In an operating environment where technology is ever changing and innovation creates more efficiency and value to customers, it is important to stay ahead of the game by always being open to improving on how we perform our jobs. To keep pace with today’s latest advancements, Western is encouraging employees to concentrate on ways to improve on the technology and innovation key performance indicator, or KPI, under the Partnership and Innovation Strategic Target.
Senior Vice President and Sierra Nevada Regional Manager Subhash Paluru shared, “Employees and their ideas are assets to be valued. Any ideas they have to improve processes, create efficiencies and fix what is broken will help guide the pace of Western’s technology and innovation activities. Western has a broad range of functions within its business realm. Employees are the experts of what works well and what does not. We want to hear their ideas to make things work more efficiently and effectively—the concepts that someone hasn’t thought of yet.
Earlier this year, Paluru presented a vision for a new technology and innovation program to senior managers. A small senior advisory group consisting of Administrator and CEO Mark Gabriel and Paluru, along with Executive VP and Chief Operating Officer Tony Montoya, Senior VP and Chief Information Officer Dawn Roth Lindell and Senior VP and Chief Financial Officer Linda Kimberling faces the challenge of launching this new program by encouraging Western employees to bring their process improvements and efficiency ideas to the table and helping those ideas become reality.
Setting up for success, showcasing ideas
The senior advisory team is excited about the program and is establishing the groundwork of a strong culture to improve how Western does business through new technology and innovation. The team created a project management critical-decision zero, or CD0, document that focuses on process improvements Western can start doing soon and the benefits of implementing them. The team also created a council consisting of the chairs of all Western functional councils, including the Western Maintenance Management and Power System Operations councils.
The chairs were chosen for the new working group because the members typically change every two to three years, so the program will always have fresh perspectives from employees with different personalities and backgrounds. Paluru shared, “The success of this new innovation and technology program relies within the councils. They embrace new technology and innovation; buy-in from the councils go a long way. Also, [Mark Gabriel] and I are dedicated to making this program successful.”
Innovation is not just technology related; it also means improving process and procedures. “We want employees to think, ‘How can we do things better?’ That is the premise we are working on,” explained Paluru. Gabriel’s vision is to set up a technology and innovation symposium showcasing the great things employees are coming up with to improve how we work. For example, an employee developed an improved lock system to better protect substations from break-ins and theft and ultimately improve public safety. Lean Six Sigma—a continuous process improvement method to increase customer service satisfaction—was recently adopted by Western. A team of Chief Financial Office employees used Lean Six Sigma to provide senior managers a better way to evaluate and adjust Western’s budget as it is being developed, reducing rework. Another example of process improvements is the creation of a very-high-frequency, or VHF, mobile repeater, a tool that enhances communication range for crews working in remote areas.