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Innovation and collaboration through FOX, a game changer

In 2018, talk of FOX first began: a need to harmonize processes and tools at Pomerleau to eliminate repetitive tasks and focus talent on high added value activities.

As part of Pomerleau’s strategic planning, it was decided that a transformation was required to optimize everyone’s time and speed up the implementation of new tools from coast to coast. And so FOX, the Foundation for Operational Excellence, was born—a program aimed at operationalizing change management at Pomerleau. Two years later, lessons learned along the way have shaped the company’s approach, for the benefit of its future growth.

“Our first challenge was to bring people with experience and diverse backgrounds to work together on common goals,” says Kaitlyn Tyschenko, Project Manager, Special Projects, Sustainability and Social Innovation, who joined the FOX project team in 2020. “Even if you want to implement the best tool or have the brightest idea, if users aren’t convinced, the impact will be minimal.”

Change management at Pomerleau comes alive through the FOX project

“We started with around 15 improvement projects in January 2019, and we were able to bring together as many teams made up of leaders and collaborators who dedicated several hours a week to the development of these initiatives for the benefit of all our colleagues,” says Etienne Gravel, Project Manager, Special Projects. “After a year, we have been able to deploy 10 or so initiatives, including a data management platform for our team on site, a subcontracting partner assessment tool, training and tools to improve our construction schedules, strategies to foster collaboration between pre-construction and construction teams, and more.”

In January 2020, in addition to monitoring the deployment of the first initiatives, 20 new ones were started, including adding a Sustainable Development program. For the first time, teams from across the country were able to develop tools and strategies that will have a concrete impact on Pomerleau’s carbon footprint, its partnerships, the management of its residual materials and team knowledge of environmental certifications. “Those working directly on construction projects are still at the centre of the development of initiatives, from idea to implementation, but we can now support them at all stages by involving key Pomerleau teams, such as Innovation, Technology, Communications, PX3 and Environment. We have the recipe for quickly implementing changes at Pomerleau, by and for the operations teams,” adds Etienne.

Since the beginning of the program, the FOX team has shared the objectives of the improvement project and its benefits—they’ve shown the innovation behind the changes and have proven that the program is important enough to have dedicated professionals on it, moving things along. “We increased the level of communication and demonstration, using pilot projects to adapt the deployment throughout teams across the company—and across the country,” says Ian Kirouac, Executive Vice President – Canadian Building Operations and Corporate Transformation, and initiator of the FOX project. “This was the best way to build trust and bring key players on board who would drive innovative thinking so that we could change long-established processes.”

Employees on board to make real change

When projects illustrate and embody positive change, employees can see the advantageous impacts on their jobs.

“Most people resist change because they lack information,” says Ian. “They’re overwhelmed by all they have to do and might not understand why a new tool might be helpful. But once they have a chance to try the tool—to see that it’s actually innovative, and get comfortable with it, most people embrace change. And then they become your best ambassadors for implementing change throughout the organization.”

Along with increasing efficiencies in specific processes and eliminating unnecessary or repetitive tasks, the FOX project is working hard to capture what employees fundamentally need to make their jobs easier. At the same time, the team knows that adopting change requires communication across all teams working on initiatives, as well as during deployment. “If our communications are well balanced, employees will want to be part of the change,” adds Kaitlyn. “Adapting the communication to include what is new and what has been improved will always be part of our approach. We’ve discovered that if you really want to transform an industry, innovation and collaboration must be intertwined.”