled out for the first time.

The country manager who met me in the capital, Caracas, was an Austrian emigré called Gunter and was the man who had control of all the rigs in the country.

I was taken initially to the company offices in Maracaibo where the nature of their problem was explained to me.

In short the rig was on a warning from the client, who was quite capable of forcing them to pack up and remove it from the country.

There was no deadline at the moment but in South America that simply meant that it could happen tomorrow.

The meeting was relaxed but there was an image in my mind of the drilling company tied to the table with a Damoclean sword coming closer to the jugular with every swing.

Gunter had done his research and in me he knew what he was getting.

He was aware of the necessarily long term nature of my work and was reluctant to press too hard for promises of short term savings which he knew would be just that, promises.

However Gunter still needed something to take away from the meeting to justify the extra expenditure to his bosses in Europe.

I was very aware of the politics and asked Gunter what he was looking for.

"What would really impress him?"

Gunter's answer was "An improvement in casing running times."

Running casing was the last operation the drilling team carried out before the rig was skidded across the site - with hydraulic rams - to the next well.

After the well had been drilled the casing would be run all the way to the bottom and cemented in place to stop the drilled hole from collapsing.

When the rig left the site another smaller rig would arrive and prepare the well for oil production.

Without the casing in place the hole would very likely collapse making it unlikely that the production tubing would be able to get to the bottom.

The casing was run into the hole in nine metre lengths.

The actual time that it took to run the casing was not a large percentage of the total time on the well, but there was some pressure to run it as quickly as possible to minimise the amount of time that the formation was open without the protection that the casing gave it.

If the hole did collapse before the casing was in place the consequences were serious.

The casing already run would have to be pulled back to the surface and the drilling bit run again to clean out the collapsed section.

Gunter told me that the fastest the rig had ever managed to run casing was sixteen joints per hour.

They would be impressed if the rig managed twenty joints per hour, a twenty five percent improvement.

I pushed a little harder.

What would really knock his socks off?

What was the best performance ever?

Gunter paused and looked towards Duncan his deputy,

They conferred quietly for a second then Duncan spoke up and said that he thought the best ever, to his knowledge, was twenty five joints per hour.

He thought that one of his other rigs had once achieved twenty five joints per hour in Europe but that you could hardly use something which had happened once years ago in a different country as a target.

Assuring him that I was not setting targets for anyone, but was just curious to learn what was the best, I could tell I had gone too far.

Gunter and Duncan were no longer taking me seriously so I wrote down "Twenty five joints per hour," then closed my notebook and asked if there was anything else I needed to know or they wanted to tell me.

I flew back to Caracas the same afternoon and the following day was on my way to El Tigre, a town about two hundred kilometres north of the Rio Orinoco in the centre of Venezuela.

I was accompanied by Duncan, the deputy country manager, whose job was to introduce me to the rig manager, a naturalised Venezuelan called Willie Schmidt.

We met Señor Schmidt in his office in El Tigre where he rose to his impressive height of six feet four and took my outstretched hand with a dignified restraint.

From what Duncan was saying it was obvious that Señor Schmidt had never heard of the process of "Breaking the Mould" and would have thought the image of a management consultant working on an oil rig rather humorous, if it had been happening to someone else.

Clearly he was not amused that it was happening to him.

Duncan sensed the resistance too and felt that he had to get me off on the right foot by selling the idea of what I was going to do for Señor Schmidt.

As the human race matures each subsequent generation seems to develop a greater resistance to salesmen.

Watching Duncan, even with the authority of his position as deputy country manager, I could feel Señor Schmidt's defences rising higher and higher.

His expressionless face eloquently said that if Duncan were not his boss he would not even be in the same room with me.

I was trying to figure out what I could do to limit the damage that Duncan was doing.

The more defensive Señor Schmidt became, the more work it would take for me to get him back on board later.

At that moment we were interrupted by Santa ("Saint" in English), Señor Schmidt's secretary, who had an urgent call from the rig.

Señor Schmidt was torn between answering the call and continuing to listen to his boss.

While he clearly wanted to embrace the former he felt obliged to do the latter.

He was not going to be happy so I took the opportunity of suggesting that Duncan and I should go and find a cup of coffee while Señor Schmidt talked to the rig in peace.

Duncan looked askance but said nothing.

We followed Santa who showed us to the kitchen then left us alone.

I started to pour the coffee but could feel Duncan's impatience behind my back.

I took my time with the coffee and when I was finished I turned slowly to offer Duncan the first cup.

Keeping my eyes down and focusing on the cup, I turned back to pick my own cup up from the table, waiting for Duncan to speak.

I turned slowly back to Duncan, bringing the cup up to my lips as I turned.

He was going mad but held his peace until I couldn't keep a straight face any more.

I smiled at Duncan who started smiling too, an automatic reaction, but he was still puzzled about what was amusing me.

I thought it was time to put Duncan out of his misery so I asked him what his job was.
He replied that he was the "deputy country manager".

I asked again, what was his job. "What do you do from day to day?" I said.

Duncan thought a bit longer then he broke out into a real grin and said, "What you are really trying to say is that I am not very good as a salesman."

" Exactly" I said, "You've got it in one."

Duncan smiled then stopped and looked a little troubled.

He asked me, "Where do we go from here?

Willie is not very happy about what he is being asked to do.

How will we manage that situation?"

"Don't worry," I said, "I think you'll find that that is my job".

I suggested a beer so we finished our coffees and set about winkling Señor Schmidt out of his office and down to the restaurant of his choice.

He went home first and collected his wife, a charming Venezuelan whose calming influence probably went a long way towards making sure that we were up early and fit for business the next day.

Duncan had to catch the early flight back to Caracas and was feeling a little nervous that we had not spoken a word about business since coffee the previous afternoon, so I assured him that the ball was rolling and I would see him again in three weeks when I came back from the rig.

Señor Schmidt was quiet on the way out to the airport and after seeing Duncan off drove back to the centre of El Tigre.

He turned left at the traffic lights instead of going straight on, and as easy as that, we were on our way to the jungle.

I thought about how the trip had gone so far. The most important man at this moment was Señor Schmidt and he was not happy.

He was the man who was responsible for the performance of the rig, and his behaviour and the things he said affected the way that the crews performed on the rig.

Unless Señor Schmidt changed his approach and what he said to the crews, whatever happened while I was on the rig would stop the minute I left because Señor Schmidt's behaviour would drive performance right back to where it had been before I arrived.

My first challenge was to be able to talk to him.

That might be difficult.

I had been sent to the rig without the people on it knowing anything about me or what I did.

My time had been bought and paid for by the country manager without any reference to the rig.

This sent a message to Señor Schmidt that was loud and clear. "We are sending you this man to help because you are failing." For Schmidt it was like a physical slap in the face.

He had been doing the best that he could and now they were sending him someone who had never been on a rig before to help.

It was insulting.

"How could someone who had never been on one of these rigs before manage it better than he who had been working these rigs for nearly ten years?"

He did not say anything but it was clear from his manner that he had received the message.

I knew that I had some work to do with Señor Schmidt.

From previous experience I knew that trying to sell an idea to someone in Señor Schmidt's position was the wrong thing to do.

As he said himself, he had been doing his best and to suggest that someone like me, a consultant with no experience of working on a land rig could do any better was insulting.

I knew that Señor Schmidt would not consider changing the way he behaved unless he could see value in making a change.

This meant that I had to make the change first and then when he asked me how the change had happened, he would listen to what I had to say.

I knew how to be patient.

Peter A Hunter

www.breakingthemould.co.uk

and at

www.hunter-consultants.co.uk.

Breaking the Mould - Chapter 2

Chapter 2

Willie Schmidt Owns A Car

The Venezuelan jungle to the South of El Tigre was not as lush or dense as I had expected, and the altitude meant that the air was a little cooler and the rains a little less frequent.

In the southern summer it was pleasantly warm with a high cloud keeping off the worst of the sun and a pleasant breeze moving the air whenever the car stopped.

