Our client was already a well performing water utilities company, considered to be efficient, with a strong focus on customer service and good relations with the regulatory body. They asked us to look at their whole business and pinpoint where they were strong and weak, help them achieve performance improvement and develop a business case geared towards meeting shareholder expectations of financial returns.
We began by conducting a future back strategy review. Rather than jump straight in with a structure diagram, we looked at flow, both in the sense of the flow of water from the sky to the reservoir, to the treatment plant to the home etc, and the flow of information and decision making within the company.
We then moved on to structure and operating model design, focusing on the link between the strategy and performance improvement, the balance between head office and field staff, and improving end to end processes in sludge, water and energy management.
We reviewed the leadership approach among the executive team, undertaking leadership team diagnostics and examining the link between leadership and performance.
Using all of this insight we designed and mobilised an performance improvement approach on sites featuring significant interventions in operations, including more meaningful targets, performance hubs, visual management and ways of working.
This five-year project proved the power of getting the operating model configured correctly to enable delivery of the strategy through performance improvement – and understanding how best to deliver the strategy at different levels.
The project also highlighted the importance of specifics; being more precise and directional in the development of the performance improvement approach. And it demonstrated the importance of getting it right on the ground: if you create enough momentum here, deep change can happen and it can be sustainable.
Head office was made more effective, and the new economic model for the business
significantly reduced the cost of failure. End to end processes were stabilised, leading to significant financial gains, reduced overtime and standby payments, improved customer service and reduced unwanted calls, improved operational stability and reduced compliance risk.
Health and safety performance was improved, as was staff engagement and morale. Our performance improvement continued to run and deliver for the following five years.