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LESSONS LEARNED IN THE TRENCHES: THE WSSC PILOT PROGRAM

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Early in 1997, the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission (WSSC), in pursuit of its' goal to provide customers with the best possible service at the least cost, engaged the services of EMA to conduct a competitive assessment which would compare its' business practices with the best in the industry. EMA identified a significant competitive gap of 21% in the Operations Branch. In response to this assessment WSSC initiated the Competitive Action Program (CAP) to address this gap. As part of CAP, the Systems Maintenance Work Team created a set of high level recommendations to reduce the gap and recommended running a pilot to test and refine their recommendations. The Pilot was to prove that productivity could increase using the following Best Practices:



A staff of flexible workers


Skill based pay


A team-based organization


A new leadership structure with an increased span of control


Technology for field forces


Incentive pay when goals met


Reduced off-shift staffing


It was also deemed that product quality, customer service, and safety would not be reduced due to productivity increases.

Two work teams at the Pilot depot were challenged to accomplish the same yearly average amount of work as accomplished from 1996 to 2000. The staffing in 1996 was 96 workers, which was reduced to 46 by the end of the Pilot. The Pilot ended in July 2001 and successfully met its goals. This model is now being transitioned to the other three depots in the Commission.

The impact of the Pilot upon the people who made this a success will be discussed from two views — that of those in the trenches and the manager functioning between the field forces and senior management. Areas addressed in the paper include: change in daily work performed; change in skills utilized; resistance/acceptance of workers; change in decision-making; stress; roles of incentives; working in teams; and new roles for leaders.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2002-01-01

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