Señor Schmidt told me that it would take about three and a half hours to reach the rig so he settled down for the drive and I spent the time rubbernecking at the countryside.

It was difficult to characterise it at first because the land was dotted with the most twisted trees I had ever seen.

They were at fairly regular intervals, about twenty to thirty feet apart, and they grew in every conceivable direction except up.

They would start growing in one direction then suddenly shoot off in the opposite direction while sending a third branch in no direction in particular, as long as it wasn't related to either of the first two.

No tree had a shape that remotely resembled any other.

These were the only trees that were growing and I was amazed that the fences were held up with posts made from them.

Since the trees were no more than two metres tall I could only assume that for each post a whole tree had been cut down.

The more gross deformities had been removed with a chainsaw, then it was placed in a hole in the right position for the fence wire to be nailed to it.

The result was not pretty but it worked.

The road was unusual for Venezuela, in that it was smooth with very few potholes.

Señor Schmidt did not have to fling the pickup from side to side to avoid holes in the road, which he did have to do in town.

This road had been laid by the oil company to service the new oil field, and had been built less than three years ago.

The gentle undulations and lack of drama made it very difficult for me to stay awake.

I must have slept for an hour or more with my head on the window and was woken by the pickup oscillating from side to side quite violently.

Looking out I could see that we were crossing a river.

As I woke up and looked around I could see that a large concrete slab had been laid across the bed of the river.

The theory seemed to be that you just drive in and splash your way through.

Señor Schmidt, seeing that I was awake was keen to explain that the rains had brought boulders down from the hills in the torrent and they were left on the ford when the river receded.

They were only cleared if heavy transporters went through, and for the rest of the time everybody else just had to pick their way through.

Now that I was awake he was keen to engage me in conversation.

Perhaps he was lonely driving on his own, or perhaps the complete lack of pressure from me had made him curious enough to try to find out more about what was going to happen on his rig.

He started by asking me where I had come from, how long had I been doing this kind of work, which other rigs had I worked on etc, until he had a good idea of my background without actually finding out what it was that I was going to do to his rig.

Having got him this far I was reluctant to jeopardise progress by trying to sell him on something that he had not asked for.

I decided to keep quiet a little longer until I thought that Willie Schmidt was ready to ask.

It is always difficult at the beginning of a project to say what is going to happen or how progress is going to be made because so much depends on what is needed or what is missing.

Instead of making something up about what I was going to do I postponed the subject by asking Señor Schmidt about his own past.

I had expected a traditional oil industry background, which would normally involve a story about a shortage of funds in his early twenties which was going to be temporarily relieved by a summer job on the rigs.

One summer stretches to two and pretty soon he is looking at retiring without ever figuring out what he was going to do after his summer on the rigs was over.

As usual when you take time to listen to people he surprised me with the variety of the work he had done in Venezuela and some of the insights he dropped into his conversation.

He described one job he had in Caracas where he was the Regional Sales Manager for a large detergent company.

There was a sales force of around thirty five, each of whom had a large imported car and spent most of the time tearing around the pot-holed roads chasing orders.

Schmidt was under pressure to reduce his transport costs, part of which amounted to a new car for each salesman every two years. At first it seemed impossible.

After two years the cars were wrecked, and if anything they needed to be replaced even more frequently for the salesmen to continue to give a good impression to their clients.

Señor Schmidt told me his idea.

When he had first arrived the cars had been leased and at the end of the two-year lease they were given back to the leasing company, almost worthless, in exchange for new ones.

He suggested that instead of returning the cars to the leasing company at the end of two years, they continue paying for another year then give the car to the salesman.

I could see him glancing sideways as he drove, having told me this to test me and watching to see if I had understood.

I was impressed, and asked him if it had worked. It was obvious from the pride in his voice and the straightening of his back as he spoke that it had.

He told me that the three years had been a bit of a sticking point at first because everybody still wanted a new car every two years, but when it was made clear that this was not going to happen slowly things started to change.

It is impossible to drive anywhere in Venezuela without the vehicle becoming covered in dust, and the further you go the worse it gets, yet when Señor Schmidt looked down at the company car park the cars were looking unusually clean.

He started to notice little personal touches being added to
the cars that had not been there before, here a Madonna on the dash board or a rosary hanging from the mirror, there some mud flaps, over there a chromed exhaust and that, he told me, was why he had done it.

At the end of three years the cars which were handed over to their new owners bore no resemblance to the two year old wrecks which had been previously given back to the leasing company.

The cars which were given to the salesmen were accepted with pride and were driven away to begin another long life as a family car.

The cost to the company was less due to the longer lease but the salesmen now took such care of their vehicles that at the end of their three years on the rough Venezuelan roads the majority still looked as if they had just come out of the showroom.

I asked Señor Schmidt what was the fastest car in the world. He said a Ferrari.

I told him no, it was a hire car.

Señor Schmidt told me to call him Willie.

I had used the analogy of the hire car in the past when trying to explain to people the concept of ownership. The word "Ownership" becomes a cliché which is bandied around as a sort of universal blame. "They just don't have any sense of ownership," is a frequently heard complaint about a workforce but it is said by someone with little idea of what the "Ownership" thing is which is missing or how to set about giving "It" to "Them".

I find it very refreshing to remind people of the difference in attitude which defines the difference between owning something and not owning it.

When you jump into a hire car the last thing you think about is washing it.

We sit in the driver's seat, throw whatever we are carrying onto the back seat then have a quick check to make sure that all the parts to make it go are in the right place before twisting the key.

We crash it into gear and with spinning wheels we fishtail out of the car park.

Our clutch control may improve with use but our attitude does not.

I knew from experience, as I had torn the bottom out of a beautiful silver Alfa Romeo which I had hired.

It was on a mountain track in Sicily the previous summer and it had been less interesting to me than if the volume knob had come off the radio.

It was not my car, I didn't own it.

When we buy a car, we first make a lot of decisions about it.

What colour, what level of trim, what engine and any number of other variations that allow us to make that vehicle ours.

Even with a second hand car we still decide which one is going to be ours and based on those decisions we become the owner.
We drive home carefully listening to the sound of it, we turn into the drive, emerging slowly so that everybody can see who the new car belongs to, then out comes the sponge and wax.

Because this is our car we are going to take care of it, we own it.

Willie had taken his sales force from driving hire cars to driving their own cars and he knew the benefit to his company of the difference.

I told Willie that what he had done was to create the conditions for what we called "Ownership".

He told me what that meant in terms of pride and responsibility for the individual.

The warm breeze was having its effect on me again, and I could feel my eyelids growing heavy. Just before I gave up and went to sleep again I turned to Willie and told him what I was going to give to the rig crew.

I told him I was going to give them ownership of the rig, and as I settled down again I took a quick look across at Willie as he drove.

He was smiling.

I had a good feeling.

He had understood and was on my side.

As my eyes closed I thought about this new relationship with Willie.

My arrival in Venezuela had sent a huge negative message to him which was reinforced by the deputy country manager attempting to sell my process to him.

Ordinarily this would have doomed any working relationship because Willie, already personally affronted by my presence was then being told by his boss to accept me.

Taking the pressure away was a deliberate strategy which had allowed Willie the space he needed to make up his own mind.

Now by listening instead of talking I had discovered that Willie, in common with most other human beings, was a remarkable individual who, although he did not understand the buzzwords of Management speak, did understand the changes that occurred when you gave people pride and self-respect.

That was a good start.


Peter A Hunter

www.breakingthemould.co.uk

and at

www.hunter-consultants.co.uk.

Breaking the Mould - Chapter 3

Chapter 3

Willie's Bet

We arrived at the rig shortly after midday.

The last thirty minutes or so of the trip had completely disorientated me.

We had crossed a number of rivers and been through innumerable crossroads taking apparently random choices between left, right and straight on.

