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Fresh Tracks

How Balfour Beatty Play it Safe

December 10, 2013

When the Deep Water Horizon court case opened in February 2013, oil giant BP were accused of “putting profit before safety”. The resulting $4.5bn settlement sent shivers through Chief Executives across the globe.

Fresh Tracks facilitated a practical exercise for Balfour Beatty...

The requirement to generate profits on large, low margin contracts is a distinct challenge to the construction industry.  – Particularly in sometimes dangerous environments.  Efficiency is essential but complying with safety regulations can be costly.  Senior managers at Balfour Beatty know it’s their role to drive the right behaviours and thinking that will lead to efficient and safer working.

At their bi-annual Senior Managers conference, Kevin Craven – CEO of Balfour Beatty Services – asked Fresh Tracks to facilitate a practical exercise that would illustrate this tension, through a memorable ‘hands on’ experience.  We responded by adapting our popular Team Machine exercise.  As small groups set to work building the ten mechanical devices that make up the Team Machine, a countdown clock descended by one million pounds each minute.  Whilst speed was important, the 50 senior leaders also knew that the Team Machine would only work if every component was correctly assembled, tested and positioned in the correct sequence.  At times the temptation to cut corners was great for some however, the group were determined to comply and not to take unnecessary risks.  As a result, after some thorough testing, the Team Machine connected seamlessly, earning the group a profitable bonus.

The review that followed drew out some valuable observations, with many saying how they were surprised that so much could be learnt from a playful exercise.

” In truth, I had expected a fun way for a fairly new group to get to know each other and perhaps, an exercise that could underline a point I had wanted to make.   I did get all of that, but also got an approach that really simulated our organisational challenges and illustrated graphically how we might solve them.  Excellent!”

– Kevin Craven, CEO Balfour Beatty Services.

There’s more to experiential learning than team building. If you have a commercial challenge in your organisation that requires new behaviours from the workforce, why not talk to us.

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