Towards realising its vision to expand its footprint deeper into the African continent, Murray & Roberts Cementation has embarked on a strategic positioning exercise driven by two primary thrusts — safety and operational excellence. This initiative has seen certain structural changes being introduced to the company’s leadership, designed to ensure that projects are delivered safely, within scope, on time and within budget.
“Although these changes are fairly new, they’ve already brought more focus to the business and we’re seeing the benefit in our results,” Chris Sheppard, managing director of Murray & Roberts Cementation, says. “We’ve reduced our projects in distress from four to one and, except for this one project, all other projects are delivering good results.
“We’re working hard to elevate our safety performance to a level that differentiates us in the global market and ensures that we’re invited to the tendering table. Our recent safety performance, although not where it needs to be, includes a full 13-month fatality-free period, which was a first for the company. We’ve seen improvement in our general safety performance over the past three years and we’ll continue to build on the practices and behaviours that underpin this performance.”
During 2013 Murray & Roberts Cementation created the new position of chief operating officer (COO) to take responsibility for the day-to-day delivery of projects, as well as continuous improvements in on-site safety. Newly appointed COO, Pete Ferreira also “owns” the project management methodology of the business and, to this end, heads up a newly established Project Management Office (PMO) that provides a project methodology standardisation service embracing includes lessons learnt, risk and issue registers, governance and administration support. Ferreira is also responsible for the project management capacity of his team and the overall wellbeing of this discipline.
“In parallel with Pete’s appointment, on assessing our business about a year ago, we realised that the whole discipline of project management was not where it needed to be and we enlisted a reputable service provider to redress this issue. This company has helped us launch a project management development programme under the auspices of PMBOK (Project Management Body of Knowledge) that has led to the creation of a project management framework. Falling under the PMO, the purpose of this framework is to embed the discipline of project management in our business and elevate it from being an optional service function offering to a line-driven way of doing business. In addition, all our project managers are now required to be certified by the Project Management Institute and we believe that by making this stand, we’ll ensure a superior project management service offering on all our projects.
“While I retain oversight of operational matters, the COO’s overriding objective is to achieve operational excellence, freeing me up to create and implement a strategy that will lead our company into the future,” Sheppard says. “This includes assessing the company’s capabilities, developing strategic business relationships and ultimately delivering our Africa growth strategy. This strategy derives from the increased curtailment of projects in the South African mining space since 2012 that has prompted a focus on growing our business elsewhere.”
Murray & Roberts Cementation has also reinstated the position of technical director, which has been dormant for the past three years. Sheppard says this decision was based on the need to develop a stronger technical health within the company’s operations. Mike Wells, previously an operations director, has been appointed to this position bringing with him a depth of technical knowledge and experience to fulfil this role on the Executive Committee.
“Even with the best intentions, in any restructuring of the business that leads to changes in roles and responsibilities, there can be a migration back to previous functions, so as we move forward we’re putting a great deal of emphasis on role clarity,” says Sheppard. “We’ve redesigned our governance, structures and systems to support the changes and there’s a high level of engagement with the Executive Committee. We have a healthy dynamic among the senior leadership team that invites a lot of open debate and we hold one another accountable to the role changes. Our own performance contracts also reflect the changes and ensure we’re focusing correctly.
“In addition, there’s increased engagement with our clients with a view to improving our performance. Based on our efforts to boost safety, operational excellence and project management, the ultimate objective is that clients will see a continuous improvement in project delivery.”