The jungle was also closing in and the terrain undulating so that the previously limitless horizon was now a lot closer.

Apart from odd glimpses as we crested a rise there was
nothing on which I could fix as a reference.

I saw one or two rigs through the trees on the way in but there was no sign of our rig until right at the last moment.

Willie turned a wide sweeping bend going uphill and like a shock it suddenly appeared.

There was no travelling towards the rig from afar, it was just there.

The rig sat on a two hundred metre by two hundred metre apron of concrete enclosed by a chain link fence with a huge and foreign derrick grinding noisily away in the middle.

Willie stopped by the guard at the gate and after passing the time of day we were freed to drive onto the site.

As we drove in I noticed two rows of caravans which, Willie explained, were the offices and the accommodation.

I saw that they were caravans in all respects except that they didn't have wheels, which strictly speaking made them boxes.

The crew always liked to refer to them as caravans because talking about working and sleeping in a box was a little too close to the truth to be comfortable.

At least by calling it a caravan they maintained the illusion that it was not a box.

The caravans were lined up in two rows against the fence and Willie proudly pointed to the one on the end,

"This one we got specially for you," he said as he carried one of my bags towards it, "and that one over there is your office," pointing at another one exactly the same which had been parked about twenty metres away.

The cabin had a single bed, a desk, a wardrobe and a bathroom. I was impressed but then I thought, "I always have been easily pleased."

Willie dropped my bag inside the door and told me to come with him to meet the German Toolpusher, Werner, who was a young man with perfect English and an antiseptic smile.

Whatever he had heard about me, he didn't want it on his rig but while Señor Schmidt was there he was going to go through the motions.

The journey had taken a little longer than expected so after the briefest of introductions I was relieved when Werner suggested we get some lunch.

I was relieved because Willie had started to do the same hard sell on Werner which Duncan had done on him, except that Werner had seen it coming and sidestepped towards lunch.

Having moved away from the "Who are you?" and "Where have you been?" routine Werner got down to the nitty gritty of what concerned him.

What did I want from the crews?

Willie looked worried because this was obviously a question that he had forgotten to ask.

I asked Werner if I could talk to each of the crews for an hour before the start of their next shift, somewhere away from the noise of the rig where they could talk.

Werner pointed at the office box and I realised that instead of sharing someone else's office, this one had been brought in especially for me.

A classroom in the jungle.

I could see why Werner was edgy.

He was supposed to be running a drilling rig not a school.

Werner explained that there were four crews who worked eight-hour shifts each.

In any one day three crews would work.

Each crew worked for six days then had two days off.

I could talk to the first crew this afternoon, another this evening one in the morning and the last tomorrow afternoon, which would mean that I had seen them all in twenty-four hours.

I could see that Werner was not at all happy with the idea of stopping drilling for a meeting so I offered him a sweetener and said,"What about holding just two meetings, one at the shift change this afternoon and the other tomorrow morning, then all four crews could take part in half the time.

" Werner nearly smiled, but not quite.

Willie was staying overnight so he would be on site for the afternoon and morning meetings.

I thought that Willie and Werner could probably do with some time together before I started, I left them eating dessert and went to explore my new office.

The box was stuck on its own opposite the restaurant caravan and as far as I could see had no windows and only a single door.

Werner had given me the key to the lock but as I opened the door, the handle fell off.

This was ominous, this far away from the shops, if things broke the chances were that they would stay broken.

The handle must have been broken during the move, and had split down the middle.

I had managed to take the latch off the door before the handle came off so I went back into the restaurant box where I found a table knife.

When I poked it between the door and the frame I managed to lever the door open, took a rock from beside the chain link fence and put that in the doorway to stop the door from closing again.

I hadn't realised how strong the sun had become until I was inside the office and took my sunglasses off, having to wait several minutes while the interior faded into visibility.

After some fumbling I found the light switch but realised that I would have to wait a few minutes more as the fluorescent tube remained obstinately dark.

The container was the same size as my sleeping box.

There were two tables and half the room was taken up with white plastic garden chairs that must have been provided for the comfort of my expected pupils.

At the far end of the container was a large air conditioning unit high up in the end wall.

Turning it on I realised that the lack of a door handle no longer mattered.

At the rate at which the air conditioner was churning out icy air I would have to keep the door open to stop myself from freezing.

Feeling all round the unit I could find no way of controlling the temperature or the rate of the bone chilling blast, so it was either on or off.

A white board was set up at one end of the box with a selection of dry markers, black, blue, red and green.

I thought briefly about their journey to get here, what crimes they had committed to deserve ending up here in a box in the jungle.

There was nothing else I could do for the moment but I wanted to give Willie and Werner as much time as possible together so I headed off to my sleeping box to unpack and try the lights.

The air conditioning was the same unit as the office with the same lack of control.

By the time I had unpacked the room was beginning to feel distinctly chilly.

I had to go outside again to warm up.

Outside I was met with the sight of the new crew milling around outside the office box waiting for the crew that was coming down from the rig floor to get changed.

I noticed my rock on the ground, outside the closed door.

The rock had been placed carefully back in the same position I had left it, after the door had been shut.

Because the rock was stopping the door from closing I had left the key on my desk, inside.

I introduced myself to the crew and guessing who the driller was asked him where I could get the spare key.

He made a gesture towards the Toolpusher's office.

The gesture continued vaguely then ended up pointing to the sky.

I took that to mean, "Maybe the Toolpusher has it but I haven't the foggiest idea really"

I knew that the container had only recently been delivered so I asked if anyone had been there when it arrived.

One of the men, who it turned out was a translator/driver and therefore floated between the crews, said that he had been on site when it came and he thought that the key had been given to the Toolpusher.

That counted as an almost definite" yes" so I went to the Toolpusher's office where Willie and Werner were having a chat over coffee.

Werner had been watching my exchange with the crew, and when I explained the problem was quick to pull out a drawer full of keys.

Werner himself had not been on the rig when the container arrived but he knew that if the key was anywhere it would be in this drawer.

Fortunately most of the keys were labelled and after reading the labels I was able to discard most of them until there were only six single keys left in the drawer all without labels.

Four of the keys were obviously padlock keys and they were nowhere near the right size, but the remaining two looked hopeful.

Returning to the container around which the crowd was now growing as the other shift changed and joined them, I tried the first key but no joy.

It turned halfway then no further.

I tried the second key and it would not even go in, so I returned to the first key but now it would not turn at all.

I could feel the crew pressing in behind.

They had no idea that I had left the only key inside and were more eager than ever to get into the air conditioned container.

This was why the rock had been removed in the first place, so that it would be cold when they got in.

To most Europeans air-conditioning is a way of maintaining a comfortable temperature, and since we are not blessed with excessive heat its use is as often to heat the air as it is to cool it.

It is therefore difficult to imagine the way that the Venezuelans, who are not far removed from the equator, use air conditioning.

I witnessed a very strange thing when I had first gone to work in Venezuela several years before.

Working at a refinery in the east of the country near Puerto de La Cruz,

I arrived for my first day in a shortsleeved shirt and headed for my office in the air-conditioned office building.

When I went inside it felt like jumping into a cold shower, even after the short walk across the car park it was most invigorating.

I found my office, the coffee machine, the people I had met before, the secretaries, the photocopier, the toilets, more people, and then made a quick dash to the toilets.

On my first morning I was so busy meeting people that I barely got a chance to sit down.

It was when I was in the toilet for the third time that I realised why.

I had to keep going to the toilet, it was so cold.

This sounds ridiculous considering how close I was to the equator but I was freezing cold and actually starting to shiver.

I left the toilet and went outside for a walk in the car park to warm up.

It was as if on a cold night someone had just taken a duvet from the warm airing cupboard and wrapped it around my body.

The air in the car park was thick and warm.

It was heaven.

I walked up and down for ten minutes while I warmed up but this time when I went back inside I no longer felt refreshed, just cold.

I thought that if I, a Northern European, was feeling cold, how on earth did the Venezuelans feel?

