Simulations are not quite the real thing but done well they can evoke or replicate aspects of the real world, enabling individuals and teams to test and rehearse what good performance might look like. It is an established way of working within the aviation and health professions, where the implications of poor performance can be life-threatening.
But how can these immersive experiences be used within other industries?
A chemical plant in the North East was well-established, with a workforce drawn from the local community, used to working in a set way. Their new facility was going to require changes both in attitudes, skill sets and processes. Any change brings disruption and when chemical production is involved then there are vital safety considerations to factor in. Key to the success was to build effective working relationships and to establish clear communication between teams and individuals.
The challenge was to replicate aspects of the team’s way of working to make it realistic. But how do you get under the skin of your client’s culture, especially as someone who graduated with an arts degree and found the landscape within the plant fairly bewildering.
Bespoke project development is the answer
I spent a few days shadowing a range of people, with permission to be curious. This enabled me to understand some of the key issues that they wanted to highlight and to design a large-scale project that incorporated elements of their structure, and roles. The project utilised experiences that mirrored their daily operations. Central to their success was how different shifts interacted with each other. Poor communication between shifts in other facilities had resulted in falling standards and growing tension. More significantly, this was a safety critical issue within this industry. There was a need therefore to build trust and understanding, and to identify good working practice and to explore how they could sustain these behaviours.
I created a project that enabled both shift groups to practice working in their existing teams, and having to interact with their counterparts in a way where the quality of interaction had significant impact on results. This included the Team Leader of both shift teams bravely agreeing to take a leading role in managing the project. The project gave ‘live’ information about interpersonal styles, and about the quality of communication between different parts of the whole team, coaxing out behaviours that reflect those that were characteristically displayed at work. Feedback and review sessions provided team members with a greater understanding of potential flash points as well as an enhanced ability and willingness to discuss challenging issues. Key learning included,
- Identifying higher risk handovers
- The need to keep developing staff’s communication skills
- Emphasising the importance of shift handover
- Providing procedures for shift handover
In particular, the focus on building on existing strengths and ongoing team coaching to help them to perform well gave them pride and confidence. The purpose of the event was clear from the outset and it provided tangible outcomes for the new team.
So what next?
Brathay specialises in developing bespoke programmes that address the behavioural elements of business challenges. We enable people to optimise the use of their technical skills and perform exceptionally.