Oct 27, 2014

Keeping the Lights On

Roger Connors & Mattson Newell
7 min
In 2009, Oklahoma Gas & Electric (OGE) saw that they needed to change—communication barriers, finger pointing at all levels, and a lack of...

In 2009, Oklahoma Gas & Electric (OGE) saw that they needed to change—communication barriers, finger pointing at all levels, and a lack of alignment around their Key Results were all impacting their Culture. This Fortune 1000 company serving 750,000 customers was filled with 3,000 plus employees that didn’t feel that they could make a difference. This, along with ever-changing market conditions in the Utility and Energy industry, caused the leadership team to step back and realize that they needed to do things differently.

More starkly, senior executives at OGE faced: Increasing safety incidents, stagnant customer satisfaction, and a tolerable, but poorly trending stock price of $13.58 per share.

Any course correction, they believed, would be powered by packing down dozens of measurables into just a few—something they would learn to call “Key Results.” These “Key Results” would need to be results that every one in every role could contribute to—an even bigger challenge. The management team decided on shareholder value and customer satisfaction but then put at the top of their list Safety.

Reflecting recently on the effort involved, OGE’s director of health and safety, Jerrod Moser, said they set out to create a culture that was “more than something that comes from the safety group. It needed to involve every member, every moment of every day, at work and at home”—a more personal culture.

Why? In an industry with just under eight times the fatality rate of others, OGE executives knew that a reduction in Reportable Safety Incidents (RSI) would not only boost employee morale and organizational culture but also add millions of dollars to their bottom line. Since they saw safety as a root issue, one that touched everything they did, reducing RSI was a true Key Result where failure was not an option.

Equally historic was the number of initiatives and programs aimed at reducing safety issues that had either stalled or failed altogether—not for the lack of trying but possibly because marshalling 3,000 people to care equally about one Key Result is just hard.

Powering Up

So how did they get there? Again, it wasn’t easy and took the time and the commitment of the entire organization from the top-down. Here’s the breakdown:

First, clearly define Key Results

OGE’s leaders and managers were not accustomed to discussing the organization's Key Results, and they rarely prioritized the most important results they needed to achieve to a few simple, measurable objectives (again, they had dozens of KPI’s that drove their business). Positively, there was a genuine hunger that was evident among the leaders for more conversation about how their jobs, responsibilities, teams, projects, and priorities could be better aligned with the organization's Key Results.
It’s been said that leadership is defined by results. We think a better version reads: Leadership is defining Key Results. Too many leaders in today's organizations fail to clearly define, fully disseminate, and adequately discuss Key Results that will focus their organization on achieving their most strategic and most important goals. Ask yourself this question: Do the people in your organization clearly understand the Key Results your organization must deliver to ensure achievement and success right now?

Our landmark research and extensive experience shows that 85% of organizations lack clearly defined Key Results, which leads to significant misalignment around key priorities. And nearly everyone—84% of those surveyed—hold their leaders responsible for creating this degree of clarity.

Without clarity, confusion leaves the door open to poor execution and invites counterproductive behaviors. It licenses people to maintain the status quo and to dismiss their accountability for results. It kills momentum because no one feels confident about which direction to move. In the Energy industry, we typically hear these issues come up when we are not achieving Key Results: weather was bad, I had to clock-out, I didn’t get the email, it’s the government’s fault, and on and on the list goes. You can see how this could be an issue and demoralizing to the organization.

By contrast, a clear focus on well-articulated, measurable Key Results reverses this and encourages people to look at what they can do to improve company performance and deliver results that are most needed—our definition of a Culture of Accountability. When Key Results are clearly established, like at OGE, employees are no longer seeking out excuses, they begin to seek out solutions.

Next, create a Culture of Accountability

OGE execs first had to agree that “culture” meant much more than what type of holiday party they’d have, but that it meant pervasively “how we do what we do.” Once they connected that their current culture (C1) produced their current results (R1), the lights really went on. We helped them realize that achieving their desired, new Key Results (R2) could not be accomplished with C1. They needed their desired culture (C2), a Culture of Accountability.

In our meeting with company leaders, we advocated that a Culture of Accountability would encompass the whole organization, including every initiative and all Key Results. With just a few carefully defined Key Results, they would then need to redefine accountability. Only then would they get their culture moving in the right direction—one where people understood and owned delivering the Key Results of the organization.

“We developed our belief statement, ‘Live Safely,’” said Moser. “And that led us to create and develop experiences that supported an Incident and Injury Free Culture.” Still, the company needed a culture that would come from more than just a few experiences from a few individuals—they needed this shift to be reflected organization wide.

