Operating and Organizational Excellence
Allen Todd Wilkes
In 2004, my family and I returned to Utah, when I became Barrick Gold Corporation’s regional manager for Continuous Improvement. Barrick is the world’s largest gold producer with twenty-seven mines in North and South America, Africa, Australia, and Asia. Barrick’s goal is to become the “best gold mining company” in the world through a focus on its core values, responsible mining, and continuous improvement.
While Barrick is a global corporation, my role in North America is focused on our seven Nevada gold operations, two Canadian mines, and developments in the Dominican Republic. I led a network of mining professionals dedicated to making our mines safer, and making employees jobs easier, more efficient and enjoyable. Our team helps employees “put their ideas to work.” We work to implement improvements effectively, value the gains in financial, safety, or environmental terms, and then recognize/reward the people that have done the work—we then put that idea to work at the next mine.
Operating and organizational excellence are growing trends in industrial corporations like Barrick Gold. Most of the world’s mining and petroleum corporations have implemented programs to drive improvements, engage their employees, and maintain their cost and strategic advantages. Many of these corporations employ combination approaches under the banner of “continuous improvement”—at Barrick, this translates to anything that can be done to make our mining operations safer and more efficient.
This work is based on both “top down” and “employee engagement” approaches as the source of improvement ideas and management initiatives can come from all sides. Barrick’s approach is a combination of employee-focused efforts that include a “Lean Manufacturing” improvement approach founded in the rebuilding of Japan after WWII, brought back to the U.S. in theory through Peter Drucker’s work and as applied in practice by manufacturers such as Toyota Motors. In summary, the LEAN approach focuses on:
- eliminating wasted activities and materials not valued by our customers
- building by following and sustaining our production and quality standards
- using a more visual approach in our communications with employees and management
- organizing our workplaces for efficient and safe motion and use of equipment
- managing the value created in our operations, targeting improvement opportunities
- planning our work first, reviewing it often, and doing it right the first time
An improvement methodology, Six Sigma, uses statistical measures and other information to find the source of problems and solve those recurring problems in order to remove defects or mistakes from the work that we do. This approach was used extensively by companies such as Motorola (to not produce defective cell phones), General Electric (to not produce faulty airplane engines), and BHP Billiton (to increase the amount of copper they extract from each truck load of mined material). This structured approach to improvement work focuses on:
- basing our business decisions on information, not hunches or egos
- solving problems in a structured way using methods that have been proven to be efficient and effective
- leading project work effectively through a process of a) defining problems, b) measuring results, c) quality analysis to choose the best course of action, d) improving the process and results, and e) putting controls in place to keep the process stable and to maintain the improved results.
My father’s thirty-year career with the Department of the Interior, Bureau of Land Management, meant that we moved many times in my youth: east, west, and plenty in-between. He retired from the U.S. Government and took three successive consulting positions providing agricultural and livestock industry expertise to the African nations of Mali, Mauritania, and Somalia. My parents were in Africa for the next nine years, including most of my junior high, high school, and mission years. With all those moves, I found ways to adapt and enjoy where I was living. Mali, in particular, was a favorite place for me, as I enjoyed the people very much and had many adventures fishing on the Niger river and exploring cities like Bamako, Mopti, Bandiagara, and Timbuktu, home to the many ancient and colorful cultures of Mali. A mission call to Argentina brought an opportunity to learn Spanish and share the gospel with the people of Buenos Aires. These cultural experiences built an interest in an international career in business and nonprofit organizations.
Studying international relations at the Kennedy Center provided the foundation in the subjects that interest me the most, namely languages, political economy, and development economics. That, combined with a degree from BYU’s globally recognized accounting program, has proven to be an excellent combination in meeting my career goals and personal interests.
A year following graduation, I accepted a job offer from Broken Hill Proprietary Corporation (BHP), a multinational based in Melbourne, Australia, one of the largest iron, coal, copper, and diamond producers in the world. I completed a four-year assignment at the New Mexico Coal Operations on the Navajo Reservation and another four-year assignment at the San Francisco Minerals Headquarters, followed by a position as finance manager for their Brazilian operations. I was responsible for financial operations during BHP’s Brazilian expansion into iron ore mining, petroleum exploration, and power generation. This role required a great appreciation for and understanding of Brazilian business operations and Rio de Janeiro’s Carioca culture. With a background in French and Spanish, the transition to Portuguese was relatively easy. My previous mission to Argentina, an appreciation for South American cultures, and a love for the Brazilian people, established by serving as the bishop of a local ward, made that expatriate assignment a career and family success.
Organizational excellence and other improvement efforts must incorporate a skill set in technical and strategic solutions as well as cultural understanding.
While I am currently living closer to family, friends, and BYU, I have found other ways to pursue international interests. In 2004, I joined the Mali Rising Foundation’s Board of Directors. This foundation was organized in Utah with the purpose of empowering the youth of Mali through education and health initiatives.
The foundation has partnered with several villages in rural Mali to build small schools for their middle-school-age children. Eighty percent of the building costs come from donations. A process to put the schools in place without the problems that slow or stop many other initiatives in rural Africa has helped to complete four schools for around $35,000 each.
Organizational excellence and other improvement efforts must incorporate a skill set in technical and strategic solutions as well as cultural understanding. This skill set may begin through studying languages, cultures, economics, political science, anthropology, and history, but the opportunities for application may come through one’s career or while finding other ways to make that international connection.
