My Experience as a Department Head - Narrative Essay

7 pages
1852 words
Boston College
Type of paper: 
Case study
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The relative position of a firm within its business circle determines whether its profitability is above or below the average in the industry. Sustainable competitive advantage is the core basis of profiting above the sectors average. Differentiation and low costs are the two main types of competitive advantage that a firm can possess. Further, three generic strategies for attaining the performance that is above average are created when the scope from which the company wishes to achieve the advantage are combined with differentiation and low cost. The three strategies include differentiation, focus, and cost leadership. Focus strategy is further spread to two variants: differentiation focus and cost focus (Dennis, 2016). Just like many organizations out there, Kiewit also strives to be the best in the market. Competition is real in the public sector, and therefore, it has to be on our top to ensure that we achieve above average profitability.

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Kiewit has utilized Porters Generic Competitive Strategies to ensure that it achieves the above average profitability. The firm has applied cost leadership strategy in an attempt to make sure that it is the low-cost producer in the construction and engineering sector. Our organization first had to put the necessary structure in place to ensure that this would be achievable. The structure that was put in place includes proprietary technology and raw material accessibility. Our company ensures that it finds and exploits all sources of cost advantage. By sustaining overall leadership value, we have been able to become an above average performer.

The firm has also employed the differentiation strategy. With this strategy, it has sought to be unique in some aspects that buyers value. Since the buyers needs are many, the firm has come up with some critical needs of the clients that it ensures are met. Quality and timely delivery are some of the crucial aspects that the organization meets. A premium price is a reward that comes with the uniqueness.

Last but not the least, the firm has utilized the focus strategy to achieve the high profitability advantage. Basing it with my line of safety, I have been mandated to ensure that our projects are executed safely. In line with our mandate of providing safety to workers and the public, the firm has narrowed down to safety as a scope in the industry with which it can out smitten its competitors.

Our mandate as an organization is to ensure that nobody gets hurt. The organization has taken it seriously that safety comes above all else. To us, nothing is more important than the safety of the men and women on our project sites and the surrounding public. Safety for our personnel ensures that the personnel is always at their best and give maximum concentration to their work as they are safe. Additionally, we acknowledge the fact that the public is at risk from the activities we undertake. Therefore, safeguarding the environment is one of our core responsibilities. We always make sure that an environmental impact assessment is carried out before undertaking any project. It enables our firm to come up with ways to mitigate the possible risks that may face the public. It has paid off as the public is always contented and believes in us. Presumably, no firm does it better than us. The workers and public safety is one aspect that has enabled us to achieve differentiation in the market.

In the organization, I am responsible for the safety execution of our projects. I have quite some experience in matters of project bearing in mind that my former position in the company was the management of projects and operation. The organization operates in a much leaner management environment, but the processes are in place to support the personnel. Safety being a scope that the organization has narrowed upon as a differentiation strategy has been given emphasize. Therefore, my roles primarily revolve around ensuring that the projects that the company is undertaking are safely executed. The safety does not only focus on the employees of the company but also extend to the public as they are potential future clients of the company. My responsibility there include:

1. Developing, implementing and maintaining comprehensive written safety, health and environmental (SHE) programs containing philosophies, policies, and procedures that comply with all corporate, federal, provincial, municipal and other regulatory agencies.

2. Conducting, attending and participating in meetings with discipline management, project management, safety management and other personnel as necessary to ensure compliance with SHE requirements on each project.

3. Developing, implementing and overseeing comprehensive training programs for district and project personnel.

4. Communicating the safety program requirements, lessons learned and safety key performance indicators to district personnel.

5. Verifying operational compliance with regulatory and company requirements through scheduled and periodic field tours, audits and inspections.

6. Managing the claims management process for WCB and other liability related claims.

7. Managing the emergency response process, ensure plans are in place, response teams and medical personnel are prepared.

As evident from the responsibilities outlined above, safety is the focus. The company ensures that aspects of personal health and the environment are put into consideration. It is good to note that safety has indeed yielded positive results to our company as the workers are motivated to work, and the public is contended with how we undertake our business.

