Coor cultivates intelligent culture

One key factor in Coor’s business is to continuously improve the customer’s delivery, on a large and small scale. For some time now, Coor has been working actively and on a structured basis to produce proposals for improvement from its whole organization. To succeed, it needs a management team that is prepared to focus, and a climate that stimulates creativity.

Ola Skogö, who heads up improvements and is responsible for coordinating Coor's work on continuous improvement, thinks it's important for the whole operation to be involved in change work, both management and staff.

"Many of the ideas and proposals for improvement come from day-to-day work on-site with our customers. We try to utilize these ideas and the creativity that everyone has in different ways."

To drive its improvement work, Coor has dedicated improvement coaches, active in work teams of 5 to 10 people.

"It's important to create a dynamic in the group and a climate that allows everyone to speak up. Improvement coaches aren't managers—they're people that think change is fun and understand its value. It's also important that the group has the mandate to implement its ideas, and that managers are confident enough to let go of control," continues Ola.

All the experience indicates that successful work on ideas and improvements must be based on structure, although Ola points out that it doesn't need to be very sophisticated.

"One simple idea is to use noticeboards for people to write their ideas on. Once a week, the group meets up at the noticeboard to discuss it and designate activities. This means it is the business that sets the standards of managers, not the opposite."

"The better the groups run this work, the greater the mandate they receive. The goal is for the groups to become as self-starting as possible. Commitment creates a positive sense of participation where people have better prospects of affecting their everyday situation," adds Ola.

Earlier this year, Actio, a special monitoring system for improvement work, was brought into production. Actio is accessible to all staff, and includes action-plans and key performance indicators in real time. Coor uses monthly updating and reports statistics at different levels of its organization. By measuring and monitoring its improvement work, staff commitment and creativity is enhanced.

"We're seeing clear signs of a competitive instinct between work teams and contracts, even if the number of proposals per employee varies widely. Since we started to measure and monitor the number of proposals for improvement, they have increased sharply. In 2010, we generated nearly 20,000 proposals in Actio, which benefit the customer in different ways."

Ola Skogö emphasizes that there's no personal financial incentive in improvement work, but rather, it's a collective process. The driver is to improve people's own everyday situation and service delivery to customers.

"Our pledge to our customers is to deliver intelligent service, which continuously develops and is tailored to the needs of core business. Thus improvement work is a business-critical process that helps us keep our promises."

Ola thinks Coor has found the right structure for smoothly functioning improvement work and laid the foundation for a strong culture of improvement. The key to its success is to keep improvement work simple and undramatic, and to involve everyone.

"We've made good progress, but obviously, there's more to do. For example, we could be clearer in how we present proposals for improvement and the benefits they bring to our customers. The next step is to get better at linking up proposals for improvement work to the customer's business challenges by implementing strategic development plans. And we'll be focusing on this over the coming year," continues Ola.

The goal is clear—to be a proactive collaboration partner that adds clear value to its customers through continuously improving and more intelligence service.

Read previous articles about Coor's improvement work

Read 'Coor puts good ideas in systems' in Nova no. 1/2010

Read 'Creative people have profitable ideas' in Nova no. 1/2010

Read 'Creativity—a success factor' in Nova no. 3/2008

Want to know more about Coor's work on continuous improvement?

Contact Ola Skogö on tel +46 8 553 95924 or email ola.skogo@coor.com