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Business improvement programme leads to multi-million savings for Metronet - December 2005

Staff at Metronetssl are set to save the company almost £2.5million in just 12 months, with a projected saving of more than £12million over five years. But that’s only part of the story. The benefits that M.A. Partnership , have brought to the former public sector organisation go way beyond these significant cost savings.

First team completes unique Cotswold challenge – July 2004

Staff from Cotswold Conference Centre put their best foot forward to become the first team to complete SGA’s challenging new ‘Business Simulation in the Outdoors’ course at the Centre

Business improvement programme leads to multi-million savings for Metronet

Staff at Metronetssl are set to save the company almost £2.5million in just 12 months, with a projected saving of more than £12million over five years. But that’s only part of the story. The benefits that M.A. Partnershipin association with SGA, have brought to the former public sector organisation go way beyond these significant cost savings.

Management development consultancy, M.A. Partnership, were brought in by Colin Matlock, then Stations Asset Manager in the Station Maintain Department of Metronetssl, when Metronetssl was in the process of starting to deliver their maintenance service to London Underground . Previously part of London Underground, the infrastructure maintenance company wanted to initiate culture change – to shift from a traditional public sector organisation to a more customer focused, commercial business.

“I recognised that things were going to be different when we moved to the private sector,” explained Colin. “We needed to demonstrate to onlookers that we were up for change, as well as being able to feel good within ourselves.”

“It was important to create an atmosphere where people felt empowered to establish what their hot issues were, identify what was preventing them delivering, and then have the confidence to do something about it themselves.

“M.A. Partnership was able to tailor a Business Improvement Programme to meet our specific needs. Undertaking the programme was rather a leap of faith but it certainly paid dividends. The results far exceeded my expectations.”

Stuart Gray of M.A. Partnership, says: “Change fails nine times out of 10 because of people issues. Rather than imposing change from the top down, we suggested a Business Process Improvement approach, which involves getting the people who actually carry out the work to change the way they do things. This leads to innovative solutions, better teamwork, greater improvements and, eventually, to culture change.”

The major challenge which faced M.A. Partnership was not how to revamp systems, strategies or structures, but how to change employees’ behaviour and get them to challenge existing practices and to develop their own identity.

Colin Matlock identified staff of differing ages and experience from throughout the Station Maintain Department to whom he could offer the opportunity to join the Business Process Improvement programme. What made it unique, was that for the first time, contractors were also invited to become a part of this change programme.

“All our delivery of work at the front line is through contract and so we treat contractors as part of our team,” said Colin. “It seemed natural to include them in our programme.”

Programme Design

To start the event delegates attended a one day introduction workshop on culture change designed by M.A. Partnership. This encouraged them to review the previous organisation’s benefits and failings, identify the current situation and evaluate the potential and opportunity for improvements that could be achieved by active Business Improvement Teams.

To ensure that all those involved in the programme would be able to work together effectively, it was important to build strong teams. Stuart Gray and Chris Fleming from M.A. Partnership developed a specific team development programme where delegates developed leadership and team skills, and started a preliminary analysis of the “Hot Issues” within the organisation.

Having split into multi-disciplinary teams, they each looked at areas for improvement in differing business processes, gaining a feeling of ownership by identifying the issues themselves.

“The whole idea was to get front line staff to drive the change,” says Chris Fleming. “The support of the senior management team was vital, but it was the frontline staff identifying projects and making it happen that was crucial for success.”

The Business Improvement Teams found that many of their existing business processes were clumsy and long-winded, but because they had always been done in the same way, no-one had challenged them. The aim was to make the processes more effective, more flexible and more proactive in response to their changing business environment.

Following the teambuilding event, the teams were involved in a four day skills training workshop to encourage them to think like internal management consultants. This module provided them with the skills, practical tools, techniques and methodologies to enable them to carry out successful business improvement initiatives.

The next step was for each team to identify their own Business Improvement Project which they would deliver to the organisation. Throughout this time, Stuart and Chris from M.A. Partnership coached and mentored the teams, reinforcing their enthusiasm and momentum for organisational change.

Teams documented all phases of their projects, creating a source of best practice. At the end of their project, they presented their findings to senior management, showing how they identified a problem, found a solution and took ownership of an implementation strategy.

Major cost savings

Nicola van Ingen, Contracts Performance Manager in the Scarce Resource Alliance, Telecommunications, jumped at the opportunity to take part in the business improvement programme.