Then I realised that while I sat in my office in shirt sleeves and froze, all the Venezuelans were wearing heavy jackets, either padded bomber type jackets or thick leather.

I later noticed that the jackets were all kept in the office.

In the morning the Venezuelans would look forward to that first refreshing rush of air conditioning then go to their offices and put on their jackets in which they would then be comfortable for the rest of the day.

I thought of the pleasure that the Scandinavians take in the excessive heat of the sauna.

Perhaps the Venezuelans were taking the same sort of pleasure from the extreme cold provided by their brutal air-conditioning in comparison to the heat of the day.

I felt a little sorry for the crews who were looking forward to their reverse sauna in the container, however I had no option but to explain to them what had happened.

The crews helped me to one side and crowded round the door to offer their solutions.

Werner stood next to me, and I could see that he was thinking hard while he watched what the crews were doing.

They were concentrating on the lock and had inserted a blade between the door and the frame, applying all sorts of forces to the blade without result.

I was sure that something was going to give suddenly and had visions of the broken blade sticking into someone's arm.

As I stepped forward to call a halt Werner put his hand on my shoulder and went forward himself to take control of the group around the door.

He pointed at the hinges and as the serious faces turned to smiles, two men ran off.

They went to a container next to the workshop and in less than a minute were back with a large hammer, a spike and a long screwdriver.

The hinges didn't stand a chance.

When the last one gave up the unequal fight the door stood drunkenly open.

I was the last inside and found the crews fighting for the seats nearest the valuable air conditioner.

Willie, Werner explained, would not be joining us.

He had said that he felt that his presence might either intimidate or inhibit the crew.

I appreciated Willie's insight but had been hoping that he would be there as I knew that he had started to trust me, but I still had not shown him the detail of what I was going to do with the crews or how I was going to do it.

This would have been a good time.

I opened the meeting by telling the crews why I was there.

As I feel that it is very important at this stage not to baffle people with concepts or jargon I told them I was here to implement the Continuous Improvement Process.

The Continuous Improvement Process is basically a method of capturing improvements every time a job is carried out.

Each time a task is finished the crew get together and discuss what went well and what they could improve.

These ideas are then captured and used to improve the performance next time.

The words translated well enough but in common with most people these guys had no idea what this meant in practical terms.

How could you improve all the time?

When would it stop?

How much extra work will it cause me?

These crews had never seen or heard of performance coaches so at least I did not have to worry about any negative preconceptions.

All I had to think about was how to let them understand enough about what was going to happen for them to take part.

At this point in a European project I would use a very simple story and explain the concept of Continuous Improvement.

When we buy our first car we usually spend all the money that we can afford and the result, although perfect in our eyes, is normally less than mechanically sound.

Shortly after we drive home the exhaust falls off and we don't have much option other than to buy a new one and, with no spare cash, we fit it ourselves.

The first time we attempt the job it takes all day, we lose most of the skin from our knuckles and the exhaust may or may not be gas tight when we have finished.

The next time the exhaust blows it will only take half a day to change it, we don't lose any skin from our knuckles and there is a good chance that the exhaust will work when we have finished.

Without thinking about it we have learned which tools we need, how to use them and how the exhaust is supposed to be fitted.

We have not learned all of the available lessons but we have captured a good deal in a natural process called gaining experience.

We all do this all of the time.

One of the most valuable parts of gaining experience is that we have learned what not to do.

The easiest way to improve is simply to identify what is not helping, then stop doing it.

If we have lost the skin from our knuckles because the first time around the spanner slipped, next time we will definitely have the right size spanner, not only for this job but for any other job too.

That is the process of Continuous Improvement.

In life it is called gaining experience and is an individual thing. In the work place however we are not dealing with one person performing one task.

The next time the same task is performed it is highly likely that it will be performed by someone else.

That person then has to make the same mistakes again in order that their own personal experience may grow.

For everybody's experience level to grow they all have to make the same mistake.

If when we make the mistake the first time everybody learns how to stop it happening again, that is clearly an improvement.

In this way when one member of the workforce learns something, every other person can make use of that same lesson.

I had been on a rig in the northern North Sea which would drill a well every couple of months then skid the rig with hydraulic jacks over to a new well.

For practical mechanical reasons the wellheads are all separate at the surface.

When drilling, the drill and the drill pipe go through the wellhead
into the well.

To start work on a new well the whole rig must be physically moved until it is vertically above the new wellhead.

There were four crews on this rig and every time it was skidded the crews would come together and talk through the operation they had just completed.

They would identify things they could do better next time
or things they didn't want to do next time.

At each skid they would collect their ideas and record them.

As they would then use those ideas the next time they skidded the rig to tell the crew what had been learned from previous skids, the next skid would be better.

That was Continuous Improvement.

Having been on the rig for nearly a year I was winding down my
involvement in the project and handing my position to a crewman who had been trained to take over.

One of the last operations was to skid the rig to a new well.

The assistant driller who was due to make the skid was worried and revealed that, through chance, it was actually two years since his crew had skidded the rig.

They had a procedure but that didn't tell them "how" to skid the rig. I took the whole crew through all of the lessons that had been learned in the past year by the other crews.

In effect they were given all the experience that the other three crews had gained from all the past skids.

There were a few questions of clarification and discussion but the crew left the meeting and skidded the rig perfectly.

At the debriefing session they returned with lessons of their own.

Their biggest lesson was the value they had found through making use of the knowledge which had been gathered by the other crews.

For the Venezuelans I knew that the broken exhaust analogy wouldn't work.

When a Venezuelan buys a car, if it has an exhaust he will want to know why it is not making as much noise as his neighbours' car.

He will most likely not buy the car until the seller has put a hole in the exhaust to make it sound normal.

It does not say much for Venezuelan motoring but I knew it was true.

I had to look for a way to get the crews to understand what was happening without patronising them.

The best way of doing that, I thought, was to stop talking about it and start doing it.

Instead of making them listen in an increasing temperature in a box in the middle of the jungle, I asked the crews to start talking.

I asked them to tell me which one of all the operations that they carried out was the one that they disliked the most.

Almost unanimously they agreed that it was skidding the rig.

On this site in the jungle it involved attaching large hydraulic jacks and pulling the whole rig from one wellhead to the next.

The wells were fifteen metres apart and there were two dozen wellheads in two lines down one side of the concrete apron.

I wanted to start collecting the crew's ideas so I got my dry marker and wrote Delizando (skidding) at the top of the dry board.

It didn't make a mark.

I tried a different colour and still nothing.

Another marker marked my finger but still wouldn't work on the board.

When I felt the surface of the white board, it was wet.

The air conditioner was pouring cold dry air in at one end of the container and I was by the open door at the other end, right where the cold dry air met the warm wet air outside.

I was standing with the board in a little cloud all of my own.

Lesson number one, a dry marker will not work on a wet board.

I couldn't close the door because there was no window, and the only light was coming from the open door.

Werner came to the rescue again and suggested that we position the board at the other end of the container, thecold end, and the crew would have to come and sit in the cloud end.

This sounded like a good plan but the container was too crowded to move the wet dry board up to the other end.

The crew were beginning to enjoy this so as soon as they saw the problem they all jumped up with their chairs and went outside into the sun while I picked up the board and went to the cold end of the container.

Then they all filed back in again and sat down facing the other way.

The board had dried by the time everybody was back and I asked again which was the operation that they disliked the most.

This time they shouted back together "Delizando", and I wrote Delizando at the top of the board.

Next I asked them to tell me what they did that made them dislike the job.

At first it was mostly directed against the European supervisors.

"They shout at us all the time",

"They don't give us any respect",

"They are swearing at us all the time",

"They are putting pressure on us which causes mistakes and makes more delays".

All these general gripes were acknowledged and written down, then I found myself writing more and more task specific points.

"It takes a long time to get the generator if we have to do any welding."

