Keeping the Lights On
In 2009, Oklahoma Gas & Electric (OGE) saw they needed to change as senior executives faced increasing safety incidents, stagnant customer satisfaction, a tolerable but poorly trending stock price of $13.58 per share, communication barriers, finger pointing at all levels, and a lack of alignment around their Key Results.
Through the use of Key Results, this Oklahoma utility made safety and accountability top priorities, changing their culture for the better.
This Fortune 1000 company serving 750,000 utility customers was filled with over 3,000 employees who didn’t feel they were making a difference. Along with ever-changing market conditions in the Utility and Energy industry, this caused the leadership team to step back and realize that what they were doing wasn’t working. Any course correction, they came to believe, would rest in something they would learn to call “Key Results.”
In an industry with nearly 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 could also potentially add millions of dollars to their bottom line. Since they saw safety as a root issue, one that touched everything they did, reducing RSI became an absolute Key Result where failure was not an option.
So how did they pull of something as complex as rallying 3,000 people around a common cause? How’d they get there? With a little help from Partners In Leadership and our team of accountability and Key Results experts.
OGE’s leaders and managers were not accustomed to discussing Key Results, as they were used to dozens of Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s) that drove their business.
Like OGE, too many leaders in today’s organizations fail to clearly define and adequately discuss Key Results in a way that will focus every employee on achieving their most important goals. Ask yourself: Do your people clearly understand your Key Results, what your organization must deliver on to ensure success right now? If they do, good for you and them—you’re in the minority.
It’s been said that leadership is defined by results.
We think a better version reads: Leadership is defining Key Results.
Our own landmark research and extensive experience shows that 85% of organizations lack clearly defined Key Results, something which leads to significant misalignment around what people show up and do every day. Additionally, 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 individual accountability for results. It kills momentum because no one feels confident about which direction to move. It’s demoralizing. By contrast, a clear focus on well-articulated, measurable Key Results encourages people to look at what they can do to improve company performance and deliver needed results—our definition of a Culture of Accountability. When Key Results are clearly established, like now at OGE, employees are no longer conjuring excuses, they’re seeking solutions.
OGE execs first had to agree that “culture” meant more than what type of holiday party to throw, it meant “how we do what we do.” Once they connected the dots on how their current culture (C1) produced their current results (R1), the lights really came on. We then helped them realize that achieving their new Key Results (R2) could not be accomplished with the same stagnant C1 culture. C1 will never get you to R2.
In early meetings with company leaders, we showed them how a new (C2) Culture of Accountability would encompass the whole organization, every initiative, all activity. With just a few carefully defined Key Results, they would then be able to redefine accountability. Only then would they get their culture moving in the right direction—one where people understood and individually owned delivering on the Key Results of the organization.
OGE’s director of health and safety, Jerrod Moser, said, “We developed our belief statement, ‘Live Safely,’ 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.
Not easy. Supporting this, our research 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 Key Results. People hunger for more clarity around why they do what they do, and how it matters.
It could be argued that it’s impossible to hold everyone accountable. But it is possible for people to hold themselves accountable. That will happen when you regularly clarify, reinforce, and refocus the organization on the 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.
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, is “Thanks in large part to our work on accountability…from every member, every moment of every day, at work and at home.” We are certain he would agree that what you create accountability for is what you get; and what you get is what you created accountability for. Accountability begins with clearly defined Key Results.