When we talk to utilities about customer-side management (CSM), we often hear, “To do that, we need to change our culture.” Unfortunately, beyond vague ideas about what it feels like to work there or what behaviors are valued, very few utilities really know what it means to change their culture.

Without a doubt, the vision of CSM implies major shifts for utilities. Putting customers at the center of your business to leverage the power of demand-side management, distributed resources, and customer experience management is a new paradigm of what utilities can be and should be. It’s not an incremental or evolutionary change. It’s innovative, disruptive, and transformational.

If you Google “how to transform company culture,” you’ll get nearly 4 million results—and a shocking number of those are “4 steps,” “5 tricks and tips,” or “10 principles” of culture change. But is it really that simple?

How do you actually transform utility culture? Has anyone successfully encouraged innovation, creativity, and risk-taking while refusing to compromise on safety and reliability? What is culture anyway?

At the upcoming E Source Forum, we intend to answer those questions and more during a session entitled, “Transforming Utility Culture.”

You’ll hear directly from Greg Dudkin, president of PPL Electric Utilities, with the story of that company’s five-year (and continuing) process of cultural transformation. Martin Marquardt, president of Ephektiv Inc., and an energy-industry veteran with decades of experience in leveraging culture for improved business results, will share the details of assessing and transforming PPL’s culture.

When Greg arrived at PPL as the senior vice president of Operations after six years at Comcast, he found more on-the-job injuries than he was comfortable with. Collaborating with the folks at Ephektiv, PPL uncovered cultural issues that were driving safety problems. Through shared learning and experience, employees had developed what Human Synergistics, a pioneer in quantifying organizational culture, calls a passive/defensive cultural style. The fuel for such cultures is individual insecurity, and the lack of learning and adaptability that occurs in such organizations often reinforces that same insecurity. This can lead to self-induced stress, stagnation, and a host of counterproductive behaviors.

Together, PPL and Ephektiv plotted a course toward a more constructive culture, focused on achieving organizational goals while simultaneously supporting and developing people. With Greg’s leadership and direct involvement—and a great deal of patience and persistence—the company has stayed that course for the past five years.

Greg and Martin will share specifics about how PPL’s cultural odyssey started, the robust framework they used for cultural assessment, and what was really required to transform the culture. They’ll bring you along on their journey from decreasing on-the-job injuries to increasing customer satisfaction, revenue, and profitability.

Join us for this and many more enlightening, challenging, and entertaining sessions at the E Source Forum, September 13–16, 2016, at the Sheraton Denver Downtown. Registration is free for E Source members.

Comments

Eryc, This session on culture (and future discussions on it) are desperately needed within the utility industry. I'm really looking forward to it and glad E-Source has it as part of the conversation as it affects all aspects of a utility's existence and performance. Matt

Agreed, Matt! It's time we -- ahem -- transformed the conversation about culture from the fluffy and vague to the firm, specific, and -- above all -- actionable. Glad to have you as part of the continuing conversation!

Contributing Authors

Senior Solution Director

Eryc Eyl is committed to improving the experience of work and business for employees and customers. His expertise in customer experience, employee...