"When the tractor goes away to pull the hydraulic unit we have to stop skidding because we need the tractor to lay the skid plates."

"We have to wait while the logging unit disconnect their remote sensors from the rig."

The ideas were coming thick and fast and I was running out of room to write them.

Werner found another whiteboard and gave me that.

I was writing smaller and smaller but there was no let up, and I had to call a halt when I reached the bottom of the second column on the second board.

I explained to the crews that it was three days before they were going to skid the rig again.

I would write out all the suggestions from these crews and add all of those from the other two crews and, before the next skidding operation, I would help the crews work out how they could incorporate them into the next plan.

If the crews were happy I would take fifteen minutes of their time before each shift and work out as many ideas as possible.

When they skidded next time each crew could use the ideas
from all of the crews. Did that sound like a deal?

"Thanks for your time, I'll see you tomorrow," I said, and they wandered back out into the sun, some to get changed for work and the others to get on the bus for the three hour trip back to El Tigre.

While I sat on in the gloom the crews left and Werner came back in.

I could see his head cocked slightly to one side and that he was thinking, "I could have done that."

I waited and eventually Werner asked, "So that's it, you just ask them how to do their job then tell them to go and do it."

In a nutshell, I had to admit that was what I did.

There was however one small exception that would make the difference between the crew changing the way they worked, or continuing to work the same way they always had.

Nobody was going to tell them to do anything.

The crews would decide what changes they wanted to make, and then they would implement those changes themselves.

This could have been a bit strong for some Toolpushers who might fear losing control but I knew from Willie that Werner was under a lot of pressure to make the rig pay.

I was counting on him understanding that the more the crew could do for themselves the less strain it would be on him.

This would allow him more time for the business of running the rig, instead of running the crew.

I had gambled with Werner on what he saw as control.

For many managers "control" is the ability to tell people what to do.

Telling people what to do does not necessarily achieve anything but for these people relinquishing control is frightening because they have no idea of how else to spend their day.

My observation of Werner was that telling people what to do was something he would rather not be doing, he just did not know another way to get people to do what he wanted.

Werner was open enough to welcome my suggestion in a situation where other individuals may have seen it as undermining their authority and resisted vigorously.

I could see that it made sense to him but Werner had still not known me for more than six hours and was understandably cautious.

"OK," Werner said, "and we will only do this for the skidding operation and you let me know how you are progressing.

" I smiled a little to myself and said, "Of course Werner, you will always know what is going on."

As he walked back outside into the light I saw him bend down to pick something up outside the door.

He brought it into the container and put it on the desk. It was a coffee percolator.

He said with a straight face, "If you are going to stay then you will probably need one of these."

"There's coffee and filter papers in the galley and they will give you a bottle of water too, don't use the stuff out of the taps it'll kill you.
I'll be back for a cup when I've got the rig started again".

Werner left the container and I set about producing the coffee.

I collected everything I needed from the galley and switched the coffee machine on.

I had just plugged in the laptop when there was a knock on the door.

I was going to say come in but a loud bang and a flood of light
suggested that the door had had enough of being propped up and had fallen over.

I got up and went to the door.

Shading my eyes against the brightness of the sun I could see a young Indian boy standing looking at the fallen door absolutely horrified.

He looked at me worriedly then back at the door, but I couldn't laugh.

Instead with a serious face I showed the boy the hinges and the lock and explained the story about the key.

The boy finally relaxed when he realised that he was not going to be blamed for breaking the door and he told me why he was there.

He said with great pride, "I am Eduardo, assistant to the electrician."

Señor Werner had told him to come and change the light so he had brought a filament bulb.

I was trying to explain to him the difference between a fluorescent strip and a normal bulb when Willie came in looking as if he was ready to steal Werner's inaugural cup of coffee.

I wrote a note for Eduardo to take to the electrician and sent him off saying that the electrician would tell him about the different bulbs.

I poured the coffee for Willie hoping that Werner wouldn't be too upset to be missing the first cup, and gave him my impressions of the crew and how the first session had gone.

Eventually Willie had to ask again, what was I going to do?

I asked him how long it had taken to skid the rig last time.

He had been on site when they skidded two days ago, and said with some pride that it had taken six and a half hours, which was the fastest they had ever done it.

Having listened to the first two crews' ideas I was prepared to take a gamble based on my belief in the power of ordinary people, and told Willie that I was going to be on site for the next three weeks.

I said, "At the end of those three weeks the crew will skid the rig in one hour.

That is what I will do for you".

"Absolute rubbish," said Willie.

He had been on site for the last skid, watching everybody running round like crazy, had seen the Toolpusher shouting and tearing his hair out, and had seen the crew working flat out.

There was no way.

The more Willie talked the more I knew it was a sure thing.

I said, "Willie, I bet you one beer. One beer says that the rig will skid in one hour before I go home."

He protested but I refused to be drawn into a discussion about the impossibility of the bet.

Take it or leave it.

Eventually I wore Willie down and we shook hands.

The bet was on.

I have always disliked the idea of selling.

I have never consciously done it and always automatically resisted when it was done to me.

This was my individual reaction to being told what to do by a salesman but I recognise that many other people have exactly the same reaction.

I liken this reaction to walking around a second hand car lot.

You see the right car in the right colour at the right price and decide to buy it.

After you have made your decision a salesman comes and starts to try and sell it to you.

You will refuse to buy it on the grounds that if the salesman
wants to sell it so badly there must be something wrong with it.

My answer when using the Breaking the Mould process, to avoid this defensive reaction, was not to sell at all.

Instead like any shop I prefer to set out my wares and allow my customers to make their own minds up.

Using this approach with the crews avoided building resistance to change.

I had not sold them the idea of Breaking the Mould, but instead I showed the crews how it worked and allowed them to make their own decisions.

I have a lot of faith in people when they were allowed to make up their own minds.

This was the first time I had ever made a bet on it.

Peter A Hunter

www.breakingthemould.co.uk

and at

www.hunter-consultants.co.uk.

Breaking the Mould - Chapter 4

Chapter 4

Breaking The Mould

I didn't talk to Willie any more about skidding the rig but over the coffee I filled him in a little about where he personally fitted into the process, and what it was that the process expected of him.

I said that I would be collecting suggestions and ideas for improvement from the crew.

Some of the suggestions could be dealt with on the rig but there would be some that would need his help to get implemented.

I explained that when I collected suggestions there were two effects that I looked for.

The first was the obvious one of an improvement in the way in which the rig did its business, a change of equipment or a new procedure, but that there was another equally important effect, which was that the crew, by receiving feedback when they made a suggestion, knew that someone was valuing their opinion.

They would know that someone was giving them respect and for the Venezuelan crews I knew that respect was more important than money.

I asked Willie that, when presented with these suggestions he try his hardest to do what they suggested, even if the idea was not perfect.

If he did have to say no, then when he did he must give an explanation why not.

Whatever the issue I asked that he never ignore an idea.

To help him I would store all the lessons and ideas on a database.

In this way even when he was busy I would help him to make sure that no suggestion or idea was ever forgotten.

That was simple enough and Willie agreed.

As he was pouring his second cup of coffee Werner walked in.

I could see that Willie wanted to share the bet with Werner, either to get him on his side to ridicule the bet or to try to help me by setting it as a target for Werner.

I did not want either to happen.

I certainly did not want anyone taking sides at this early stage and I definitely did not want Werner to get the message that I had set a target for him.

He would either accept the target and shout and rage at the crew even harder to try to achieve it, which was unlikely, or more likely he would refuse to accept the imposed target and start to work to undermine the process.

The Breaking the Mould process is robust and can cope with uncommitted or negative people.

If people don't understand enough to make a reasoned decision they will stand back and wait while the evidence unfolds.

Each person will, at some point, become convinced by the evidence they see and will join the process.

They become committed to the process because they have decided for themselves that it is the best thing to do.

If people are told what to do they will stop doing it as soon as they are no longer being told.

