by Luiza Mills
Not too long ago, it was common for managers in the corporate world to run their companies from the top-down. You could step into a meeting and watch a manager hand over a list of tasks to his or her employees and dictate the exact way each one needed to be performed. This approach allowed leaders to be crystal-clear on goals and expectations, but it also lowered morale and stifled creativity.
Today, you’d be hard pressed to find a successful company operating with a top-down management style — or to find employees who enjoy working in one. At Interstate Electrical Services, we have never approached our management style from the top down, but we also recognize there’s always room for improvement. We constantly ask ourselves, “How do we make this process even better for our next customer?”
In 2010, we embarked on a journey to run the company using Lean Construction ideology. In short, the idea is to manage a project through shared knowledge and common goals, and the emphasis is shifted from monitoring results to “making things happen.” This shift allowed us to empower our employees at all levels even more than before, to help us identify smart solutions to the problems or inefficiencies they faced in their daily tasks.
The result is reflected in the feedback we’ve received from our customers and partners. We have all these powerful voices in our organization who develop amazing ideas, and strategies that they feel good about, and that creates a domino effect of positivity that translates into a better experience for everyone at the company and everyone we work with.
You can step into any department at IESC and see that spirit of collaboration at work. One of our BIM coordinators, Nadine Robinson, models our projects in advanced 4D software. She collaborates directly with the project supervisors and electricians, ensuring the process stays as smooth as possible. With a segregation of office and field, it is easy for design teams to think, “This conduit needs to go from point A to point B because that’s how it’s going to fit according to my plan.” However, our coordination team determines the best design for installation through efficacious communication and even take visits to the jobsites, helping to understand completely the needs we need to meet.
Elsewhere in the company, you can see the results of our employee empowerment at work. Previously, when we started a
project, there would be three different people in three different departments (project management, finance, etc.) collecting the same data and recording it. Through internal feedback from the employees who deal with this data every day, we were able to identify these redundancies and streamline the process. The input from the finance coordinator, saying, “We actually have this information already but it’s not easily accessible,” was invaluable to improving this process and would have been overlooked if we hadn’t given her a voice.
We firmly believe that our employees should be empowered to identify what needs to be done on a given day. Interstate’s workforce has the freedom to say, “We can do this a little bit differently,” or, “We want to try something new.” Even if the suggested change makes their job 5% easier, they know their input is recognized and valued. Not every experiment is successful, but we only get stronger by evolving our thinking, examining each process, and assessing the end goal. It’s rewarding to see our employees rise with us.
Luiza Mills is VP of human resources at Interstate Electrical Services, Inc.