Business Readiness / Operational Readiness

  • Is your organisation embarking on a new or expansion project?
  • Do you have solid plans to be operationally ready when the facilities have been built?
  • Will you have the right people in the right places with the right skills at the right time?
  • Will your people start up as a cohesive team in a healthy, productive culture?

Too often we have seen organisations do an excellent job building their facilities; how well did they do starting the operation? Was it safe? Did it ramp up quickly? Unfortunately we all know the answer to these questions too often is ‘no’…

Logical, transparent method

First Principles Consulting’s process-centric approach focuses on identifying all project deliverables by starting with the end in mind: We ask:

  • “How will you lead the organisation?”
  • “What are the processes required to deliver the project’s objectives?”
  • “How will these processes be enabled to realize their full potential?”

Combine our method with a well-run Project Management Office (PMO), essential project Front End Loading (FEL) and your clear leadership, and you have some of the critical success factors you are looking for.

Examples of Our Work

Operational Readiness at the operations level

Project: Substantial upgrade to a crushing circuit at a remote site in PNG. Conducted early stakeholder engagement sessions resulting in a mutually owned project plan; instrumental in the delivery of Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs), identification of scheduled preventive maintenance (PMs) tasks in preparation of loading these into the Computerised Maintenance Management System (CMMS). Reliability Engineering activities, Spares and Inventory, maintainer and operator competency upgrades, Risk Management.

Outcomes: Personnel had been trained, operational management system elements had been implemented and critical spares were in store prior to turning the production unit on. This resulted in a faster ramp up and more reliable operation, delivering the ROI earlier than promised in the project proposal.

Business Readiness from the corporate level

Project: Iron Ore Miner in Perth, Australia, preparing for a large scale remote mine, rail and port operation. Developed the Business Readiness Framework. This included drafting the BR content of their Bankable Feasibility Study (BFS), describing how the organisation will operate as well as the Project Execution Plan (PEP) of how this body of work was to be deployed.

Outcomes: Benefits arose from a more rapid ramp up than otherwise would be achieved. This steep ramp up curve readily translates into more throughput earlier and therefore a higher ROI on the overallproject. In other words, by investing a relatively modest amount in the Business/Operational Readiness aspect the whole project is subject to a much greater ROI.

Integrated Management Systems

  • Do some issues in your organisation have a nasty habit of recurring?
  • Is it always clear who ‘owns’ which processes?
  • Do you find that, despite all best intentions, cross-functional communications break down and silos arise?
  • Have you duplicated similar systems and processes for different purposes (e.g. safety, environment, community, security), making life unnecessarily complex for your team members?

Every organisation has management systems and business processes, however, they may not always think of them as such. Or even be consciously aware of all of them. This can be problematic, as these are often the processes, which cause so many recurring issues. But if they are not identified, documented, and have a single go-to owner, who is empowered to reach across the organisation if required to make their processes fit-for-purpose, the odds are not in your favour.

Clearly identified processes, agreed upon, documented, with owners and in a state of continual improvement

Can you say that about all of the business and management processes being used in your organisation? The process-centric organisation empowers employees to carry out their tasks with competence, confidence, reliably and repeatably and a clear understanding of where their ‘jurisdiction’ starts and ends. It is the opposite of chaos.

First Principles Consulting understands business and management processes; it is this commonality amongst all businesses that allows us to work across industries to assist you not only improve the way you conduct our operations but also embed continual improvement in everything you do from here on, giving your organisation a competitive edge it might not yet have.

Example of Our Work

Co-developed an Operations Management System Manual (Blueprint)

Project: Large Global Mining Corporation – Co-developed a very specific and comprehensive integrated manual, which, in its 260 pages, defined a hands-on, standardised method for managing mine sites. It ensured more reliable outcomes and systematic continual improvement was embedded into the daily operations cycle. This Blueprint was subsequently rolled out globally to realise the business opportunity.

Operations Blueprint Proof-of-Concept Pilot Project ​
Implemented the above-mentioned management system blueprint at a large Gold Mine in the USA. The objective was to prove the blueprint’s validity prior to rolling it out to the global corporation.

