By: Charles Carnes, Senior Partner; Brian Cole, Principal; Krystyna Riley, Senior Consultant
A high performing Turnaround Steering Team is your key to better planning and execution
Turnarounds are a complex, challenging, and expensive part of capital intensive industries (e.g., refining, mining, power generation). Successful turnarounds require significant collaboration and alignment between operations, maintenance, and engineering to ensure best-in-class performance.
Many organizations have an established process for managing their turnarounds, but often the lack of alignment between senior leaders and their different functional work groups prevents them from achieving their operational, financial, and safety goals for turnarounds. In our experience, a Turnaround Steering Team is the key to taking turnaround performance to the next level and as well as driving longer-term sustainable performance improvements in the turnaround management process.
An effective Turnaround Steering Team brings together the key leaders in a facility who are accountable for turnaround success. The team’s purpose is two-fold. First, it’s responsible for establishing the goals, priorities, and longer-term strategies that build an organization’s capability to deliver successful turnarounds. Second, it serves as a source of accountability and oversight for the turnarounds that are presently underway in a facility.
So, what does it take to have an effective Steering Team? Let’s look at two things:
- What are the most important factors for ensuring your Steering Team is effective?
- What are the most important outcomes from an effective Steering Team?
Factors that Ensure an Effective Steering Team
Get the Right People in the Room, Regularly— In our view, it’s critical that the Steering Team be comprised of the leaders who represent the key functions responsible for effectively scoping, planning, and executing turnarounds, and that they meet together routinely.
Charter the Team—The charter should include a clear statement of the Steering Team’s purpose, well-defined roles for its members, a clearly defined decision-making process, the specific goals and improvement initiatives the team is focused on, and the results targets it aims to influence.
Align and Focus— To effectively lead their organization in achieving better turnaround results, the Steering Team members themselves must first be aligned on two critical direction-setting elements.
- The WHAT: They must be crystal clear on the specific goals, priorities, and results targets for their turnaround improvement efforts.
- The HOW: They must be tightly aligned on the strategies and specific initiatives they will deploy to achieve the desired results, including the key roles and responsibilities for others in the organization.
Based on our experience, misalignment at the top of the organization is THE most significant barrier to improving turnaround performance.
Most Important Outcomes from an Effective Steering Team
Clear Ownership for Turnarounds— The Steering Team must be absolutely clear on who “owns” turnarounds. This also means explicitly communicating to the rest of the organization, who is ultimately accountable for a turnaround’s planning and execution: Operations? Maintenance? Engineering? In the work we do with our clients, clarifying this one key issue lays the foundation for dramatic improvements in turnaround results. In those cases where accountability is unclear, unspoken, or shared between functions, we’ve seen serious issues arise with scope definition, resource planning, and schedule optimization – all of which contributed to poor predictability and significant cost and schedule overruns.
Organizational Alignment— Getting the Steering Team aligned is the first step. The real power and leverage comes from getting the rest of the organization aligned; it’s one of the most important benefits from having an effective Steering Team. Aligning the rest of the organization means getting function leaders on the same page and talking to each other, sharing critical information, and breaking down silos.. Here are just a few of the benefits our clients have experienced by having a Steering Team that’s focused on organizational alignment:
- A clear behavior-results connection—an unambiguous link between the behavior of leaders and employees and the desired turnaround results.
- Clear tracking of results metrics and the proactive management of the employee behaviors that truly impact the results.
- A shared understanding of senior leadership’s role in sustaining alignment, providing support, and holding people accountable.
- Employees at all levels have the detailed information they need to execute their turnaround roles, with a framework for understanding how everyone else is contributing to turnaround success.
Good Strategic Discussions— An effective Steering Team looks at the big picture and focuses on multi-year strategic plans. Good strategic discussions
- Focus on high-level planning and resource allocation – often leveraging a multiyear (5-10) plan for turnarounds.
- Rely on data—make sure high-quality data flows into the Steering Team to ensure objective discussions and decisions based on data, not opinions.
- Review resource needs, both near and long-term, as an ongoing part of every planning discussion.
- Resolve competing priorities.
Our clients often say it’s challenging to select the few behaviors that will enhance turnaround planning and execution. A good starting point is to focus on what CLG calls the 5 Core Leadership Behaviors:
- Setting clear expectations
- Monitoring performance
- Providing positive and constructive feedback
- Coaching for improvement
- Removing barriers
We’ve found that leaders’ consistent demonstration of these behaviors is highly predictive of improved turnaround performance. (We’ll talk more about leadership behaviors in an upcoming post.)
A well-functioning Steering Team can be your key asset to improving cost control, scheduling, resource commitment, contractor usage, safety, and overall turnaround execution. A Steering Team is all about the right leaders, performing the right leadership behaviors, to get things done the right way.
The Next Post in our turnaround series looks at minimizing late scope.