Scotia Gas Networks is an energy provider that owns and operates the gas transmission and distribution network for the south and south-east of England, including London south of the Thames, and the whole of Scotland. It is the second-largest gas distribution operator in the UK and has a reputation for leading, challenging the status quo, and innovation.
Scotia Gas Networks is a joint venture company owned by SSE plc, which has a 50% stake in the business and two Canadian pension fund investors, Ontario Teachers and Borealis, who each own 25%. The company formed in 2005 following the sale of some of the gas networks owned previously by National Grid/Lattice and, prior to that, by British Gas.
In the initial years of the company’s existence, the focus was on operational synergies and establishing a business operation model in order to achieve cost savings without compromising safety in a fiercely regulated environment. In more recent years, as the company has matured, a new focus on developing management and leadership training has emerged. One of the main challenges the industry faces is one of perception. Utilities constitute one of the most critical household and business requirements and yet it’s one of the more unpopular monthly expenditures. Given the nature of the industry and all the restrictions for regulation and safety, its public persona is not one that is immediately appreciated. There is thus a conscious effort on the part of SGN to make sure that not only does the service operate to the highest standard, but that each interaction with customers or members of the public is handled as efficiently as possible. One of the unspoken values by which the company operates is, “Do it well and do it right!”
SSE plc has long used Investment in Excellence® as part of its leadership development strategy. The relationship between SSE and The Pacific Institute® goes back as far as the early 1990s when it was originally championed by then Chief Executive, Jim Forbes. Ralph Earwicker, Leadership Development Manager for SSE and Scotia Gas Networks, was one of the first facilitators trained to deliver the programme within SSE, and estimates that over 800 managers have experienced Investment in Excellence® in that organisation since those early implementations. Several key members of the leadership team, some of whom have been drawn directly from SSE plc, have since championed the curriculum within Scotia Gas Networks, including the Chief Executive, John Morea, Director of Corporate Services, Gary Barnes and Operations Director South, Peter Webster. Having experienced the curriculum while they were at SSE, they have benefitted from the concepts personally and professionally and know the value that Investment in Excellence® offers.
With the emergence of Scotia Gas Networks, Ralph has been instrumental in integrating the TPI® curriculum into existing leadership development initiatives. As an organisation, SGN is committed to investing in its people, not only on a technical level, but also in terms of how leaders and individuals in teams interact with each other. Ultimately, this benefits the end users of their service, SGN’s customers. The programme is offered to leaders and managers on a nomination basis. It is notable that, in an organisation of around 4,000 employees, within the last 18 months, over 150 leaders have already experienced Investment in Excellence® and this number continues to grow. Programs are run on a regular basis at sites across the country. The feedback is overwhelmingly positive, and this has helped spread the word within SGN, leading to even greater demand. Having all had more than 10 years’ experience in delivering the program, the facilitation team is able to ensure that Investment in Excellence® matches the concepts to the needs of the business, and the result is a real alignment to both SGN’s and SSE’s aims and objectives.Regular follow-up takes place about six months after managers have experienced Investment in Excellence®, in order to assess the value of the program, and once again, this is typically positive. Managers have provided concrete examples of how they have grown and developed, changed attitudes and helped others become ‘scotoma-busters’ to directly benefit the business and its customers. One notable comment from one of the participants has been, “I always picture the success rather than the path to it. As a result in our local business unit with the targets we have had to deliver, we have never seen the unit in a failed situation.” Positive thinking indeed!
Gary Barnes, Scotia Gas Networks’ Director of Corporate Services comments:
“During the course of my career, I have participated in more training courses than I can remember; many very subject-specific and technical, and the rest falling into what can loosely be termed management training. My experience of the latter has been, no doubt, typical of many of you reading this; some good, some not so good and some awful. The best that most of us could probably say is that we remember snippets of what we were told. The worst that we could say is that we have simply forgotten. In 2002, I attended the Investment in Excellence®. It had a profound effect on me at the time, and what greater accolade can I give than to say that I remember it now as vividly as I experienced it 11 years ago? It has helped me achieve my current senior status in our company, and I use one or more of the things I learned then pretty much every day, and not just in work. The combination of fascinating, important material and a skilled, charismatic facilitator has meant that Investment in Excellence® is simply a ‘must have’ in SGN, and I’m confident in saying that every one of our people who has experienced it has found it as rewarding as I. Even if you do no other leadership development training, make sure you do this.”