Originally founded in the 1950s, Colville Holdings comprises a group of companies (Colville, Colville Transport, and Brooks Range Supply) that safely and reliably provide quality logistics services, industrial parts, workforce housing, and fuel in multiple locations across some 850 miles to oil field companies based on Alaska’s North Slope.
While transparency and sharing information was embraced by Colville leadership, it wasn’t a core value throughout the rest of the organization. CEO Dave Pfeifer saw that as a risk factor. “We believe that the absence of open communication will foster resentment and, in doing so, cultivates negativity that will only serve to divide us as leadership from our most important and valuable asset—our employees,” he says. But the challenge remained that the oil and gas industry can be a difficult place to build rapport with a workforce who has built a career in one of the harshest and most unforgiving climates in the world.
Pfeifer and Colville first learned about The Great Game of Business® (GGOB) when the energy company Hilcorp, a GGOB practitioner, bought several operations in Alaska, making them their new customers. In their first meeting, Hilcorp associates handed over a copy of The Great Game of Business. “They told us that if we wanted to understand them, we needed to read the book,” says Pfeifer. “So we did.” As a next step, Pfeifer and his leadership team attended the 2019 GGOB conference and made the commitment to hire coach, Michael Langhout, and begin rolling out The Game to each of their divisions in 2020.
Implementing GGOB in March 2020, right before the global pandemic, proved to be the lifeline the company needed to ensure that the business remained at the forefront of the industry. “It quickly became apparent we would have to, by necessity, revisit our operational foundations and examine our finances at a basic level,” says Pfeifer. “GGOB made mini-CFOs out of the entire team. Training the workforce in the financials was a huge shift and took the burden off of just a handful of leaders inside the company.”
“It has been fantastic! GGOB has brought all divisions of Colville together as a more unified unit. Most importantly and rarely in my opinion is the executive team’s willingness to be with the folks in the trenches so to speak.”
~ Hank Herglotz, Safety Manager
Spotlight on the Pandemic
When the pandemic hit, it had immediate impacts on Colville as most of the oil companies shut down their operations due to a lack of nearby medical facilities. Having a steady weekly all-company Huddle—conducted over Zoom—helped the company stay connected and informed. “We used to have significant silos and boundaries between our teams and divisions,” says Pfeifer, which was exacerbated by the fact that the majority of the employees work rotational shifts of two weeks on and two weeks off. “Our Huddle broke down those barriers and helped us recognize we were striving for the same goals. It’s fast-paced, enabling us to work through multiple forecasts, MiniGame updates, scoreboards, and, newly added, A Stake in the Outcome®.
Colville’s leadership team had identified multiple problems such as dragging tires, punctuality, training, sales, time-card accuracy, work orders, inspections, and pricing discrepancies, that could all use more attention from employees. But it wasn’t until they began developing games and competitions to attack those issues that they got true engagement from the team. As a result, over a twelve-month period, the Colville team played a total of nine MiniGames throughout the company. “The greatest reward of the MiniGames is not the ‘win,’” says Pfeifer. “It is the ability of the team to identify a problem and comprehend the financial or business aspect it impacts while also building a sense of camaraderie in fixing something together.”
“GGOB has brought a much-needed awareness of how our company works. It also has given our employees a stake in how we function and succeed.”
~ Michael Adlam, Truck Driver, Fueler
For 2021, Pfeifer says the team plans to “Level Up” by implementing their Stake in the Outcome program, kicking off High-Involvement Planning™, and continuing to improve line of sight among employees and the accuracy of their forecast. “We also want to keep improving our internal communication and teamwork in a fun and engaging manner,” says Pfeifer, adding that the boost to the company’s margins thanks to GGOB has them considering acquisitions going forward as well.
“The Great Game of Business has brought awareness and education. The majority of the employees are cognitive of the cost of doing business. They are constantly referencing GGOB when a cost savings could be an alternative option.”
~ John Hansen, Operations Manager