When they decide what to do for themselves the change is
sustained and that is what makes patience so vital.

Without the patience or faith to wait for the sustained change there is just lip service, which disappears the minute the implementer's back is turned.

The Breaking the Mould process focuses on creating the conditions for ownership then giving support to the individuals when they decide to take it.

Breaking the Mould can cope with people who are openly hostile to the process and make it their mission to undermine it.

As long as the door is left open these people invariably come back when they see the benefits for themselves and become champions of the process.

Sometimes it takes a huge act of faith to continue to believe this.

My hardest nut to crack was a committed shouter and control freak working on a rig in the North Sea.

It had taken over two years for this man to realise what was happening and embrace the process.

If at any time during that period I had stopped taking care of this man, if I had stopped providing him with information about the process, if I had stopped letting him see what was going on or taken any of his tantrums or his outbursts personally then I would have lost the man and he would have remained a bitter opponent.

If that had happened it would have become his object in life to dismantle the process the minute I left the rig.

As it was, that contract was a particularly long one and after two years when I was thinking for the umpteenth time what I could do to allow this guy to join in before I left the rig, I saw a strange thing.

Whenever a new face joined the team I always made a point of
introducing myself and spending a few minutes explaining what was going on.

Just enough to set the expectation about the routine of planning meetings and debriefs which had become a part of the way the rig did its business.

A new supervisor joined from a different rig and he was accustomed to being unquestioned in his authority and definitely in charge. He was a young man who had risen to his supervisor's position relatively quickly.

I talked to him to set the expectation about the way the rig worked and what his contribution was expected to be to the overall process.

At first he seemed happy, but very soon he started to become irritated with having to tell everybody everything about what he was going to do or had to be done.

He could not see the need to tell the night shift when he had
already told the day shift and since he knew everything he could not see why he should have to ask anybody else's opinion.

I was happy to let things ride, so that without pressure the supervisor could relax and perhaps look at things more clearly, but the new supervisor was not so patient, and after a week he went to the hard nut Toolpusher and asked him why he had to put up with all this "bull".

Normally the hard nut, when having a "private" conversation with an individual would slam the door to his office and have his private conversation in exactly the same way that an ostrich would, completely uninhibited and oblivious to the world because he could not see it.

This day he asked the supervisor into his office and did not shut the door.

My desk was outside and along with everyone else in that outer office I listened while the Toolpusher explained to the new guy exactly what was going on and how he as a supervisor had a responsibility to his crew to be seen to be showing them the correct example.

The supervisor came out shell-shocked; he had gone in expecting sympathy and had come out after twenty minutes of an extremely hard conversation.

I left the rig three months later secure in the knowledge that
the process was in good hands.

The above is true, as the process will always allow people to come to it when they are ready but it is much harder work to swim against the tide and I for one, when presented with the option of working with someone or against would always select the easy way.

I had no wish to upset Werner, so before Willie could wreak his innocent damage I recapped for Werner's benefit exactly how he would see the process working day to day.

I told him what I had explained to Willie.

At the heart of the process were the suggestions and ideas that I was able to get from the crews about improvements they wanted to make to their jobs.

These suggestions and lessons would be gathered as soon as practically possible after an operation was completed.

Lessons that involved a change in the hardware i.e. the machinery or tools would be dealt with by the Toolpusher or the superintendent by either saying yes, and purchasing the required equipment, or saying no and providing feedback to let the originator know that he was not being ignored.

This feedback is the key to creating the conditions for ownership.

Lessons or ideas that involved changing the software, by which I mean the procedure or the way that an operation was carried out, would be dealt with on the rig.

Ideas would be collected from the crews to use the next time they did thesame job.

Every time they did a job they would learn from it and the next time would be an even better implementation.

This way the crew would always know more at the start of the next operation than they did the last time it was performed.

Two cups of coffee was enough.

I felt as if I had been talking the whole day and I saw that as a bad sign in a business where it is so important to be able to listen, to find out what is important to your audience.

Werner made his excuses and went up to the rig floor, Willie going with him.

I put my feet up on the desk, turned off the air-conditioning and offered thanks to the continent that had invented the siesta.

Behind my closed his eyes I reflected that I had made significant progress with both Willie and Werner.

Now they both knew the words that described the process and when they saw it in action I was confident that they would be able
to fully understand and develop the power of their own contributions.

Peter A Hunter

www.breakingthemould.co.uk

and at

www.hunter-consultants.co.uk.

Breaking the Mould - Chapter 5

Chapter 5

Willie's Cushions

After the meetings with all four of the crews I took stock of the mass of information I had received and found that I had collected a list of seventyfour suggestions for improvements to the skidding operation.

These were either positive suggestions to improve the operation or simply ideas to stop doing things that wasted their time.

Over the next few days I went to their Charlas. (Literally translated it means a chat).

They gave me fifteen minutes of their time before each shift and I used this time to ask them how they were going to make each
of these suggestions happen.

Gradually the list of actions was completed and on the day of the first skid each of the points had been addressed.

Finding that one action addressed several problems I had a list that totalled thirty two significant changes to the skidding operation.

I spoke to the crew who were going to carry out the operation, with the list of thirty two changes in my pocket.

I asked the crew if they felt ready for the skid, and was there anything else they could think of that would be a benefit to the operation.

"No," they said, they were ready and they were happy.

This skid, with the work they had done, was going to be good.

I agreed with them, I told them to take their time to be safe, and I kept the list in my pocket.

At that moment the crew owned the answers to all of the improvements they wanted to make.

If I told them to use the list I would in effect be telling them how to do their job.

That would remove their ownership.

Good things come to he who waits.

I watched the skid without a notebook or a clipboard or a stopwatch.

I spent my time wandering around talking to the crew about whatever they wanted to talk about.

Someone would have a new idea, "Can we use the Company pickup to pull the power pack?"

Someone else would be curious about Scotland, "Was it an island?"

The crane driver wanted me to bring him some whisky next time I came out.

I had to explain to him that a bottle of Scotch whisky was actually cheaper in Venezuela than Scotland, which was quite difficult to do.

The skid finished and Werner wrote in the log that it had taken five hours.

That represented a significant improvement over the best ever time of six and a half hours but Werner was still puzzled.

He knew what I had been doing.

I had told him that the crew had worked out thirty two different
ideas to improve the skid and he had seen some of those ideas being used.

He was puzzled that the improvement was not more significant, but I asked him to wait and see what the crew said at the debriefing.

I debriefed the crew the following day at their next Charla.
They were withdrawn, not at all the noisy animated group I had seen before, now they were very subdued and it was difficult to get them to speak.

They knew that they had skidded in five hours and they knew that the Gringo was going to shout at them for not doing it quicker because that was what always happened.

I asked them what they thought had gone well.

I shut up and waited.

There was a lot of glancing backwards and forwards through lowered eyes and then the crane driver said that attaching the welding unit to the rig had been a good idea because he did not have to waste time lifting it to keep it up with the rig when it moved.

There was a nervous silence.

Now was he going to get shouted at?

I wrote it down on the board and asked what else.

In no time the room became animated again and the list of what went well began to grow.

It did not take long to fill half the board and then it began to slow down.

Now I asked what did not go so well. I was off again scribbling to keep up with their ideas.

I filled up the other side of the board.

By this time the other crew would have been chafing to get away from the rig so I let the crew go to change for work and promised to continue next time.

In the meantime I would ask the other crews how they would solve the problems.

I made progress with the other crews but the breakthrough came the next time that I spoke to the first crew which had skidded the rig.

By this time half the points on their list had been dealt with and removed, but the driller asked me to put up the original list again.

I did so then gave him the pen and sat down with the crew.

I knew what was coming and wished that Werner had been there to see it too.

When the driller stood up and went to the board, it felt like one of those moments when the world stops.

He stood in front of the board and read the list of things they could do better then started putting ticks against some of them.

I could see which they were and could see where he was going with it.

He then turned around and asked the crew if they could see why he had ticked the points he had.

