Out with the Old (Thinking); In with the New (Thinking)


Happy New Year!

Maybe businesses should consider adopting New Year’s Resolutions: “We will be smarter as we get leaner.” “We will consider profit levels of our customers as well as our own.”  “We will work toward Win-Win strategies with our partners.”

Genuine objectives, made to improve relationships and build capacity. A little too much mushy thinking, you say?

Not at all. There’s evidence that this kind of approach is far more than some touchy-feely, kumbaya kind of exercise.  It’s a vital nexus to a future of greater stamina, greater potential…greater profits.

Stephen Covey coined the term “Abundance Mentality” in his 1989 book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Covey explains it is “the paradigm that there is plenty out there and enough to spare for everybody. It results in sharing of prestige, of recognition, of profits, of decision making. It opens possibilities, options, alternatives and creativity.” In his new book, The 8th Habit: From Effectiveness to Greatness, Covey further expands, saying that “abundance mentality means that rather than seeing life as a competition with only one winner, you see it as a cornucopia of ever enlarging opportunity, resources, wealth.”

To the skeptic, this sounds like lofty thinking. To Kaiser-Hill Company LLC (K-H), a joint venture of CH2M Hill and Kaiser Engineers, it sounds like the strategy they used to successfully accomplish the closure of the contaminated nuclear Rocky Flats plant. Working with the U S Department of Energy and other partners, the site was not only totally cleaned up, but also, transformed into a wildlife refuge now visited by thousands of school children each year. And it was accomplished in about 10 years, six decades earlier and nearly thirty billion dollars less than originally projected.

In the book, Making The Impossible Possible: Leading Extraordinary Performance, The Rocky Flats Story, the authors Kim Cameron and Marc Lavine concluded the “overarching leadership lesson” learned is, “The impossible was made possible by adopting an abundance approach to change rather than a deficit approach.” This is definitely Vested Outsourcing kind of thinking where all the parties involved work together to solve a problem where everyone goes home winners!

In 1995, The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) projected the Rocky Flats cleanup would take 70 years at a cost of $36 billion, unacceptable on both counts. Thus, DOE dramatically changed the way it did business. Instead of the typical government cost-plus Management and Operating Manager model, a dynamic Performance-Based Management contract was written to include both incentives and penalties. K-H accepted responsibility for vital processes and change controls up to $20 million in order to gain flexibility in work sequencing. To find solutions, they were free to experiment and adjust. If mutually agreed objectives were reached, there was much to gain for both DOE and K-H.

A hostile public (after all, there were documented accounts of plutonium leaks into the Colorado countryside) was invited into the process. Ultimately it was their idea to  turn the site into a wildlife refuge. In recognition of the new final objective, the project name was changed to “Rocky Flats Environmental Technology Site.”  K-H motivated hopeless and angry workers by pledging to share 20 percent of their profits at project end. Eventually, pride was cultivated by the knowledge that everyone was involved in accomplishing something really important–and  something never done before–the first successful nuclear plant closure and cleanup in the entire world! It was a vision that inspired pride and gained buy-in from stakeholders.

To me, this sounds like another great example of how the Five Rules work. In Vested Outsourcing, the golden rule is that a company should not win at the expense of its service provider, and vice versa. The economics of the collaborative business model should be so powerful that it drives efforts to solve for an optimized, complete solution. It requires going beyond overcoming challenges; it reaches for the best outcome possible. In the case of Rocky Flats, it was extraordinary.

In this New Year, if you see the need to move beyond expectations, to do more than simply meet challenges that come your way, consider this. Use the book, Vested Outsourcing: Five Rules that will Transform Outsourcing to check your readiness to adapt to a new strategy.  After all, even if your business New Year’s Resolution is a straightforward, “We will make more money,” you still need a blueprint for transformational change.

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