Case study: communicating change effectively

27 Sep 22

Communication has been key to embedding GIRI principles as part of a business-wide drive for improvement, Prof Perry Shard told delegates at GIRI’s autumn members’ meeting.

Perry, who joined Sisk as head of quality in January 2021, said one of his first tasks was to write the business’s annual quality strategy. Sisk had become a GIRI member in November 2020 as part of its activities around World Quality Day and aimed to become a learning-centric operation that avoids repeat errors. The new quality strategy established GIRI as an essential strand, highlighting how it could support delivery.

“One of the actions within the strategy was to create a GIRI deployment plan,” said Perry. “I asked Nick Francis [GIRI Training & Consultancy] to review it, and his feedback was very positive.” However, Perry took the decision not to launch the deployment plan in 2021. “We pressed pause to avoid error. We had initiative overload in the business and I realised that if we pushed ahead it would fall flat on its face. So we took the decision to pause until the following year and it was the best decision we have made. Change is hugely disruptive if you don’t communicate it well and we weren’t ready for change in 2021.”

Instead, Perry described how he embedded GIRI ‘by stealth’ throughout 2021, incorporating GIRI language and key messages through a refresh of Sisk’s quality management system. This resulted in reworking of the concept of ‘improvement’. “We found that ‘improvement’ was intertwined through all the different parts of the existing QMS to the point where it became difficult to understand what it really meant. So we stripped it out as a standalone series and this helped us to define what we were doing.”

The process highlighted the importance of communication, said Perry. “It would have been easy to concentrate on just creating content, but I tried to think about how we could actually communicate it to ensured it reached the people who really needed it. We thought hard about how to structure it, and how to let the business know what we were doing. We also rewrote all the pages in one go for consistency and made sure everything linked together neatly so people could access the things they needed.”

Communication of key messages helped build momentum. For example, Perry observed that while the quality team were always talking about ‘improvement’, this was not the case elsewhere in the business. “We took that as an opportunity to get people talking about the issues and turn them into something positive and we created a business improvement group to deliver problem-solving hackathons. We asked people about the things they would love to change and identified dozens of projects and then asked subject matter experts to ‘hack’ the business and solve them.”

The key to unlocking the issues, said Perry, was asking the right questions. Sisk had three ‘kata’ questions:

  • Where are the known gaps in how we operate that you haven’t done anything to try and resolve?
  • Do you have experts in your teams who have a passion for driving solutions?
  • What things bug you that we need to do better? 

By April 2022, the team had identified 64 projects. “Of those 64, 18 would ultimately deliver consistency across our projects, 17 were projects that provided new tools for people to do their jobs better, and 12 we identified as business critical.”

It was not all about internal communication, however. Perry and his team created a Sharepoint site for all GIRI resources and held a masterclass for Sisk’s work-winning teams about improvement to demonstrate how to exploit GIRI principles in relation to questions on bids and tenders about topics such as stakeholder and supply partner engagement, lean tools and techniques, quality management, risk reduction, and continual improvement.

“We also looked at how we could help GIRI land in the business by working with our 4D planning team. We expanded the ‘build it in your brain’ approach to encompass digital rehearsals and the idea of failing fast, and this became a great way to articulate the message differently.

“We have significantly increased our investment in 4D planning technology to eliminate both waste and error from our programmes and maximise certainty of delivery. The result is £25m in cost avoidance across 22 live UK projects while increasing programme performance. More than 80% of projects using the technology are on programme against baselines.”

Perry also shared Sisk’s NCR Cost of Quality Dashboard that has been developed as part of the change programme. “This places powerful data in the hands of the business to make informed decisions about error at any time. It gives us a good idea of estimated costs and NCRs; if we hadn’t gone down the route of applying GIRI tools and techniques, we wouldn’t have ended up with this tool.”

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