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Taking notes from the” Bombardier Way”

When I came across a link to a Report on Business video that featured McGill University’s Karl Moore speaking about management with Bombardier’s CEO Guy Hachey who explained his company’s new mind-body-soul connection, I was intrigued. After all, the Bombardier has well over 30,000 employees and has somehow, managed to learn from the past, evolved and is now leading the way. And so with the click of a mouse I followed to learn all about the new aerospace giant’s corporate strategy.

As it turns out, the ” Bombardier Way” is as much about the company’s culture –it’s soul—as it is about vision and process. Hachey describes how they communicate the strategy by using the mind-body-soul analogy. First, he starts off with the “mind” which relates to the “what we are trying to do as a company.” Basically, it the business plans—the mission or vision of a company. “It’s our sandbox so I tell them the mind is important. I said, “most companies have the mind, but you know, we have to know we’re going to play and what we’re going to compete in,” he tells Moore.

The second aspect is the body, which is basically “the processes and the procedures, the policies, the systems, the operating systems we have in place.” Hachey explains further by saying how vital it is to have a system that is based on lean principles that qualifies employees into these segments. While Bombardier is aiming for a gold star it is a silver-rated organization. “We’re trying to get a gold. It will probably take us another two years….. and that’s all for 30,000 people; we’re getting trained in the same approach,” he says of the operating system set in place to reach excellence at Bombardier.

Finally, there’s the soul or, “the mushy stuff—the more important stuff,” describes Hachey to Moore. It is interesting how much value they place on the kind of culture they want to have, the behaviors, the norms and they expect their people to behave. “I guess it is the collective personality of the company and how we come across to our stakeholders, customers and communities,” he tells.

What is particularly interesting to me is how open and transparent this aerospace giant has become in a time when the airline business has suffered greatly from the natural freak of nature—the volcanic ash that grounded plans everywhere around the world. Not only was it an opportune time to promote its brand but also speak so highly of its team of workers.

When asked how such shifts, trends or changes in strategy and plans can last years and years down the road, Hachey responds by saying “it is something that has got to be the long term. It’s really ….the collective personality of our enterprise. And I keep telling our people, when our customers rouch us, when our supplies touch us, they have to be able to differentiate that they weren’t dealing with Rockwell Collins or GM or some other company.” Now this approach isn’t for everyone. Not everyone wants to be a part of a particular corporate culture.

But as Hachey continues on, it is evident that most of the people at Bombardier are responsive to their “way.” What we’re finding is that the great majority of employees want this. They want to have clarity. They want to have ownership. They want to belong – to belong to something. And I keep telling people, “I’m hoping that, 10 years from now, we look back as a team and we say, ‘We were part of this evolution and now we’re the standard of the industry or in the top quartile of the industry and we did it.’ ” And, that’s what we come to work for. That’s what I come to work for now.”

That’s a solid effort to say competitive in this tough economic time—and I would hope that my bet is save with Bombardier coming out on top.

To watch the full interview, visit: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/managing/talking-management/bombardiers-mind-body-soul-connection/article1548589/

Brewing tensions

After reading this you’ll probably open an email or get a text from friend asking to meet up for coffee. Where will you be heading?

In most major cities, pretty well neighborhood has this recognizable coffee shop around the corner. In the early 1990s, Starbucks strategically plugged themselves on-screen, in big blockbuster hits. The brand has become a symbol of designer drinks, in stylish settings and conveniently located in large bookstores, namely the Chapters-Indigo company. New mommies to college grads alike have become brand ambassadors to the faithful Starbucks. Job interviews and networking events are often spotted in the café. Even organizations and small groups hold monthly meetings in the communal hot spot.

But what happens when the advocates for gun rights and of gun control meet up at the same place? The latter demanded that the coffee chain prevent the other group from meeting and in attempt to duck the controversial debate, Starbucks itself is caught in the cross fire. But keeping an open discussion between or among such groups in the public sphere, on private property, is a tricky line to tow. Because one of the ways Starbucks has stood out is in promoting itself as, “not a place to have coffee, but an experience.”

While the controversy may have put the company in a tough spot, it really isn’t such a bad situation. In fact, it could be spun has a positive from the public relations view. After all, making the news –in whatever shape or form—does keep customers thinking about Starbucks, reinforcing the brand in tough times; not bad at all. Especially since Starbucks considers itself a “third place” apart from home and the office, a place where people to segregate or, escape from work.