Supporting this, our research consistently shows that people who have a crystal clear understanding of their organization's Key Results consistently demonstrate higher levels of accountability for achieving those results than do people who have a less clear understanding of their organization's Key Results. People hunger for more clarity around the organization's Key Results, because they want to be successful and they want to take greater accountability for what matters most to their organization.

In our over 25 years working with the best organizations, we’ve seen the greatest success come from laying claim to a culture where people demonstrate high levels of ownership to think and act in the manner necessary to achieve their Key Results. That starts by everyone knowing what those results are. The defining characteristic of this kind of culture is that people voluntarily assume their own accountability. Rather than having accountability forced upon them, they enthusiastically take it upon themselves. That’s right, they are neither commanded to be accountable nor kept under surveillance until “called to account” for their actions.

Finally, Reap the Fruits of Accountability

It could be argued that it’s impossible to hold everyone accountable. But it is possible for people to hold themselves accountable. Defining Key Results won’t create instant accountability nor will the exercise broadly convince everyone to take accountability—but it’s an essential first step. To get there, you must regularly clarify, reinforce, and refocus the organization on those Key Results. Without concerted effort, the constant forces of resource constraints, problem solving, and operational pressures are working to cause the organization to drift away from this foundation. With concerted effort, people organization-wide begin to own their own contribution to Key Results.

In a Culture of Accountability, people at every level of the organization are personally committed to achieving Key Results targeted by the team or organization, and they never wait to be asked for a progress report or a follow up plan. Instead, they report proactively and follow up constantly, diligently measuring their own progress because they have internalized their commitment to achieving results. Their mantra—“What else can I do to achieve the desired results?”—leads them to continually find answers, develop solutions, overcome obstacles, and triumph over any trouble that might come along. And, as you would expect, everyone holds everyone accountable for achieving those results.

Plugging into Key Results

It didn’t happen overnight, and it didn’t happen without a significant amount of time and effort, but OGE got the Key Results they needed—a 50% reduction in safety incidents which led to improved morale and employee engagement, a 20% increase in customer satisfaction, and a nearly tripled share value of $35.97.

Moser said the culture of accountability that OGE is still building on today helped IIF really take hold in the hearts and minds of OGE members, even from their first day of employment. “Thanks in large part to our work on accountability, our IIF culture comes from every member, every moment of every day, at work and at home.”


Three-time New York Times bestselling author Roger Connors is CEO/co-founder of Partners In Leadership, the global leader in workplace accountability training and consulting. Mattson Newell is regional vice president of Partners In Leadership and expert in energy industry issues.

Each brings extensive expertise in helping management teams facilitate large-scale cultural transition through Partners In Leadership’s Accountability Training® methodologies. They have helped the firm’s clients produce billions of dollars in improved profitability and shareholder value using the Partners In Leadership Training.

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Apr 16, 2021

Hydrostor receives $4m funding for A-CAES facility in Canada

Dominic Ellis
2 min
The funding will be used to complete essential engineering and planning, and enable Hydrostor to take critical steps toward construction
The funding will be used to complete essential engineering and planning, and enable Hydrostor to take critical steps toward construction...

Hydrostor has received $4m funding to develop a 300-500MW Advanced Compressed Air Energy Storage (A-CAES) facility in Canada.

The funding will be used to complete essential engineering and planning, and enable Hydrostor to plan construction. 

The project will be modeled on Hydrostor’s commercially operating Goderich storage facility, providing up to 12 hours of energy storage.

The project has support from Natural Resources Canada’s Energy Innovation Program and Sustainable Development Technology Canada.

Hydrostor’s A-CAES system supports Canada’s green economic transition by designing, building, and operating emissions-free energy storage facilities, and employing people, suppliers, and technologies from the oil and gas sector.

The Honorable Seamus O’Regan, Jr. Minister of Natural Resources, said: “Investing in clean technology will lower emissions and increase our competitiveness. This is how we get to net zero by 2050.”

A-CAES has the potential to lower greenhouse gas emissions by enabling the transition to a cleaner and more flexible electricity grid. Specifically, the low-impact and cost-effective technology will reduce the use of fossil fuels and will provide reliable and bankable energy storage solutions for utilities and regulators, while integrating renewable energy for sustainable growth. 

Curtis VanWalleghem, Hydrostor’s Chief Executive Officer, said: “We are grateful for the federal government’s support of our long duration energy storage solution that is critical to enabling the clean energy transition. This made-in-Canada solution, with the support of NRCan and Sustainable Development Technology Canada, is ready to be widely deployed within Canada and globally to lower electricity rates and decarbonize the electricity sector."

The Rosamond A-CAES 500MW Project is under advanced development and targeting a 2024 launch. It is designed to turn California’s growing solar and wind resources into on-demand peak capacity while allowing for closure of fossil fuel generating stations.

Hydrostor closed US$37 million (C$49 million) in growth financing in September 2019. 

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