A short KSL news feature on the Tentou School opening from 23 July may be found online at http://www.ksl.com/index.php?nid=148&sid=360445. To learn more about The Mali Rising Foundation, see the web site at http://www.malirisingfoundation.org.
Working in the Intelligence Community
Ahmed I. Qureshi
The phrase “Homeland Security Industrial Complex” (HSIC) has come to represent the massive, overarching industry that has sprung up since 9/11 to protect the United States of America. This includes the Intelligence Community (IC) and various other organizations that support one another in the homeland security mission. The center of gravity for this industry is the Washington, D.C. area, where thousands of private-sector companies compete for federal government contracts that are awarded each year to support the various organizations that make up the HSIC.
Within the IC there has been a massive effort to hire thousands of people to fill the critical jobs needed to keep our country safe. It is estimated that 60 percent of the current IC work force has been working in this segment of the HSIC for less than five years. While this poses a short-term challenge to the community, it spells out tremendous opportunity for those looking for employment. With the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and other organizations within the HSIC it is no different. Recently it has been reported that 20 percent of the top-tier jobs in DHS remain unfilled due to a lack of qualified candidates.
This lack of qualified people to fill the United States Government (USG) positions has led to a massive increase in the use of private-sector contractors who seek out the experienced, and often those with little experience, to respond to requests from the USG to fill the vacancies.
There is not only a renewed effort to hire new people but an increased effort to spend resources to train the new hires in the next generation skills needed to be successful in protecting the country. Those who come with already needed skills and tools from schools such as the Kennedy Center are sought after. People who have a background in Islamic studies, Middle Eastern studies, or Asian studies, and language ability in Arabic, Chinese, Farsi, etc. are particularly sought after.
One trend that has been strong for awhile and may now be changing is the use of contractors. From a policy point of view, the current administration has favored using private-sector contractors over the past few years, but that trend may now be adjusting toward using more permanent government employees. In the past, agency employees and others working for the USG could make more money as a contractor than they could in the same job as a government employee. With the appointment of General Michael V. Hayden to head the CIA, he has stated that CIA employees have to wait eighteen months before contracting back to the agency.
The extra scrutiny recently faced by Blackwater USA, a large private security contractor, may also be a harbinger of things to come that the contractors’ world is drying up to some degree and more emphasis will be placed on the career USG jobs in a specific agency. It is my opinion that no matter how hard the USG tries to fill all of it’s available jobs, there will remain a strong private-sector contractor niche to support the USG.
As job seekers move into today’s work force, they are coming into a world that is full of opportunities in both the private and public sector.
In the 9/11 commission report, the commission stated that the USG must look to the private sector to solve many of the security challenges that face our country. The innovation and ability to turn things around in a timely fashion is a challenge that is difficult to overcome in the USG but easier to achieve in the private sector. Thus, this led to the private-sector boom of many HSIC-focused security and technology companies. As you drive up and down the Dulles corridor area of Virginia one can only look to their right and to their left to see the many private-sector companies that have sprung up to answer this call.
As job seekers move into today’s work force, they are coming into a world that is full of opportunities in both the private and public sector. In particular, those such as Kennedy Center alumni are positioned well to add value to organizations across all sectors of the marketplace by applying their much needed skill set of understanding languages, cultures, religions, geography, etc. In today’s ever increasing global-interconnected, Internet-based world, the need to understand theses cultural concepts is key to building winning teams and organizations that can achieve the missions and objectives of the organizations they seek to enhance.
For many decades, our educational institutions have not produced enough people who have an understanding of the key languages, cultures, and religions needed to fill the jobs that are fueling the post 9/11 jobs in the ever-growing HSIC industry. My studies at BYU and specifically the Middle East studies and Arabic, have been crucial to every step of my career and have opened many doors for me in both my military and my private-sector careers.
In the military, serving as an intelligence officer, my Kennedy Center training was crucial to the assignments I was given serving in various operations related to the global war on terrorism. In particular, the training in languages and area studies was most helpful. In the private sector, I was specifically told after graduating from MBA school that it was my ability to work with locals and understand the language that landed me the job to start up and run Papa John’s International Middle East operations. This job gave me tremendous business experience in a global setting that led to a position as VP of Global Business Development for a financial analytics training company. And that position allowed me to go beyond the Middle East and conduct business operations all over the world.
In 2004, I combined all of my experience into co-founding Harbinger Technologies Group, an HSIC firm focused on training military and law enforcement in cultural “soft skills” to assist them with their assignments dealing with homeland security and global war on terrorism operations. In addition, we developed software search solutions based on cultural and linguistic principles to enhance identity resolution and search technology for both USG and private-sector organizations. Each career step built on each other, but the foundation was the area studies core obtained through the Kennedy Center’s area studies program.
For those seeking employment in the HSIC, the prospects look good. Patience in dealing with the lengthy background checks and investigations necessary to gain USG security clearance is needed but opportunities abound. For those who already have government security clearances this should significantly reduce the time to obtain a position in both public- and private-sector organizations that support the HSIC. In the end, the HSIC is a sixty billion plus global industry that is here to stay for the foreseeable future.
For more career information, please see http://www.intelligence.gov.