Personally, I’m pretty dedicated to the fair trade, independent types but will also go for the occasional Tim Hortons. The truth of the matter is I have some personal beef with how Starbucks has come to be. My first job in high school was working for a joint Canadian bagel and coffee shop that was new to the corner. When Starbucks opened a few months later, they had recruited some of their coffee customer agents from our store because they had already been trained on the cappuccino machines. To top it off, they persuaded a few people by asking how much they were paid and offered them a dollar extra, if they came over. It was pretty weasel-y but it does make smart business sense, regardless.

George Media is attending PDAC next week—Tell us your story!

With the way commodities performed last year around the world—who really wanted to attend a conference, or go to a mining show, in order to talk about making deals or forge new partnerships?

Times have surely changed. Along with thousands of other eager attendees, I will be at the Prospectors and Developers Association Conference next week, Monday through Wednesday, scoping out new stories and making some new contacts. Coverage will be included in all George Media publications next month.

Though last year was tough for the sector, I’m looking forward to re-connecting with old friends, and hopefully making some new ones!

George Media will not be at a booth, but you can surely find me, or my colleague Aaron Weafer, scoping out the scene. We look forward to meeting you!

With its central Toronto locale, down the street from the TSX, PDAC 2010 is sure to be a hub of activity for anyone who’s considering investing, reporting, or looking for new strategic partners. For more information and to register visit http://www.pdac.ca/pdac/conv/index.html.

See you there!

Sara Kopamees, Editor in Chief

Goodbye cubicles, hello interactive office space

A major shift in how we work is coming to a workplace near you.

So long are the days of hierarchical, power-driven office settings, where the higher up and closer you are the CEO predetermines the location of where you work from. Leaders on the cusp of innovation are opting for an interactive workspace designs that promote collaboration.

This might look more like an IKEA catalogue than your cubicle-ladden building: a casual lounge atmosphere with a living room feel; open space for casual gathering and information sharing.

Research shows that people are most innovative when they work in small groups, or in pairs. The Michigan-based office furniture company, Steelcase, a global leader in the industry, found that interactive spaces that morph into `I space` and `You and I space` are perfect for promoting collaboration. These so-called `interactive hubs` not only foster creativity through informal brainstorming, but also improved communication, as workers can easily confer with colleague. At the same time, there is space for the individual to work productively on his or her own.
And the timing could be better.

In the midst of a stimulus packages, layoffs and buyouts, workers are under pressure to perform better and produce more. But what does this mean for the brass up top? In truth, every organization is looking for ways to improve communication, break down silos and help people work well together. It`s necessary for innovation and it makes good business sense.

Inspired by the flexibility of Web 2.0 open-source movement, these open-concept interactive hubs in the workplace are popping up in businesses around the world, including IBM (http://www.thestar.com/business/article/715280–changing-spaces), and even clusters of organizations who call themselves, `agents of change,` share a communal space as members in the Center for Social Innovation (http://socialinnovation.ca/) . Perhaps it is a sign that society is becoming truly embedded with our technology, as it influencing the very manner in which we work. But if it truly promotes collaboration and innovation with a networking and interactive approach, why don`t more companies adopt it in the workplace?

If you have a comment or want to share an example of this concept in your workplace, tell us!

Prepare for the fallout

This week, AIG gets a shout-out for issuing even more bonuses to its executives–sometimes people have to learn the hard way, twice. After public fury over the $165-million paid from bailout funds in March, AIG is back with the handouts. Next week, millions more will make its way around the C-Suite.

No, this isn’t Canadian news, but it’s an issue that Bay Street isn’t totally innocent of either (READ: Nortel). It’s certainly a worthwhile discussion.

Some say executives are entitled to these bonuses because it’s in their contracts, and cutting them out would set a negative precedent. Others say it was executives that drove these companies into the ground and don’t deserve to be compensated for performance. As a non-expert, I say (struggling) taxpayers didn’t write the contracts and therefore aren’t liable to fulfill said contracts.

Of course, the public is rightly enraged. When unemployment rates are increasing by the month, it’s not surprising there is little interest in paying for other peoples’ (undeserved) Ferraris/McMansions/French villas.

The payments AIG is set to make next week are a part of the $9-million in performance bonuses promised to about 40 senior managers in 2008.