We are the champions!

10 12 2013

NetworkThe rail infrastructure sector is characterised by safety, fierce price competition, high labour intensity, and a desire to move away from transactional business models, toward collaborative business relationships, or frameworks.   More recently, more and more companies have latched on to social responsibility and sustainability initiatives. They’ve used descriptive words on their web sites and have catchy clever slogans in their annual review documents.

Companies want to be viewed as good corporate citizens. 

So. Does this imply superior corporate characteristics? Too often, companies appear inconsistent and insincere, they fail to connect CSR initiatives to their corporate vision and mission statements.  In our experience, they sometimes stumble with the basics, such as employee engagement and customer service. As a result, they end up struggling to create a positive image that is authentic and resonates with customers, staff, and business partners. Words are cheap!

The emergence of high reliability organisations

We view the most important issues impacting the quality of project delivery in the rail industry are safety, health and wellbeing (i.e. poor physical working conditions, long and unfavourable working hours, or work-related illnesses), flexibility, stability and security; especially further down the supply chain, where limited contracts, low pay and perhaps… bad practices are common?

Cost, time, and quality are very often perceived as traditional success parameters in our sector, so what qualifies your company as a ‘High Reliability Organisation’?

HROs are organisations with systems in place that are exceptionally consistent in accomplishing their goals and avoiding potentially catastrophic errors. The industries first to embrace HRO concepts, were those in which past failures had led to catastrophic consequences (i.e. aircraft accidents, nuclear reactor meltdowns, and similar disasters). These industries found it necessary to identify issues early and respond to problems swiftly and positively, so that systems and process were unaffected, and risk of potential future disasters could be avoided.  Are we entering into a new age of corporate responsibility?

Collaboration…it’s the way we do business round here!

As I mentioned earlier, CSR activities generally focus on occupational health, safety, and risk management. Rail Champions strongly believe CSR policies in the rail industry should set a good example in public procurement processes.  Established standards for Collaborative Business Relationships (BS11000), Procuring Sustainably (BS8903) and the Social Value Act should help reinforce the wider implementation of new business models that become ‘the way we do business round here’.

It is no longer acceptable to manage an organisations reputation or brand image separately from its people, culture or supply chain stakeholders. They need to be managed as one. And to do that, you need to define and communicate your corporate values.  Organisations need to start building shared beliefs with key decision makers, customers, partners, employees, and local communities.

Commitment to continuous improvement

Those of you who work closely with Network Rail probably already know of PRISM, the tool used to assess the performance of suppliers and was developed in conjunction with the supply chain and various functions across Network Rail to drive a culture of continuous performance improvement.

This all leads me to the conclusion, that organisations need to prove their corporate character, both in their actions and by developing deep and meaningful business relationships built on trust, staff empowerment and transparency.

There are a few successful organisations I can think of in the rail industry, with leaders that inspire their people, support their people’s decisions, and have successfully turned actions into ongoing behaviors. Research shows that when those behaviors strengthen someone’s feelings of urgency and purpose, it can generate self-motivated advocacy – fueling a virtuous cycle, with colleagues and procurement groups, each working towards a common shared belief among the project team (extending to their respective supply chains).

If you would like to know more on this fascinating subject, please do not hesitate in contacting us at sustainability@rail-champions.com or perhaps take our 2 minute sustainable supply chain challenge to see what your profile looks like.

Details here https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/sustainable-infrastructure

We look forward to your comments.

This is the last post of 2013, so from all the team..we wish you all a very Happy Christmas, and a healthy, happy and  spectacular 2014!

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