National Supplier of Electricity : The Power of Purpose

  • 5
  • November 15, 2013
  • David Lapin

Case Study Details

The Company: Anonymous National Supplier of Electric Power

The Challenge
Unexplained increases in plant failures and maintenance lapses

A national supplier of electric power was experiencing an unexplained increase in plant failures and maintenance lapses. It engaged Lapin International (formerly SBE) to conduct research to discover the underlying reasons for these problems. Lapin International explored the possible link between station failures and the human dynamics occurring at each station.

The Process
Lapin International conducted both qualitative and quantitative research to discover the underlying value systems that existed throughout the organization. It evaluated to what extent those values differed from the organization's espoused values and, importantly, what impact they might be having upon performance.

Lapin International's research revealed that not only was the trust level between middle management and senior leadership seriously fractured, but that this broken trust translated into numerous cases of passive sabotage. Employees were consciously and sub-consciously ignoring signs of impending failures and needs for repair. Several cases of active sabotage were also discovered. Additionally, employees were also manipulating vacation time, overtime, and other benefits to their own advantage, often with their manager's consent.

The Solution
Heal relationships. Rebuild trust. Find common purpose.

Lapin International analyzed the reasons for the broken trust and mapped out a process to repair and build new and stronger relationships, while raising the bar of the work ethic. It is Lapin International's contention that while technology can fail for reasons beyond human control, engaged and energetic employees who feel ownership and align to the organization's purpose and values can mitigate the damage from failures and often prevent them altogether.

Lapin International's view was recently affirmed in the U.S.-Canada Power System Outage Task Force Report, highlighting the causes of the August 14, 2003 blackout. Based on task force's findings, it is clear that while human error cannot be blamed for the initial failure of equipment, had employees and executives felt more engaged in the purpose of their work and been committed to a common set of principles and values, billions of dollars in lost time and money could have been avoided.