“I’d been with the company less than a year when I went on the team development event” she says. “I got the chance to get to know lots of other people who I wouldn’t normally have met. Our project looked at external mystery shopper scores and how they correlate with our internal customer satisfaction survey system because we realised that there were cost savings to be made.

“By not measuring like for like, we were paying contractors almost £300,000 each year in unmerited bonuses while being penalised by our customer. Thanks to our project, a new inspection regime will be implemented this year which will enhance customer satisfaction. Undertaking this project has made me feel valued.”

The Business Improvement Programme brought together new recruits like Nicola with time honoured staff such as Project Co-ordinator, Mike Mannering. “I’ve been with the company for 30 odd years,” he says. “I didn’t think you could teach an old dog new tricks, but this programme has proved you can!

“I moved from being sceptical to being very pleasantly surprised. It’s broken down a lot of barriers and shed fresh light onto long established ways of working, which has to be good for everyone.”

Sally Sutcliffe from the Commercial Department of one of Metronetssl’s contractors, Kone, has also been pleased with the results. “We deal with the escalator maintenance contracts for Metronetssl and were delighted to be given the opportunity to express our views and highlight problems. Normally, in this type of environment, we’re usually just dictated to.

“By looking at the huge subject of access notification, we identified that lost time and inefficiencies result in more than £22,000 being wasted each year in our company alone,” she explains. “If you match this amount to the Metronetssl’s other contractors, site access problems could cost more than £100,000 a year.

“Our initial reaction was ‘why aren’t we already looking at this?’ as it’s so simple. It just needed the programme to stimulate our thinking. From their we were able to focus on the issue and to introduce one uniform procedure which all contractors who need access to a station have to follow.”

The rest of the teams were able to identify a host of other business improvements which are having a huge impact on Metronetssl. The complex minor works process has been simplified, reducing it from seven weeks to two, and enabling a 50 per cent efficiency improvement.

A new critical spares store for consumables on Stations has been introduced in conjunction with a handyman scheme, creating a much faster response time to faults. Catching faults upstream could result in a potential £1,000,000 saving per annum.

Frustrated access, which had been costing Metronetssl £300,000 a year, has also been an area of focus.

Developing skills

In addition to almost £2.5million savings in the first year, other major benefits have also resulted from M.A. Partnership’s business improvement programme. More than 100 staff have now received a personal development skills training programme and gained hands-on experience of project management. Plus, the programme has created a forum to facilitate and drive change and provided a valuable opportunity for contractors to collaborate with staff on improving the delivery of services.

In the future, these benefits will continue to grow as the programme has now become an established mechanism for delivering improvement projects and developing individuals. New business improvement teams are coming on board all the time, and if their improvements are rolled out to all contractors in other parts of the business, the savings during a five year period could amount to more than £12million.

“Change is about transformation not instant revolution,” says Chris Fleming. “At Metronetssl we have seen what can be achieved when people feel supported, consulted and clear about the benefits. Now that the transition process has begun, if the champions continue to receive long term support and encouragement, they will certainly secure lasting change.”

To find out more...

First team completes unique Cotswold challenge
July 2004

Staff from Cotswold Conference Centre put their best foot forward to become the first team to complete SGA’s challenging new ‘Business Simulation in the Outdoors’ course at the Centre.

The tailor-made course, which was designed and created by SGA, is based on orienteering and tests a whole host of skills required in the workplace, in an exciting outdoor environment.

“We wanted to try out the unique challenge ourselves so that we can give a first-hand explanation to anyone enquiring about the Centre’s facilities,” commented Nick Akerman, Sales & Marketing Manager at Cotswold Conference Centre. “The course certainly tests you to the maximum!”

Teams must find as many of the 26 controls as possible within the 300 acre grounds at Cotswold Conference Centre. Each control is worth a different amount of money and each amount varies depending on the time taken to find it. Teams are given maps and radios and aim to make as much money as they can by finding the control points as quickly as possible.

To make the challenge similar to a business environment, teams must forecast how much they will make prior to setting off and bonuses are awarded for hitting targets. The importance of clear planning, teamworking, good communication, time management, forecasting and strong leadership all become evident during the challenge.

Stuart Gray, Founder and Director of SGA, added: “The course is great fun to complete while developing key business skills. We hope that many businesses will rise to the challenge!”

For more information on Cotswold Conference Centre’s ‘Business Simulation in the Outdoors’ course, contact Nick on 0845 230 8580 or visit

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