Outcomes: This Integrated Management Systems (IMS) aligned functional departments, enabling improved cross-functional collaboration. This was the true for all segments of the closed loop Plan-Do-Check-Act cycle. No longer were plans developed in isolation only to be found they could not be executed, but developed jointly instead. Execution was managed more tightly through Short Interval Control processes, resulting in higher, more reliable and safe production. Checking for variance against the plan was now being done hourly, daily and weekly, not just monthly. Closing the PDCA loop, the site-wide action management system that had been installed enabled the systematic elimination of issues, risks and unwanted events, resulting in structured, continual improvement in every aspect of the business.

Project Management Framework (PMF)

  • Do the Projects in your organisation run over schedule, over budget or fail to deliver the benefits they were commissioned for in the first place?
  • Are they the right projects for your organisation to be doing right now?
  • Does the personnel executing your projects have all the skills and competencies they require?
  • Do some of your people have split responsibilities towards operations and projects? If so, do you find they typically keep on top of their operational duties but struggle more with their project deliveries?

Two Critical Success Factors: PM Framework and PM Competencies

Organisations can deliver their projects on time, on budget, to the agreed quality standards every time. Apart from a sufficient level of leadership support, what is required is a framework that integrates seamlessly with the companies’ other management  and business processes. We have observed how such management frameworks provide early warnings when some team members struggle, which allows management to provide help in time, which in turn improves probability of project success. Similarly, we have seen average performers rise to become outstanding ones, thanks to the extra support the PMF provides.

In a Project Management Framework (PMF), the path to project success is clearly outlined and straying from it is not an option.

It goes without saying that people carrying out projects (especially when they are already involved in daily operations) require Project Management Competency. The old school of hard knocks is certainly one option, albeit a costly and inefficient one. A much better approach is to provide the required skill set, not only in generic form but also customised to your specific PMF.

Example of Our Work

Developed and deployed a customised PMF

Project: Gold Miner in Queensland, Australia – ​Analysed requirements, custom-developed a PMF based on the Project Management Institute’s (PMI) Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK) and the organisation’s culture, maturity level and other requirements. Facilitated the customisation of the PMBOK-based training to match their new custom PMF.

Outcomes: Projects are now managed through the five stages (initiating, planning, executing, monitoring & controlling and closing).The improved project funnel and project initiation rigour now allows the organisation to choose the most important projects and stage-manage them to their successful completion. Planning is now done with more foresight and proactive measures are put in place where required. Execution is carefully monitored and support provided when a project is at risk. Structured post mortems identify valuable lessons learned and the site-wide action management system ensures those lessons are actually converted into process improvements, technology fixes or competency upgrades as required.

Strategy. Tactics. Actions. Reviews. Results.

How often have you spent an inordinate amount of time, effort and money on developing your business strategy, only to find its implementation was too fragmented to achieve its objectives?

Have you found yourself feeling guiltier when you’re looking at your strategy as the year grows older and the strategy is not being systematically deployed?

How many times have you found yourself in a quarterly strategy review meeting, only to find that you’re already so far behind, you feel defeated before having had a chance at success?

Two Critical Success Factors

A Winning Strategy and a Proven Execution Process

What makes our Strategy Execution process successful is the fact that, like all of the management and business processes we help our clients implement, they are always fully integrated with their other processes. Implementing a strategy when people are already busy doing their ‘day job’ can often be seen as work that is over and above what ‘they have signed up’ for. The ‘extra’ work needs to become part of everyday work. Doing a little bit every day makes success more probable compared to trying to catch up at the end of each quarter.

Examples of Our Work

STARR Implementation - Our ‘Signature Dish'

Project:  Iron Ore Mine, WA – This client had recently transitioned from commissioning to operations and many issues remained unsolved. A series of workshops identified all the major problems that needed to be resolved urgently and a set of project plans were developed. Metrics to track progress objectively were identified together with target completion dates. On a monthly basis these goals were then translated to achievable deliverables for that month and committed to. Progress on these deliverables was reviewed weekly and interventions taken when necessary.
Outcomes: The ramp up towards production targets started to become more predictable, resulting in better ROI as well as reduced stress due to clearer expectations, communications and more reliably attained outcomes.

