Project Improves Renewable Company’s Culture, Quality & Business Systems
The Ventoco Way of immersing ourselves in every project as completely as possible served as a catalyst to an enterprise-wide business management system improvement for one of our renewable-energy construction clients and supported the company’s growth following the COVID-19 pandemic.
If You Can’t Measure It, You’re Not Doing It Right
The maxim is as true in renewable energy construction as it is in every other type of business that makes the world go ’round. It also came to define a field culture survey for one of Ventoco’s renewables clients that evolved into a quality management review that, in turn, became a catalyst for a companywide business system improvement project.
Over the course of four months, Ventoco President Lars Moller travelled to 18 renewable-energy-project construction sites in 10 states, conducting over 100 group interviews with more than 800 participants and putting more than 7,000 miles on his pickup truck along the way. In addition, 200 more interviewees were awaiting his return to our client’s headquarters, as were members of the larger project team who were anxious to start digging into the findings from the journey.
What began as a simple series of interviews with field staff ultimately impacted the entire business and helped prepare it for increasing demand and necessary company growth that came as the COVID-19 pandemic eased.
From Front Office to Field Personnel
In early 2020, our client’s CEO and COO approached Moller and asked him to assess the essential in-the-field company culture.
- Was it consistent?
- Was it positive?
- Was it working?
- Were new hires being trained properly?
- Was the company doing everything it could to make living near project sites comfortable for field staff?
- Where were the gaps?
- What were the best ways address them?
Most importantly, was the culture consistently delivering on the company’s long-standing quality promise from the front office to the field?
The company had carefully cultivated its field-first, perform-at-all-costs, high-quality culture and reputation over its long history, but the executives weren’t convinced it was consistently making the journey from long-term team members to the operations and people in the field. As a business that handled billions of dollars in wind, solar and energy storage construction projects across the USA each year, it was important to fully understand how things were being done and how customers were being treated from bottom to top.
The CEO and COO wanted a company culture that reflected a franchise model, they said, with the same world-class quality delivered consistently across the organization at all times.
The Ventoco Way
Moller put together a 12-month plan for completing a comprehensive cultural assessment, with the first months as a discovery phase.
With the pandemic in full swing, flying from project to project wasn’t possible; there was really only one way to get it done. After self-quarantining for two weeks, Moller hooked up his fifth-wheel camper to his pickup and set out. He started with a GW-class wind project in New Mexico, then traveled to renewable-energy construction sites in Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa, South Dakota, Minnesota and back again to projects in Wyoming and finally California.
“It’s the Ventoco Way,” he said. “We immerse ourselves in every project as completely as possible. In this case, we used a reconnaissance methodology to dig deeply into the issues, identify existing and potential problems, and then go where the discovery leads.”
For four months Moller “lived the life,” talking to as many people as possible at every site, from the project manager to the newly hired crew member, gathering information, experiencing working conditions and living in a camper like the majority of his interviewees. He spoke to 600 crewmembers on the first leg, then repeated discussions with 200 of them on the return trip.
As the journey progressed and Moller began piecing together a picture of the situation on the ground, literally, the project scope grew at the behest of the CEO and COO. Soon the inquiries encompassed not just culture but everything that contributed to it: hiring practices, onboarding, ongoing training, pay levels, payroll processes, tools used, materials coming in, construction processes, storage, warehousing, living conditions and amenities, adjacent community interactions and more. You name it, Moller asked about it. The field teams, happy that the company’s leadership was paying attention and willing to listen to their concerns and suggestions, were more than willing to help.
Speaking Truth to Power
Following the discovery phase, including the 200 interviews with headquarters and remotely located personnel, Moller brought in Ventoco Senior Associate Mike Ford, who is one of our business, process and quality experts, along with four of the client’s own people to help with analysis and project coordination.
The team presented its findings, conclusions and recommendations to upper management about a month later. The report encompassed four “master focus areas,” each of which comprised several sub-focus areas.
In the end, the primary value of the project was in highlighting gaps in the company’s overall business management and quality system; the team discovered inconsistencies across the entire enterprise,.
When Moller presented to members of leadership, he used their own words.
“World-class is world-class,” he said. “Although the company was likely performing best-in-class in North America, if world-class truly was going to be the bar the company needed to enhance several areas within each of the master focus areas. The good news was the leadership, the project participants and the field personnel were all interested in improving. Also, the project’s findings provided a strong, documented list for several starting points and a path forward with measurable means for validating improvements in each.”
Poised for Growth
Ventoco retained responsibility for tackling many of the master and subordinated focus areas, but the issues were so wide-ranging that company leadership had to delegate some to the business’s main functional departments.
The two-pronged approach led to new avenues of open and direct communication, as well as methodologies and processes that corrected specific problems, all while providing evidence to enhance a broader quality management system.
* Note – Due to nondisclosure agreements, we are unable to reveal this client’s identity.