My part of the organization revolves around ensuring that projects are undertaken safely. My customers are the construction workers, supervisors, public and client. This is the people whom my part of the organization will interact with either directly or indirectly. Construction workers will be directly affected by the policies that the company ought to follow as they are the responsible party to ensure the project is undertaken.

One of the positives of my department is the level of involvement in all aspects of our projects. Our outputs for internal customers can range from technical proposal development in the pre-project bidding phase, to the development of standards, procedures and technical requirements for operations, training & development, field verification of standards, communicating lessons learned, risk assessment, coaching, mentoring & developing personnel. In my role, I have responsibility and influence over support and operations type roles so my team is quite diverse and so is their output. Most of my external customer outputs are focused on client relations. Developing strong customer relations is critical to the success of our projects. It is amazing the difference that a strong client relationship can make on overall and day-to-day project initiatives. Client satisfaction is paramount as the services and products are developed to meet the needs of the consumer. Additionally, strong client relationship held the company build a name in the market and thus there will be the possibility of more returning clients and also there is a high probability that new client will show up after gathering positive information from a client whom the company has worked for.

What Customers Value

They value going home safe to their families at the end of the day. So proper investigation and mitigation process will eliminate future incidents and provide this value to workers.

How does the current performance of your part of the organization align with the customer values and the overall organization strategy?

It aligns perfectly. We just completed our best year safety performance ever. Safety is recognized as the most important part of what we do, and people are considered to be our most important asset. So keeping our people safe is in alignment with the values of the organization.

My organization follows a similar approach to the SPQRC (safety, people, quality, responsiveness, cost), in regards to our values. In construction and engineering, people are at the forefront of everything that we do. It is true during operational planning and construction activities, but also in the end product. The design and construction of a road, bridge, building, etc., has direct implications with the end-user. So the quality of the product is just as important. Our responsiveness is critical to ensure deficiencies are identified and corrected before the risk of exposure. Cost is essential to the organization staying in business.

All factors mentioned above compliment and also rely on each other to be successful. For example, if the organization cuts cost efforts which are required for a construction activity then the quality of the product could suffer, and the cost cutting could result in shortcuts which put the quality and/or safety at risk. It could also lead to a risk of reputation to the organization. If the responsiveness is not adequate to identify the shortcuts and risk, then the issues could go unchecked

One example of potential waste in my organization is directly related to planning and following the plan. When operations are not properly planned, or similarly, operations are planned but not followed, there is a high probably that the product will not meet the design specifications. If the design specifications are not met, then additional efforts and likely additional materials will be required to correct the mistake (rework). Rework has a much higher level of risk to safety, cost, and schedule.

Types of waste from this situation:

- Time spent planning

- Worker hours spent on task

- Materials spent on task

- Schedule impacts resulting in additional/indirect costs

I think companies fail to think of employees as internal customers and focus purely on external customers. This could result in muda by means of wasted talent, wasted knowledge, inefficiencies, low morale, and retention issues. These issues tend to spill into the customer experience and muda compounds on muda.

We rely heavily on the Kaizen approach to continuous improvement in my organization. Our construction operations range from repetitive and mundane, to high-risk, dynamic activities. We look unplanned events/losses/incidents as opportunities for improvement. The key to capitalizing on these opportunities is the thorough root-cause analysis and strategic mitigation plan. It is important to ensure all angles of the event are properly understood, and the mitigation plan truly addresses the crux of the causal factor. In my experiences, a surface level analysis will result in surface level solutions, which ultimately lead to wasted efforts and the reemergence of issues related to the root-cause.

At Kiewit, we have a very well defined and articulated operations strategy. We go through a rigorous strategic planning process to reflect on past performance and establish new objectives for each year. Project and operational plans are developed to align with and support these company goals. The company uses PDCA and other strategies as outlined in the Hoshin planning system. As mentioned in previous posts, the organization is run by executing some lean strategies. I think we could do a better job of the "catchball" process. I have witnessed "muda" due to poor execution of "catchball" related delegation and communication.

My personal takeaway from this unit would be applying Hoshin strategies within my group. Although my company has a great, Hoshin-like approach to achieving performance objectives, I could benefit from implementing a similar strategy for my department. As a department head, I think I should try a similar approach to defining our department-specific objectives and implementing a more focused department execution plan. This would likely im...

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