Sunday, October 16, 2005

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

and at


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