Strategy Implementation Process

Project: Large Nickel refinery, QLD, Australia – A precursor to what later developed into the STARR process, this ‘Alignment’ effort involved breaking down the Long Term Strategy (5YP) into a 12 month business plan, KPIs and manageable goals and sub-projects. A process which incorporated more frequent reviews and realignment of status vs plan than was previously the norm was implemented.
Outcomes: This resulted in a tangible, sustainable process change, which in turn led to the desired behaviour changes and ultimately cultural changes (‘reliably delivering on our promises’). The business plans for all departments were more completely implemented than any year before.

Business & Operations Improvement

  • How do you run your operation?
  • Could you draw a clear diagram to explain it?
  • Does your management method follow a structured approach or did it grow ‘organically’? – Which might be a fancy word for a painful and expensive period of trial and error…

Business Commonalities and Unique Aspects

First Principles Consulting is a specialist global firm, assisting companies improve their businesses by improving their management cycle. What is the management cycle? In our world, this simply refers to the continuous loop of Plan-Do-Check-Act and is common to all businesses regardless of their nature. Also called the Deming Cycle, after the author Dr. W. Edwards Deming who published it in the Fifties, it encapsulates a simple process, which one would think of as common sense. Well, it may be common sense, but from years of frontline consulting experience, we can tell you it certainly is not common practice.

Herein lies your opportunity. By determining in which part of the cycle we are suffering the biggest gaps, we can focus our business improvement efforts there first.

Usually First Principles Consulting conducts an analysis to find the constraints (of any kind: material, time, skills, etc). We then outline the opportunity to you, together with the expected benefits, so you can make an informed decision.

When it comes to business improvement methods, it turns out that one size does not fit all. This is because businesses and opportunities are unique.

That’s why we have an extensive toolbox for business improvement. But it usually starts with a rigorous analysis of your management and/or business processes. Coupled with some statistical analysis, observations and a choice of the right method.

Example of Our Work

Production and Productivity Improvement Project

Project: UG Gold Mine Western Australia – An unusual assignment, this project had a poorly defined scope and deliverables, with the only client brief being to improve production and productivity. This was the kind of project that drew on all of our diagnostic skills, requiring physical observations, statistical analysis as well as systems and process reviews. Furthermore, a series of One-on-One interviews were conducted as well as some workshops to help identify other issues. Through the lens of People-Process-Technology, contrasted against a well-proven To-Be management system, the gaps soon became obvious. A business improvement plan was developed, client stakeholders recruited to the project team and a structured, stage-managed project was in full swing.

Outcomes:  Interestingly, the largest initial bottleneck in the end-to-end value chain turned out to be in a different place than most people suspected. It was found that a support process (in this case the Geology function) was preventing the production process from running smoothly. Once identified, KPIs and management processes were put in place. A daily focus on the backlog of drill core processing reduced the backlog from 1500m to 0, thereby eliminating that particular production constraint. The team continued to focus relentlessly on the trinity of People-Process-Technology and worked towards that ideal management system. A large number of other interventions also contributed to an improvement of productivity of approximately 10{0c4e05960f124b915385a288fcc7d159d37b39e2a63beea771b59879f23ae13e}.

Mergers & Acquisitions (M&A)

  • Are you about to acquire – or merge with – another organisation?
  • Do you have solid plans in place to ensure you get what you pay for?
  • How will you ensure the acquisition or merger process works smoothly?

The brutal reality of M&As is that most of them do not work in favour of the acquirer. This doesn’t need to be so. By developing suitable a strategy, realistic plans and executing them flawlessly, M&A can work in your favour…

How to Make M&As Work in Your Favour

Some of the critical success factors to successful M&As are:

  • The right target with the right strategic and cultural fit
  • Prioritisation
  • Preparedness
  • Coordinated execution using proven project management principles
  • Leadership
  • Speed!

Our services in the M&A field are focused on an orderly integration of the operation. We do not provide legal or financial advice. In the same vein, don’t expect your financial advisor to understand your operational needs…

Examples of Our Work

Changing the Culture of the Acquired Operation

Project: Food manufacturing plant, Sydney, Australia – The client acquired a competitor in another city and was challenged in their efforts to make the ‘newcomer’s’ culture more compatible with their own. We played a part in their quest by aligning values between organisations and personnel, transferring key management system elements to the new operation and coaching the new team in their use.

