Within this environment the scope for improvement was considerable. However, set against this was a culture that was strongly independent, adapting its approach to work based on a socially driven culture as opposed to results-driven.
This approach was completely opposite to the well-structured, contract-driven and result orientated focus of the main contractors that the highways agency were ‘managing’.
This presented a particularly difficult test for the programme and highlighted the importance of performance skills as a means of changing behaviour, attitudes and achieving measurable results for managers.
A fundamental issue that proved important in providing the catalyst for change were the significant compensation awards being made against the agency by the International Arbitration Court. This provided a degree of urgency and impetus within the programme and allowed the courses to be contextualised in illustrating potential areas for change and improvement. In essence, the courses and the action points contained within each tutorial acted as a catalyst for seeking improvements to management practice and performance.
This became a major measurement in gauging management performance. During the initial two-year period of the programme a 50% reduction in claims against the highways agency was achieved resulting in a saving in excess of $1 million. During the subsequent two-year period up to 2004 this had been reduced to 20%.
So, how was this achieved?
Firstly, it is important to note that the problems had little to do with technical skills. There were no real technical issues, other than to demonstrate, as part of other areas of the capacity building, the latest techniques in road-side drainage, kerbs, road surfacing, bridge construction and so forth, designed to improve specification standards within the tender bid process, for example.
The problems related to how to improve management performance. The answers lay in the underlying inefficiencies that caused the large claims, against the highways agency, in the first place; issues such as:
- delays in negotiating land compensation claims
- delays in access to sites for mobilisation
- poor organisation of the tender process and analysis of needs
- inadequate information management
- unclear roles and responsibilities
- low levels of productivity
- constant interruptions by contractor personnel
- little or no objective setting
- ineffective delegation
- time wasting, particular through unscheduled meetings
- poor communication internally and externally
- no prioritisation of tasks
- bad time management
- no understanding of personal organisation
- an absence of effective teamwork
Against this background it was not difficult to identify the relevance of the Skillogy PERFORM™ courses and their potential impact in improving performance.
Significant results were achieved at a personal productivity level through a better understanding of job knowledge, improved personal organisation and time management, especially where social expediency had been seen as a priority over work objectives.
A measure of individual productivity improvement indicated an average gain approaching 60%. The data was captured through task analysis, analysis of time logs and changes in work practice (taken as pre and post work assessments).
Teamwork was another area of major improvement due to better delegation management and priority management combining to improve work output and achieve deadlines. There was a considerable improvement in team motivation and a reduction in absenteeism of 75%.
The tender process was significantly improved through clearer specifications and instructions, better planning and control, proper scheduling, analysis and comparisons combined with more effective procedures for financial analysis and reporting.
Improvements were recognised in the decision management through a better understanding of the process and improvements in the quality and timing of information management.
Business planning was improved through clearer objective setting. The role of senior managers was clarified with a strong focus on transforming leadership and change management.
The meetings culture was radically overhauled with improvements in planning, organisation and control of meetings. Numbers, both in terms of meetings and attendees were significantly reduced as was the tendency for ‘snap meetings’. This resulted in considerable savings in time through better meetings management (100 hours of management time per week).