Nobody even guessed, and after allowing a pause I put my hand up.

"Are they all the same ideas which you had the first time I wrote out the list?" I said.

The penny dropped and suddenly everybody was blaming each other for forgetting to do what they had said they would do last time.

I put my hand up again and the driller motioned for quiet.

I told them that it didn't really matter who had forgotten, what mattered was how could they make sure that they did not forget again next time, or if another crew did the next skid, how could they make sure that the other crew did not forget.

The crane driver asked if I could make them a checklist to use so that they would not forget again.

I said their checklist (which was still in my pocket) would be ready the next day, and if they thought it was good enough it could be given to the other crews too.

The following day Willie turned up.

Because of the distance he only visited about once a week and despite the daily phone call he and Werner had a lot to talk about.

I had spoken to Werner about the checklist and why it was still in my pocket during the first skid.

I told Werner that since the first checklist had not been the crew's idea, giving it to them would have made the crew feel as if they were being told what to do even though the ideas were all their own.

Now the checklist was not my list, it belonged to the crews and I was just the person who had the printer and could make
the changes.

This was the crew's checklist of their own improvements, they owned it, and because they owned it, they would use it.

I noticed something else which hadn't happened before.

The crews were now asking what they could do while they were still drilling to prepare in advance for the skid.

Now I was just their clerk.

The crews were running the meetings.

I knew that Werner wanted to give me every chance to help the crews.

I had no idea about the nature of his conversation with Willie that day but when I met Willie after lunch it was clear that progress towards improvement, or apparent lack of it, had been discussed at length.

I felt there was little value in trying to defend the crew's performance so I preempted any criticism by reminding Willie of the promise he had made on the first day, which was that if I asked him to consider an idea, he had said that he would try his best to make it happen.

If he couldn't make it happen then he would tell me "why not" so that he could feed those comments back to the crew.

Raoul the assistant driller had given me a suggestion.

The previous day I had been waiting for the crew's bus to arrive.

That was my excuse to spend a couple of minutes with the guard at the gate chewing the fat.

The real reason was that I only had fifteen minutes with each crew before they went on shift and I didn't want to waste any of that time.

When the bus arrived, it was an eighteen-seater van and every crew change it brought eighteen people, often more.

The trip took three hours and I could only imagine how that must have felt cooped up pressed against each other in the heat in the van.

On their arrival I would watch them emerging and they invariably spent several minutes bending and stretching to iron out the wrinkles caused by the journey.

On this day they piled out as usual and Raoul, after finishing his stretches, came over to talk to me.

He asked if he had heard right at the introduction meeting when I had explained why I was there, that I wanted to know any ideas which would make the operation better.

I said yes, I had deliberately used the word "better" instead of faster or more efficient and was pleased that Raoul had remembered.

I said, "Tell me your idea and I will see what can be done."

Raoul seemed a little embarrassed at first but once he started it poured out.

His concern was about the bus.

Raoul launched into a litany of problems: overcrowding, cramped conditions, omitting to pick people up, some men having to walk for an hour to the pickup points and the length of the journey itself.

There was a whole raft of issues that he just wanted to tell
someone, to get off his chest, but I realised that he was just setting the scene.

None of this was his real point.

Finally he said it.

All that Raoul wanted was cushions on the seats.

The front seats, occupied by the driver and the driller were upholstered and they were fine, but the rest of the crew had to sit for three hours each way, to and from the rig on the jungle roads, on hard wooden benches.

Now I understood the reason for the elaborate stretching exercises that went on whenever the bus arrived.

I wrote down the idea in my notebook and promised to see what could be done.

Now I had Willie's attention, after reminding him of what he had
promised, I told him that the first idea was, "Could we have some cushions in the bus?"

Willie did not explode but he came close to it.

"Cushions on the bus, Cushions! Where do you think you are? This is an oil rig! We are in the middle of the jungle!

Do they think this is a holiday camp?

What will they want next?"

I weathered the storm and after Willie ran out of steam I asked him what sort of ideas had he expected to get from the crews.

He said that he was expecting ideas which would save money running the rig, ideas to speed up the operation, ideas to drill better wells,

Not cushions!

Then I asked Willie, "Suppose that Raoul had an idea tomorrow which cut your costs by ten thousand dollars a week.

Is that the sort of idea you want?"

Willie didn't even think, saying,"Yes of course it is, I'm not running a charity".

I continued, "Do you think that Raoul would give you that ten thousand dollar idea tomorrow if today, when he asked for cushions he did not get them?"

It was a light bulb moment;

Willie opened his mouth then stopped and looked at me through narrowed eyes.

I could see him replaying the conversation and could see understanding flashing across his face.

He started to smile and the next thing he said was, "What colour of cushions should I get?"

I was starting to feel good about Willie. He had made the jump from the theory to the practical application.

I knew that no matter how much I talked and explained about what was happening the only way that Willie would truly understand was when he worked it out for himself.

In the same way that I had allowed the drilling team to figure out their need for a checklist, I had allowed Willie to work out for himself the value of his support for the crew.

Now he understood that when he provided support for the crew they would in turn provide support for him.

Two weeks later, just before I left the rig to go back to Scotland the rig was skidded in fifty-five minutes.

In three weeks the crews had made an eight-hundred percent improvement in the time it took to skid the rig.

I won my bet and Willie bought me the beer.

The crews now planned the skids and held their own debrief meetings to sustain their level of performance.

They owned the operation and in the next four months the skid never again took more than one hour.

The most important thing was that Willie now asked me how I had done it.

Before the dramatic improvement he would not have listened to any explanations or coaching because he could not see how it was going to work.

Now he was asking me how I had made that change because he wanted to understand for himself what he could do to sustain it.

His request was vital for the sustainability of the project. Without Willie understanding and being able to create the same conditions for himself, his behaviour would drive the crews' performance right back to where it had been before I joined.

By responding to his request I was able to coach him and he was able to sustain the improvement after I left.

Peter A Hunter

www.breakingthemould.co.uk

and at

www.hunter-consultants.co.uk.

Breaking the Mould - Chapter 6

Chapter 6

Vente Cuatro

As the project on the rig progressed there began to be signs that something else was happening.

The crews were beginning to enjoy their work.

After three weeks the crew had skidded in under an hour and I had enjoyed collecting my beer.

The crew had enjoyed skidding the rig faster than it had ever been done before, nobody had raised a voice, nobody ran and nobody felt any pressure.

They were learning what it is like to be proud of themselves.

Werner, the Toolpusher, was enjoying the skids too.

When everything was ready he would make a great show of taking his chair from his office out onto the concrete apron.

He would sit with a cup of coffee doing absolutely nothing while in front of him the skid was carried out by a team of inexperienced, semi literate jungle Indians, better than he had ever seen it done in his life.

This was the first solid success and there was now an expectation that the crew would all sit down after the skid and collect the positives and negatives from each operation.

I would simply take the notes and give the crew their amended checklist at the end.

It was time to turn my attention to something else.

I used to go up to the rig floor at odd times every day to talk to the
members of each crew without any agenda.

They would come and chat and I would ask them to explain some aspect of the operation or I would just spend time staring out over the jungle or watching a spectacular sunset.

I had become part of the furniture and whatever operation was
happening just continued around me.

The crews had settled into their stride with the skidding operation and now that Werner was also comfortable it was time to apply the process to other aspects of the drilling operations.

I would spend time watching the crew running the casing.

The casing is run into the well after the drilling is complete to stop the hole from collapsing.

These wells were drilled for about eighteen hundred metres then the casing was run into the hole in nine metre lengths.

These lengths are called joints and would be taken up to the rig floor one at a time then screwed together and run into the hole.

The casing the crew, when they had a minute, would chat or just lean on the rail and watch the jungle while they waited for the next joint to be made ready.

One evening while running casing everything was calm and peaceful and the only raised voice was when the driller was ready to make up the next joint.