Outcomes: This resulted in the two cultures being more closely aligned (manifested in more similar behaviours) and therefore more productive in their collaborative efforts.

Organisational Effectiveness

  • You have a bunch of fine individuals, but they’re not gelling as a team?
  • You’re working with a distributed (remote) team but it’s a team by name only?
  • Your team members get on well yet their internal processes are not enabling them to succeed?

People are complex individuals and working together productively does not always happen without some extra help.

The objective of Organisational Effectiveness is to to create and maintain an organisational environment that fosters the desired culture and renders the organisation as effective and competitive as possible. That’s easier said than done. Fortunately there is a solution for almost every challenge, so speak to us about how we might help!

Example of Our Work

Production and Productivity Improvement Project

Project: UG Gold Mine Western Australia – A smallish gold mine had become part of a large multinational organisation. This site had changed ownership a number of times leading up to this divestiture and morale was at an all-time low. Unsurprisingly, safety and production performance were reflective of the low team spirit this workforce had sunk to. A series of One-on-One interviews were conducted as well as some workshops to help identify root causes beyond corporate ownership issues.

Outcomes: Once the reasons were clear, including some big ‘elephants in the room’, a plan could be developed that allowed the teams to rally behind a common cause and regain their safe, productive and happier esprit de corps.

Constraint Management (De-Bottlenecking)

  • Do you know where your business’ bottleneck is?
  • Does everyone in the business know and agree?

Proactive constraint management improves throughput and reduces costs at the same time

It has been a long time since Eliyahu Goldratt formally defined the Theory of Constraint (TOC). It is well-proven and yet its application in business is at best sporadic.
Once the initial constraint analysis has been conducted we work with you to develop a strategy, which will enable your team to proactively manage the bottleneck, while simultaneously reducing the costs in the non-bottleneck processes. And guess what: once again a large portion of such an intervention is a Change Management effort…

Examples of Our Work

Mathematical Business Process Modelling

Project: UG Gold Mine Northern Territory, Australia – Business review, innovative mathematical modelling applied to the Value Chain Model (VCM) to identify the site’s primary operating constraint (‘bottleneck’) beyond doubt. Then, using a mathematically-based Value Driver Tree (VDT), high impact business opportunities (‘levers’) were clearly identified and sensitivity analysed. The business later pursued these via an implementation project.

Outcomes: (NPV = $18M at a $1.25M investment).

Change Management

  • How often have you seen ‘technology projects’ fail because they were actually change management projects in disguise?
  • How many business process improvement initiatives have been less than successful because the stakeholders were never engaged enough?
  • Have you ever seen ‘Change Management’ conducted as a separate or standalone process/stream instead of it being ‘baked’ into the whole initiative?

Fundamentally, we believe that change management should never be a separate activity when making improvements and changes to the business. People don’t mind being accountable for an outcome as long as they have an input into it. On the flip side, people will never ‘own’ that outcome if they’ve had no opportunity to shape it, make it their own.

Are people involved in your project? If the answer is yes, you need to think about Change Management.

Over the years we have developed, acquired, improved and honed approaches to change management. There are certain rules, do’s and don’t’s, if you like, that must be observed.

Talk to us about how we might help you ensure the success of your next change management initiative.

Example of Our Work

Large Scale Management System Implementation

Project: Large UG Copper Mine, South Australia – During a Management System upgrade project of large scale and scope the client was unable to provide a sufficient number of dedicated, full-time project team members that would ensure client ownership of the changes. This put the external team’s efforts in jeopardy as the project might have been seen as an external one. A solution was found by building a larger team of part-time client representatives. The cross-functional internal/external team developed and executed a Change Management (CM) plan tightly interwoven with all project activities. This approach quickly resulted in identifying the stakeholders with a high degree of influence and a willingness to provide their time and ‘political capital’ to the cause, building unprecedented momentum for the initiative.

Outcomes: The amount of traction, client ownership and all out success this project achieved was so outstanding that it won first prize against 144 competing entries after it was entered into a Business Excellence competition in London in 2011. After 6 years, all personnel still used the management system on a daily basis in its entirety. The financial ROI has been recouped over and over many times.