How a Human Resources Director used Rapid Action - an innovative small team improvement process with a unique action learning toolkit - to solve company problems and develop new leaders.
North American Energy Services MIRA facility in Hartford, CT is in the business of turning one man’s trash into another man’s treasure… literally. The MIRA facility is the largest energy from waste facility in the state processing 2,850 tons per day of municipal solid waste and converting it to clean electric energy. The facility serves the disposal needs of 51 Connecticut municipalities.
In late-2017, John O’Rourke, Plant Manager in Hartford, CT, was looking for ways to improve his operation by engaging employees close to the work and capitalizing on their ideas. He was familiar with Leap Technologies from his time at Wheelabrator (WTI Energy), having sponsored many Rapid Action Teams during his time there. In October 2017, he received an invitation to Leap’s annual "Getting Better, Faster" workshop series and reached out to reconnect.
After working closely with Leap Co-Founder Mike Pecoraro to fully plan a detailed launch schedule, NAES kicked off their first Rapid Action project in January 2018.
John was nice enough to lend a few of his words directly to this piece, and here are some of his comments:
"I knew there would be skepticism from both managers and employees that Rapid Action could achieve results on problems they were working on for months. After seeing the thoughtful layout, scripted meetings, and step-by-step process for setting and meeting deadlines, however, they were on board to give it a try. The first team knocked it out of the ballpark and the process took off like wildfire.
The changes I have seen in the daily engagement of our employees to their work has been incredible. Frontline employees see the support and resource they are being given to improve their daily processes and are excited to participate on future teams.
We had a new employee to the plant participating on the first Rapid Action team we launched. By working with the team, he gained a more complete understanding of how things worked across departments, having never previously ventured outside his individual role. This led to more ideas in the future for further process improvements.
Launching Rapid Action at NAES was truly stress-free and having Mike Pecoraro on call as our Team Coach was a valuable part of getting started. He does not claim to be an expert in our business, but his wide range of experiences coaching and mentoring hundreds of Rapid Action teams allows him to jumpstart our thought processes, get people on track, and help Team Leaders hold others accountable."
NAES completed their first Rapid Action team focused on improving boiler outage planning and execution in order to reduce outage cycle time in late March. They kicked off their second team at the same time. It was focused on improving combustion in order to maximize burnout and reduce the moisture content in their ash byproduct by 5%. The team is preparing to wrap up its work as we speak and they are happy to report that they have already achieved the moisture content reduction goal. Financial gains, process improvements and improved teamwork are evident, and we are looking forward to continuing our work with them in 2018 and beyond. Thank you NAES and John O’Rourke!