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Reducing transport costs in an international mining operation

The Lime Group | Case Studies

The Australian transport operations of a multi-national primary industries company were underperforming. The parent company had recently restructured and was putting in place more stringent performance measures. The Australian operation was traditionally a high-producing mining site, exporting to Asia. However, in recent years, dysfunctional leadership relationships and a culture lacking accountability had led to service interruptions (and other problems) becoming more frequent; each costing on average $1m. A resolution had to be found quickly.
The regular working environment was time pressured. Lack of respect between different operational groups plus interpersonal clashes between leaders in key positions were erupting frequently, with alarming disregard for the impact on the business. Quality decision-making and problem-solving were virtually nonexistent, and the remote working environment meant there was little opportunity for those involved in experiencing a broader perspective.


The situation required a strong dose of self and team awareness in order to expose the need for change. Initially, many of the operations team were actively negative about our involvement and determinedly displayed the very behaviours we had been engaged to address. Most of those in leadership roles had come up through the ranks in a rough environment and still identified as “one of the boys” rather than as leaders responsible for delivering results. The group needed to understand what it meant to be leaders and to define a new code of behaviour.
Achieving results with a strong-headed, disrespectful and unwilling group in a remote environment required an extremely robust approach. Our communication was direct, open, and inclusive. Courageous plain talking was required to surface the issues, deal with extreme attitudes, and find a practical set of guidelines that would improve behaviour – and hence performance – within the team.

Having identified priority areas to address in the initial diagnostic, and guided by a clear performance level mandate from senior management, we designed and delivered an unusual and demanding development intervention for the operations team. This included:

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As a result of the program, the team made a step-change improvement in their understanding of how to communicate and work together. A new ‘bar’ of functioning and honesty was created by the team. In addition to increased levels of co-operation, the operations team gained a new shared vocabulary (enabling them to surface issues and resolve them), and a renewed commitment to addressing potential issues quickly and productively. Crew room disputes stopped almost immediately and costly service interruptions decreased. In a highly unionised site, the Head of Site was amazed at the attitudinal shift made across the board, and especially in those team members who were typically vocal with strong negative opinions.