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Don’t Struggle with Your Conveyor Belt

Do you remember the classic episode of I Love Lucy, where our favorite comedienne got a job at a chocolate factory? The bosses kept speeding up her conveyor belt, and no matter how hard she tried, she couldn’t keep up. Lucy shoved chocolates in her mouth, her shirt, her hat. It’s a hilarious picture, but the feeling it captures is one of profound helplessness. Nobody would want to be in that position!

And yet, many owner organizations find themselves struggling with conveyor belts of their own. Capital spending is up, but staffing is at post-recession levels. I spent several hours today with the head of engineering for one of our owner clients that has, over the last 18 months, finally turned the tide in the war on the chocolate factory.

Quadrupling their capital program spend led to an inability to hit their target. The company president found themselves at an impasse: they’d tell Wall Street one thing, but report on another. As you can imagine, that’s a situation where nobody leaves happy. So they called us.

After we presented our CapScore assessment of their overall capital program delivery process, I told them, “This is the easy part. You’ve just been to the doctor, and he’s told you that you need to lose 10 pounds. Now comes the hard part.”

When I asked them where should we start, the answer was resounding and unanimous – change. Changed, behavior, changed culture, and changed processes, a tip-to-toe reimagining of their entire mindset.

A daunting task, to be sure. But they have done it.

They did the heavy lifting, and we were their partner in success. They have changed the way they interact with their contractors. They have changed the way they communicate internally. They have changed their culture to one of increased accountability.

When they found themselves losing against the chocolate factory, they didn’t move faster, or hide chocolates, or try to cheat their way out. Instead, they laughed in its face and redesigned the thing. Now they’re hitting budget, and I couldn’t be more proud of them.

For more information on how to redesign your chocolate factory, contact Continuum Advisory Group.

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