Fairbanks Morse Engine knows bottom line relies on people and profits.
The big idea: Meaningful work with meaningful work relationships and making profits are not mutually exclusive.
The scenario: Fair banks Morse Engine, a subsidiary of En Pro Industries, is a 130-year-old engineering company and a premier manufacturer of innovative diesel and dual-fuel engines for marine and stationary power applications serving the U.S. Navy and Coast Guard, as well as many power companies. It is a dual bottom-line company in that it believes that human development is as important as profits.
In fall 2014, President Marvin Riley concluded that Fairbanks was not scaling such development fast enough with the company’s 500 employees. The company also faced strategic changes in its marketplace, and it needed to accelerate its pace of innovation and movement into the commercial marketplace globally. Riley’s intuition was that his two challenges were interrelated.
The resolution: Riley knew his company had the right values, a purposeful culture and good people. He was missing a scalable system — a simple way to operationalize those values through behaviors, processes and measurements that were easy to implement, model, teach and scale. He believed that learning was foundational to operational excellence, innovation and human development. Why not build a learning system that supported all three?
He invited his 13 senior leaders to spend a week together to design a learning system. It was an intense week of asking “what if” and “why” with lots of hard work, looking in the mirror, some laughter, some difficult conversations and reflection, with lots of listening to each other in an open-minded, non-defensive manner.
The team created the “FME Learning System” — a new behavioral approach to achieving its dual bottom-line mission. It defined the beliefs and behaviors that would drive personal and organizational growth, and adopted key processes to use daily throughout the company that would enable and promote those behaviors. The team arrived at a set of “Beliefs,” a defined “Culture of Excellence,” the desired attributes of a “High-Performance Learning Organization,” a list of aspirational employee “Behaviors,” key learning processes including “Critical Thinking Questions,” an “Active Listening Checklist,” “Meeting Hygiene,” “Rapid Experimentation,” “Pre Mortem” and “Post-Action Review,” along with score cards and a game plan for company rollout. Riley said, “I believe that we have found abetter way to work that is truly special.”
The lesson: Good intentions and aspirational cultures are necessary but not sufficient to make work meaningful and achieve the highest performance of people and the business. That requires continuous learning and the right work environment.