Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Quarterbacks of Energy

As a long-time fan of American football, I remember watching some great quarterbacks supported by less-than stellar teammates. Think of the Redskins’ Sonny Jurgenson during the 1960s, the Saints’ Archie Manning during the 1970s, or the Broncos’ John Elway during much of the 1980s. Without a proper complement of skill players, those great quarterbacks could not single-handedly carry the team through a full season.

I see the same happening with energy managers in industry. Companies will put the energy burden squarely on the shoulders of one person, as if that individual can do it all. How can one person control energy costs when consumption reflects the daily decisions made by operations, maintenance, engineering, and finance staff? The energy manager might get great ideas from workshops, conferences, trade press, and professional networks, but no one else from the facility is picking up the same messages. The energy manager easily becomes a maverick, swimming against the tide of a facility’s disinterest (or worse).

This underscores the need for the facility’s top management to demand results through teamwork. A major hurdle to overcome is the interdepartmental rivalries usually fueled by competition for budget dollars. Energy managers must somehow overcome the “silos” of departmental authority. For example, it’s not uncommon for a procurement director refuse to pay $10,000 for an energy audit that will identify many times that amount in potential savings.

The key is for the energy manager to demonstrate to other department managers “what’s in it for them” should they participate in a facility-wide energy management effort. The successful energy manager’s agenda becomes a hub from which win-win solutions are distributed to the departmental silos. Those silos then become spokes connected to the energy manager’s hub. The management team then works collectively, creating a whole value that is greater than the sum of the parts.



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