The mine’s operating model – and why your people underpin it

By Arjen de Bruin, Managing Director at OIM Consulting

In its simplest form, a company’s operating model can be described as a visualisation of its business strategy. The intent of the model is to provide a clear framework or blueprint for how this strategy is executed to deliver on the organisation’s goals.

But who is responsible for carrying out the functions in your operating model; undoubtedly a multi-coloured, flowchart-heavy PowerPoint slide that you brandish about in boardroom meetings? Your people. So it stands to reason that no matter how beautifully articulated your operating model, it will not succeed if your people are unable to execute these functions.

The link between faulty execution and strategy fall-down

According to an article in the Harvard Business Review, almost 70% of well-formulated business strategies fail as a result of poor execution; with leaders who are ill-equipped being the primary contributor.

Within a mining context, a typical operational model will generally outline the mine’s planning process, workflow management and the feedback loop – how things can be made better, faster and more effective.

A good operating model will offer clarity around what needs to be done. A better operating model will also offer problem-solving or troubleshooting techniques. But the issue is the gap between knowing and doing, and the supervisor plays a pivotal role in determining the model’s success by putting the theory into practice.

Organisation model vs. operating model

Do not mistake an operating model for an organisation model; these are two different concepts. An organisation model will detail, among other things, how a company adds value to its stakeholders (the what). It defines the right people, right roles, capability, complexity, accountability and authority.

On the other hand, an operating model will lay out the how; outlining the steps to be taken and the processes to be followed. At the right time, in the right way.

Where these two intercept is at the juncture, right work. Is your supervisor ensuring that the right work is done, and are they doing so effectively?  Defining the right work is key to the efficacy of both models, and this is where coaching can have a significant impact.

Coaching can instil a healthy management routine among an organisation’s supervisors; teaching through application and reinforcement. For example, consider shift management: if we coach our supervisors into planning shifts effectively with solid contingency plans for challenges that may arise – such as machinery breakdown and absenteeism – we bring cohesion and stability to these structures that underpin the operating model, negating the need to be constantly putting out metaphorical (and sometimes literal!) fires.

Human Resources also play an important role in supporting the operating model by developing the correct organisation model, and ensuring that this model is adequately resourced with the right people and capabilities. Unfortunately, these two workstreams often run at different paces, when they need to dovetail for maximum effect.

Proven pick-up in productivity

These factors are all addressed through our Supervisory Development Programme (SDP), which integrates competency development, classroom learning and on-the-floor application, with a focus on improving daily productivity. Through the application of our programme, we have seen a 39% improvement in the execution of daily tasks, as well as a 51% improvement in a structured approach to planning.

In turn, this has a marked impact on productivity, with one of the mining clients that participated in our programme noting a 35% increase in the tonnes of gold yielded per mine worker.

By ensuring that your supervisors are competent, prepared, and well-equipped to lead effectively, we can reinforce the structures of the operating model and directly influence the organisation’s ability to deliver on its business strategy.