Leadership’s Role In Delivering Sustainable Performance Improvements – Lifting Services (DRDL)

March 15, 2023 - By Wendy Lambourne, Director, MA Industrial and Organisation Psychology, Registered Psychologist with SA Medical & Dental Council

Following multiple Lifting events an independent investigation was carried out and recommendations made regarding various lifting incidents at Devonport. Following another serious incident in September 2018, Neil Bennett and Ray Rose were asked to implement a safe set of arrangements. Ray Rose subsequently took over from Neil as the Head of Lifting Services in May 2020. Over a period of three years, under their leadership, the performance of Lifting Services improved significantly as reflected in the KPIs. The Lifting Services Team have subsequently won an award from Babcock Group for making clear improvements whilst Ray has won an Outstanding Leadership award as part of this.
The contribution of leadership excellence to the turnaround is outlined below.

October 2018 – January 2020 (Neil Bennett)

1. Here To Serve

Legitimate Leadership believes that being here to “give” or to serve is the key determinant of the success of individuals and groups. Any supplier (internal and external) is only trusted and valued to the degree to which their customer is convinced they have their best interests at heart; if the supplier is seen to be committed to understanding and meeting their customer’s needs.

Neil and his team were clear that the only reason Lifting Services existed was to support Production and Projects. A new mission statement was created for the Lifting Services Team which was to provide safe and efficient Lifting solutions for our customer everytime. Of equal importance to “fixing” Cranes was building relationships, including with the ONR. They sought to really understand their customers’ expectations and where they were falling short against these. They built trust through honesty (owning up when they got it wrong) and reliability (delivering on promises). The primary focus was on how they could be most helpful to those they were here to serve. In due course finger-pointing was replaced with working together to get the problem solved.

2. Right People On The Team
Legitimate leaders, like good coaches, don’t start with strategy and tactics but with assessing their players, taking some off the team and bringing new players on board and into positions which play to their strengths and not their weaknesses.
Neil determined who should be helped to move on and who had the attributes which were needed as constituents of a high performing team. Before too long the nucleus of the team was formed both from Babcock people and from contractors who in due course became permanent. Each member of the team brought something unique to the party. As a team they were bigger than the sum of their parts. Like any good coach Neil put together the team that would enable Lifting Services to perform.

3. Watching The Game
Legitimate Leadership believes that empowering people to make an above and beyond contribution requires that they have the Means, Ability and Accountability to do so. The Legitimate Leadership practice for determining what leaders need to “give” their people so that they are allowed, can and are willing to contribute, is “watching the game”.
Neil was highly visible as the Head of Lifting Services. He spent a lot of his time out in the yard both during the day and on back shift. He observed the game of planning for and executing lifts. He spoke to the people but more so he listened to them. He was open and honest about the things he could address or resolve and those he could not or not within the time scale desired. In doing so he ascertained and then addressed the impediments to their contributions. He ensured that watching the game was an integral part of how leaders lead in Lifting Services.

4. Enabling Contribution
Legitimate leaders enable their peoples’ contribution by giving them the tools / resources, enabling systems and processes, clarity of expectations, time / support, decision-making authority and information which allow them to contribute. They also remediate knowledge and skills deficiencies through training and coaching. Lastly, they hold their people both positively and negatively accountable.

Neil quickly identified that the processes in Lifting Services were too complex with excessive controls, making it unnecessarily difficult to get the job done in accordance with British Standards. Within the first month, he replaced the existing processes with more simplified ones that were adopted from other operational businesses as well as from feedback from within the department. He also changed what was measured, choosing to track performance indicators which told Lifting Services and their customers what needed to change to deliver a better result.
Neil set minimum standards for the roles of individual contributors. 195 people were then assessed and retrained in the technical aspects of their roles. Everyone in a leadership role received training and coaching in both Legitimate Leadership principles and practices and the SOE habits.

Neil showed his commitment to leadership development both through his participation in the training and in setting the example for other leaders in Lifting Services to follow. He sought to make himself redundant, handing over to a successor ready and able to take Lifting Services to the next level in its leadership journey.

February 2020 – November 2021 (Ray Rose)

As the Head of Lifting Services, Ray Rose continued the good leadership practices inculcated by Neil Bennett which ensured that everyone in Lifting Services were engaged, enabled and empowered to make an above and beyond contribution. In addition he raised the leadership bar further through the following:

1. Putting Safety First
In an operations environment caring for people is synonymous with looking after their safety at work. Safety performance is a reflection back to leaders on their consistency, role modelling, keeping of commitments and focus on improvement.
The leaders in Lifting Services prioritised safety above anything else. They established daily, weekly, monthly and quarterly safety routines and allocated calendar time for these. They had a safety theme every week which they could all get behind, talk about at every DSUM / WSUM and focus on when watching the game. Ray set simple clear expectations for his team; for example an expectation for each person to raise one Synergi event per month. As a result Ray’s team had a 275% increase in learning events raised from the previous year and reduced accidents from 8 in the previous year to 1.

