On 22 June 1893, the British battleship, HMS Victoria, sank after colliding with HMS Camperdown. The two ships were part of a fleet attempting an innovative new manoeuvre which involved two lines of ships turning inwards simultaneously. What they were attempting was inherently dangerous and known to be so, particularly if the correct spacing distances weren’t observed. The admiral in charge, Admiral Tryon had a reputation as an innovator, and he was trying to solve the problem of executing a complex manoeuvre while minimising the need for a complex and time-consuming set of signals. Unfortunately, Admiral Tryon, was also forceful personality whose manner discouraged independent thinking. His subordinates failed to intervene until it was too late. 358 sailors were killed as a result, including the Admiral.
The entire episode is a catalogue of high-calorie safety moments but, building on last month’s theme of getting technical engineering support on board early, Adding immediate value – why you need you need LCTS right from the start, it’s the flexibility, or rather the inflexibility aspects of this disaster which bear further study and which reinforce the sound reasons why LCTS has flexibility at the heart of its operating philosophy.
This is relevant to today’s engineering sector, particularly in the energy space, because innovation will inevitably be a part of everything we do as we seek to introduce new technologies and to optimise the efficiency and carbon reductions of more established technologies for the new era. If we’re going to innovate as we must, the question is how to do so safely and effectively.
At LCTS, we believe that it starts with working practices, with the emphasis on availability and approachability.
In the last article we argued that it was in everyone’s interests that the engineering discipline informed project development from the very beginning and it follows from that that the engineering discipline should also be on hand to advise and guide when required, removing the temptation to forge ahead without accessing professional advice. This approach reduces the risk of choices being made which could jeopardise the project either commercially or from a safety perspective, or both but, for this to work, the consultancy must make itself available and the client must use that availability responsibly. There is always the unexpected, but the key is to plan work properly, allowing for the effective allocation of time and resources by everyone involved. Getting this balance right depends entirely on establishing and maintaining the right relationship and establishing the necessary trust. This further reinforces the argument for working together as early as possible on a project because that connection is not made overnight.
Alongside availability, approachability is important as well and, at LCTS, we place a very high priority on making sure that people feel comfortable working with us. We’re in the room because we’re the subject matter experts in our space and that means making sure that our clients have the confidence to ask the questions they want to ask. Misunderstandings and misapprehensions introduce an entirely unnecessary element of risk to any enterprise and this risk is easily avoided with the right attitude. That attitude is something we actively cultivate at LCTS.
A specialist energy engineering consultancy like LCTS lives in the innovation space. Not only do we have to get our working processes right, but also the intellectual processes we apply to develop the solutions our clients require need to be robust and rigorous. Combining the twin elements of innovation and rigour effectively is fundamental both to enterprise success and to safety and you cannot have one without the other. That’s why LCTS makes a conscious effort to combine these elements in everything we do.
In the consultancy world it is tempting to develop a set of solutions and then attempt to apply them to the problem of the moment, however, experience shows that pipe-bending off-the shelf solutions doesn’t deliver full value for the client or anything like. No two projects are alike and no two organisations are alike. There are subtle differences and, if these differences are ignored, they will cause problems and incur additional cost and delay at some point. At LCTS, we are very clear that clients need solutions that work for them, not solutions that are convenient for the consultant and our entire approach is based on that fundamental understanding. When we talk about innovation, a big part of that ability to innovate involves coming to each assignment with an open mind and listening hard before we do anything else.
Keeping an open mind remains critical throughout, both in terms of making sure that the problem is considered from every angle but also in terms of being receptive to the thoughts and ideas of everyone in the team. Even if a suggestion isn’t the answer, it may prove to be the path to the answer, therefore it’s important that everyone feels empowered to contribute and, again, that depends upon creating an atmosphere of trust where everyone feels confident enough to contribute.
The Camperdown disaster happened because a desire to innovate was not filtered properly through the lens of professional knowledge by the man in charge and everyone else was too scared of his reputation and personality to point out the obvious flaws. Innovators cannot afford such inflexibility and most certainly can’t afford the consequences.
At LCTS, we go out of our way to make it as easy as possible for our clients to access what we know and the services we provide. Every company and project is different and we make an active effort to integrate ourselves and adapt to whatever the requirements are. We define flexibility as accessibility, openness to the ideas of others and the ability to see challenges as what they are, not as we’d like them to be. These values are key to successful innovation and we see it as part of our role to bring the best out of everyone who works with us, not least because that brings the best out in us.