He would have to drag the crew's attention back from the jungle to
the job in hand.

I felt that I was setting a bad example by staring out at the jungle myself so I told the driller I was leaving.

I went down to the logging shack where all the times are recorded
automatically and checked the casing running times.

They were nearing the end of a run of casing and the average for the whole run was sixteen joints per hour.

Curiously enough the count for the hour that I had been on the floor was twenty joints.

I was not altogether surprised.

I had long been aware of the value of letting people know how they were doing.

When people know that someone is paying attention to what they are doing their performance will invariably improve, for that reason alone.

Imagine the scenario.

You are starting work on a production line and the supervisor tells you that your daily target is ten widgets per day.

You look at the job and see that it is achievable so off you go.

One day you forget the count and you realise that you have actually made eleven widgets.

Whoops, but not to worry because at least you erred on the right side, and the supervisor can hardly shout at you for exceeding your quota.

But the supervisor doesn't notice, there is no summons to explain what happened so you go back to work.

You say to yourself, "If no one cares then I am sure I will not produce eleven widgets again."

Life carries on until the day that you miscount again.

This time you only produce nine widgets.

Now you are in trouble.

But again, nobody notices.

You wait for the reprimand for a whole week but nothing happens.

Now you know that nobody gives a damn so nine becomes the norm.

Then it slips to eight and again you wait for the inevitable reprimand, which doesn't come,

"If they don't give a damn why should I?"

Before you know it your average production is six, your machine is filthy and when someone finally suggests that you are not meeting your target you fire back with a tirade about the working conditions, the equipment, the stock and the impossibility of achieving a target that has been arbitrarily set by management.

Does that sound familiar?

Imagine the difference if when you accidentally made eleven widgets
somebody had been paying attention and said thank you.

I produced graphs of the crew's performances, running casing, skidding, drilling, cementing, and posted them on the front gate.

Everybody going in or out saw their performance and the crew knew that.

The extra four joints that were run during the hour while I was on the floor were a result of someone paying attention.

It was logical after running the casing to bring the subject up at the next Charla.

I asked the crew the same questions.

What changes could they make to improve the job and what could they stop doing that was hindering them?

I talked to all four crews, asking them and facilitating the discussions to try to figure out what could be done to improve the performance.

By the time I had finished the cycle of discussions with the crews it was only two days away from the next casing run and the list of ideas I had was a big fat zero.

The crews had all the equipment they needed, everything worked
the way it was supposed to, they had the casing and the manpower.

What else could they do?

The rig was prepared and the casing run started.

That afternoon I was in the box I called my office when Cruz, one of the roustabouts, came running and put his head through the door.

By this time there was a light and a door but the door was always propped open with the rock to keep the temperature bearable, the air conditioning was still uncontrollable.

Cruz was out of breath and excited and it was difficult for me to
understand what he was saying at first.

I finally realised that he wanted me to come and watch the casing run.
Cruz was beside himself and almost dragged me outside and across the compound.

The first thing I noticed was that everybody was smiling and giving the thumbs up.

Cruz kept touching my watch and asking for the time.

I realised that Cruz was asking me to time the operation so he could tell the crew how fast they were running the casing.

I pointed at the logging shack and explained that as the time was taken automatically in there, all that Cruz had to do was to ask.

He was off in a second and I headed up to the rig floor.

As I came up the stairs I could see the same smiles all around.

Everybody could sense that they were working well and Cruz had been despatched to get me to find out just how well they were doing.

When I got to the rig floor I was curious to find out for myself what the difference was between this run and the last one that I had observed.

The first thing I noticed was that nobody was looking at the jungle.

Everyone was watching what was going on and was waiting to play his part.

The driller said nothing.

As soon as the casing was in position the crew were ready with the slips and tongs and when a new joint was required it was already at the rig floor waiting for the elevators to swing it into position.

There was no waiting for anything.

The crew still came over to talk to me but now instead of leaning on the rail looking outwards they would talk to me without their eyes leaving the rig floor where the casing was being run.

Before they were needed they were back in position waiting to go.

The smiles and the manic behaviour of Cruz made me think
that they were on a high and perhaps working too fast.

My first thought was that this could be when someone might get hurt.

The more I watched the more I could see that the difference was that now the whole crew was working towards a common goal.

Nobody had to ask or tell anyone what to do because the job was running on automatic, everyone knew what he had to do and was doing it without rushing.

The men were impressed with themselves and they wanted to make sure that someone else was too.

Cruz came out of the logging shack with a huge smile and shouted so that everybody could hear, " Vente Cinco! Vente Cinco!"

There were high fives all round and then the crew settled back into the rhythm of the work.

I left the floor and went back to the office to change the scale on my graph,

I was going to need more room if they were going to continue running casing like this.

A short while later I had a visit from Luis the mud logger.

Luis came from Merida, a beautiful old city in the mountains in the West of Venezuela.

He was the man who ran the recording apparatus in the logging shack.

He told me about Cruz coming in and asking to be shown how to read the charts so that he could tell the crew how fast they were running casing.

I asked him if that had caused a problem.

Cruz said no it hadn't, but it had never happened before and he was not sure if he should have given that information to a roustabout whose job was picking up pipe and delivering it to the rig floor.

Explaining to him why being able to see how they were doing meant
everything to the crew.

I asked him to recall how the crew looked and worked when they were running at sixteen joints per hour and what the difference was now that they were running at twenty five joints per hour.

He looked thoughtful, so I asked him how he thought the crew felt just now, what could he see in their faces.

Luis said, "Now they are proud, they are proud to be running casing so fast.

" He became thoughtful again for a moment then he smiled and said, "Señor Peter, how could they be proud if they don't know how they are doing?

I think I understand."

Luis sat with me for another twenty minutes over a cup of coffee and
talked about Merida.

In the evenings it was my custom to take a walk around the compound before I went to bed.

That night the crew were still running casing so I did not go up to the rig floor for fear of spoiling their new concentration.

As I walked past the rig, the door to the logging shack was flung open and the night logger, Luis's relief, put his hand out and stuck a piece of paper to the outside of the shack.

On it was written in large letters the number twenty four.

He gave me a big thumbs up then ducked back in.

I looked up at the rig floor some nine metres above and could hear the number, "Vente Cuatro," being called up the derrick to the derrick-man and the roughnecks.

For that whole run the average was twenty four joints per hour.

There were occasions when the rate went up to twenty five joints per hour but the average never exceeded twenty four.

When I met Duncan, the country manager, later that month I apologised that the rig had not been able to make the magical average of twenty-five joints per hour.

Duncan did not look too worried, as he was still having a hard time believing that the crew had beaten twenty.

Casing was run in eight more wells before I left the rig.

In seven out of the eight the average speed for running casing was twenty four joints per hour.

On the occasion when they did not make twenty four there was a
mechanical breakdown and the average was twenty two joints per hour.

This was still two more than the target set by the country manager in Caracas that the crews had not been expected to achieve.

In most situations, the rig skidding being an example, the performance improvement comes from a combination of changes.

The most obvious and easily measured change comes from the way that the operation is physically carried out, i.e. the use of new tools or changes in the way in which old tools are used.

The less obvious change comes from a difference in the attitude of the people doing the job.

People generally want to do a good job.

If they can see how they are doing they can take pride in their performance.

When they have no way of knowing if they are doing a good job or not they lose interest and their performance becomes ordinary.

On the rig I had allowed the crew to see how they were doing.

During the casing running there were no changes in the equipment and no changes in procedure.

The crew were doing exactly the same job with exactly the same
equipment but their performance went from sixteen joints per hour to
twenty four joints per hour, a sustained fifty percent improvement.

By allowing the crews to see how they were performing they began to care about what they were doing and take pride.

I had created the conditions which allowed the crews to take ownership and the crews had responded.

That was the difference.

Vente Cuatro

Peter A Hunter

www.breakingthemould.co.uk

and at

www.hunter-consultants.co.uk.