2. Career and Personal Development
Leaders will only be seen to be legitimate when they both care for and grow those in their charge. A primary responsibility for a leader is to enable each direct report to grow in their current role by inter alia clarifying, assessing and reviewing their contribution, continually raising the bar, increasing their decision-making authority and holding them accountable. Leaders also need to facilitate the growth of their people beyond the role they are in.

Ray Rose spearheaded the development of a Career Path and Development booklet which set out the career paths on offer for progression from trainee slinger through to the head of Lifting, the qualification requirements for each role and a timeline to progress. Each folder also contains a log for career aspirations, career goals, training opportunities and an action tracker. A clear leadership standard has been set of at least one Personal Development Record (PDR) meeting per employee per year, including industrials in the department.

That the focus on development is reaping dividends is evidenced by the fact that most jobs are being filled from within including Ray’s successor as the Head of Lifting Services.

3. Communications
When it comes to management communications, employees want to know ‘how well am I doing?’ and ‘how well
is my department doing?’. Regular, frequent 1-2-1’s as well as feedback from watching the game ensures
information on individual performance is shared. In addition, management needs to communicate improvements which are being made within the department as well as to colleagues outside.

Ray developed an annual communication plan and set an objective of one communication per month. He used videos, posters and articles to communicate advances being made with respect to safe and efficient lifting operations such as the purchase of new mobile retractable belt barriers and quarantine boxes, as well as gains in lifting compliance. His overall aim was to increase employees pride in their work and to convey the progress being made by them to increase the professionalism of the service as well as their pride in being part of the Lifting profession.

Ray also introduced a 15h00 Wash Up meeting which was used to determine what would be the focus for the next day’s watching the game. He set up a WhatsApp group for himself and his direct reports, which led to many other WhatsApp groups. He introduced customer surveys to get feedback and improve customer satisfaction.

4. Implementing and Raising Standards
Legitimate leaders are relentless in the pursuit of human excellence. One of the ways they enable excellence is by continually and incrementally raising the bar on both behavioural and performance standards. . The goal is not to be better than others but to maintain an attitude of being happily discontented which leads to continually being better than before.
Ray’s strategy for improving results has been to adopt an approach of searching for a tiny margin of improvement in everything that is done in Lifting Services. Then following through by making small daily improvements in the process of planning and executing lifts. As the many small improvements in behaviour and performance are being achieved, they accumulate and build to impact positively on the results.

In the ongoing quest to improve, Ray’s team visited the Hinkley Point C construction site to bench mark the Devonport standards against those at the largest construction project in the UK. This is in line with his commitment to continually look outside Devonport’s walls to learn and to evolve to an ever higher standard of operation.

5. Hand Over of Decision-Making Authority
The measure of how empowered people are is what decisions they can make independently of their boss and the degree to which they operate in a freedom rather than control-based environment. As control is handed over it
is replaced with accountability.

Ray determined which processes he could handover and which he still would retain ownership of like the lifting operations procedure. He delegated authority down to Operations Managers who then also passed authority down to the Appointed Persons. He reviewed documentation with those working with the documents and reduced excessive bureaucracy and red tape. In this way he has succeeded in pushing accountability and ownership down the line.

Both Ray and his managers, in the process of empowering their people, refer constantly to the Legitimate Leadership Empowerment Framework both to diagnose and remediate performance issues and increase autonomy through the provision of Means, Ability, Accountability.

Ray has handed over the baton to Christopher Miles who is charged with taking the leadership standard to the next level of excellence.

Some of the fixed cranes are not as reliable as they used to be, mainly due to the amount of years they have been in service and the complex safety systems which have been built into the infrastructure. However, Lifting Services continue to work with the production teams to maximise the utilisation of the cranes and improve efficiency.

Lifting operations is classified as one of the; “Significant Six” hazards on the Devonport site and whilst these operations will always be hazardous, the probability and severity of incidents occurring has significantly reduced through a combination of robust processes, external benchmarking and great leadership.

Wendy Lambourne
Cameron Coutts

If You Believe Your Company Is Like A Family, You Probably Have A Toxic Culture

Cameron Coutts

Wendy Lambourne

Power By Permission

Wendy Lambourne

Rachael Cowin

When Someone Says ‘I’m Happy As I Am’

Rachael Cowin

Wendy Lambourne

May 2023 – Question Of The Month

Wendy Lambourne

Wendy Lambourne

Leaders Get The People They Deserve

Wendy Lambourne

Tom Lintner

Society Needs To Choose – Safety Culture Or Blame Game

Tom Lintner

Wendy Lambourne

April 2023 – Question Of The Month

Wendy Lambourne

Tony Flannigan

Can You Care And Grow People And Have Accountability In A Matrix Organisation?

Tony Flannigan

Sean Hagger

What Is In The Time Bucket?

Sean Hagger

Wendy Lambourne

March 2023 – Question Of The Month

Wendy Lambourne