Two and a half days to change the world

The client

The client is a global multi-beverage company, manufacturing and distributing a portfolio of beer, wine, spirits, cider and non-alcoholic beverages. The company operates in Australia, Asia, The Pacific, the Americas, Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

The company has a global Health, Safety & Environment (HSE) team with responsibility for a unified policy, for leading the company to HSE best practice and for meeting or exceeding HSE regulations at all of the company’s operations and sites.

Objectives

  • To agree upon, and develop, a five-year global strategic plan and prepare it in a format that can be presented to the Global Manager, Risk, and then to the Board for ratification.
  • To develop a 12-month action plan with clear outputs for each geographic region.

“The last time the team had attempted a similar task, the result was described as ‘chaos’. While team members were highly competent at their job, they needed external skills and a structured approach to bring about a result.”

Responsibility without authority

Team members shared a common frustration. As internal consultants to the business, they have defined outcomes that they must achieve with people and situations that they do not have direct authority over. In addition, many of the managers within the company regarded HSE as an obligation; a compliance requirement for external regulators. While they were supportive of HSE principles, and would never consciously do anything that would put their people at risk, many did not see the direct relationship between HSE and Operational outcomes. This was further reinforced through their KPIs which focused on production and financial results.

Up a notch

The senior executive with overall responsibility for global HSE wanted a strategic plan that he could present to the Board. His aim was to raise the profile of HSE with the Board, accelerate the progress towards zero injury and best practice, and demonstrate the potential benefits to the company in integrating operations and HSE practices.

His participation at the front-end of the conference, and the fact that the company had invested in external resources, provided considerable impetus and an indication of how seriously the company regards HSE issues.

Two and a half days to change the world

The company’s HSE professionals from around the world assembled in Melbourne. They had two-and-a-half days to develop a major HSE strategy that would cover all of the company’s global operations and all sites. This was an ambitious task and one that several participants were openly sceptical about accomplishing.

A previous attempt at a productive global meeting had produced few beneficial results and had generated a great deal of confusion. Different ideas, agendas, backgrounds and priorities had made it hard to find a common path. This time the company decided to utilise an external resource to ensure a structured approach and to secure a realistic chance of a result.

Agreeing to agree

Once the purpose and the ground rules had been established, the group set about agreeing on definitions – what constituted best practice for the company, what the targets were and how best to achieve the stated aim of zero injury.

At the outset, there were very different views about the role and management of HSE. By the end of the first day there was a common view of what the company’s HSE picture should ideally look like, a strategy for achieving it and the group had brainstormed a list of approximately 100 projects that would fit into that strategy.

On day two that list was whittled down to what’s mandatory and what is achievable over the next two years. A total of 12 projects were selected.

Subgroups were formed, based in part on geographic areas and in part on personal areas of expertise or passion. High level plans of action were formulated, together with dates, required resources, key stakeholders, individual contributions and commitments.

By the third day the team had agreed and fine-tuned:

  • A single strategy for the whole business
  • Business-specific strategies and actions that complement the strategy
  • Individual stakeholder maps and communications plans for engaging clients when promoting the strategy

Early afternoon on the third day this was presented to the Vice President, Safety, followed by an open forum question and answers session.

Why this worked

There were three key factors that made this conference a success:

  • An up-front agreement on the objective and a commitment to achieve it
  • A senior customer – in this case the Board
  • A disciplined approach that ensured clarity of focus, the ability to re-focus people when their thinking strayed and to resist pressure to rush into actions before the strategy is fully developed.

While the conference was considered a success in achieving its stated objective, it achieved additional benefits in building an atmosphere of teamwork and accomplishment.

Most of the attendees saw great opportunities to share resources in the future and to focus their work to a clear strategy rather than to the adhoc, reactive work that typified their routines. They continued working together post-conference, sharing ideas, aligning and progressing projects, and supporting each other in resolving problems.

Easy on paper

This project, like many of our engagements, looks straightforward on paper. The reality is far from it. Our skill is not just in identifying problems and designing solutions, but in making those solutions work – often in a tough business and cultural environment.

GPR Dehler has an excellent record of implementing change programs in Australia, New Zealand, Asia, Europe, North America and Southern Africa. Everything we do is geared towards achieving results – not writing reports. We have the management and planning skills as well as hands on consultants with experience to overcome obstacles and transform good ideas into effective and successful programs. Significantly, we do this with minimum disruption to our clients’ business operations.

Results

  • A single HSE strategy for the whole business
  • Business-specific strategies and actions that complement the strategy.
  • Individual stakeholder maps and communications plans for engaging business-specific clients when promoting the strategy.
  • The strategy and plan were presented to the company’s Global Manager, Risk, to be documented and presented to the Board.