Enabling Automation Podcast: S3 E2

We’re excited to bring you our first-ever podcast series, Enabling Automation. This monthly podcast series will bring together industry leaders from across ATS Automation to discuss the latest industry trends, new innovations and more!

In our second episode of season 3, host Simon Drexler is joined by Emma Hauch to discuss Establishing Mutually Beneficial Relationships.

What we discuss:

  • Where do you get started to understand where you need a partnership?
  • How do you approach your partner and align on shared objectives?
  • Effective strategies for dealing with challenges
  • Best practice for innovation culture across two

Host: Simon Drexler, ATS Corporation (ATS Products Group)

Simon has been in the automation industry for approximately 15 years in a variety of roles, ranging from application engineering to business leadership, as well as serving several different industries and phases of the automation lifecycle.

Guest: Emma Hauch, ATS Corporation (ATS Industrial Automation)

Emma is the Director of Business Development for ATS Industrial Automation. She has key ownership of a key customer for ATS, and has been with the ATS for five years but in the nuclear industry for almost 20 years.

——Full Transcript of Enabling Automation: S3, E2——

SD: Welcome to the Enabling Automation Podcast, where we bring experts from across the ATS Corporation to discuss topics that are relevant to those that are using automation to scale their businesses. I’m so happy about today’s topic where we’re discussing establishing mutually beneficial relationships. I’m your host, Simon Drexler. I’ve been a part of the automation industry for about 17 years, in various roles across companies that are both large and small. I’m passionate about applying technology to issues that exist in scaling companies, and that’s so important in the automation world because it’s often what we’re using to scale our manufacturing. We’re very fortunate today to be joined by a nuclear expert from inside the ATS Corporation. Emma Hauch. Emma, can you give the listeners a short introduction to herself?

EH: Thank you, Simon. Thanks for having me today. So I’m Emma Hauch, I’m the Director of Business Development here at ATS. I have key ownership of a key customer for ATS, and I’ve been with the ATS for five years now, but in the nuclear industry for going on almost 20 years.

SD: I’m always happy to have discussions around the nuclear industry because it’s just so different from traditional automation. And so it always makes for an interesting discussion because you can pull interesting lessons from a very different deployment of automation.

EH: Yeah, it’s very true. Nuclear is a niche. And I found that once you get into the nuclear industry, you kind of stick with it because it’s a really like challenging industry to learn, but then also really rewarding. So you know that you’re creating an environment that has emissions free energy. And so it’s really interesting to see and deploy automation in a traditionally risk averse industry.

SD: And you’re responsible for one of the key accounts inside of that industry. That’s it’s risk averse. It’s challenging. There’s many certifications. It’s historically very manual. And so I think this is such a good entry point and a good way that we can talk about mutually beneficial relationships in a way for scaling automation in general and across automation and honestly, across a lot of the things that we do. It’s hard to do them alone. You know, mutually beneficial relationships are critical to success, and automation in general is a good example of where it’s necessary. Just because the breadth of expertise that’s needed for success is quite high. And so to those listening, Emma, where do you get started as a small to medium sized business, even understanding where you need a partnership?

EH: It’s a good question, Simon. I think that the first part of identifying the need for a partnership would be when you have like a mission critical issue or problem that you’re trying to solve and you can’t go alone, and you know that you would be stronger together with a partner that has an expertise in an area that you may not. So if you have an issue that you’re trying to be successful in, and it’s critical for your business, I think that’s really where the mutually beneficial relationships really are needed the most.

SD: And these relationships, common in the nuclear industry.

EH: There is a lot of partnerships in the nuclear industry because it is a small industry. I think that where these partnerships are driven is where you do have those mission critical issues that are being faced by the industry, because we all know that we’re stronger together and that we each have an expertise that we can offer.

SD: That mission critical, doing something for the very first time and doing something for the first time is always really challenging. And so that is probably a good place to identify the place where you need a strategic partner or critical partnership. Is that fair?

EH:  Yeah, that’s really fair. I think if you look at how are we going to win together and then how you can help create that win, that’s where partnerships work best, right?

SD:  And that’s alignment and clarity around shared goals and objectives.

EH: It’s like whether or not you’re stronger together and you have that value proposition that you’re going to be a team and there will be bumps in the road. But that you know what your goal is that you’re trying to achieve together.

SD: How do you approach your partner to make sure that goals and objectives are clear to everybody involved? Because one of the feedback points you can get on having a partner is it adds complexity because it’s now two organizations working together and not just one. So there’s two sets of stakeholders, two sets of decision makers. How do you align on shared objectives and driving efficiency or effectiveness inside of that partnership?

SD: So there’s a number of ways. I think, if I look at, you know, making yourself co-located so the team can be co-located in a Obeya room or, some people referred to as a war room. I think it’s important that you have that face to face interaction to build the trust necessary transparency is another key one. So, you know, making sure that you have measurable goals along the way that are mutual and have to be measurable, because then that way you can course correct when issues come up and making sure that you both are committed at the at a leadership level to have the investment in time. And it will require, as you say, because there’s two entities there, you have to have the investment from both sides that are willing to have the tough conversations sometimes. And so having that regular check in for us it’s like a monthly steer co, steering committee, that we have to make sure that the relationship is still healthy and thriving.

SD: Those are great examples of how to drive effectiveness inside of the relationship. We didn’t really touch on the details of an Obeya room in our conversation, Emma, for those that haven’t done an Obeya room before, what is it?

EH: Well, it’s a room where you sit together. You solve the challenges at hand, typically it will have the daily progress, the issues, the action owners. It’s where you communicate the status of the projects visually so that anyone that walks into the room doesn’t matter from which organization can understand where we’re at in the project, what are the issues that are trying to be resolved? What’s in the parking lot and how we’re doing? So from performance wise, are we on time? Are we behind?

SD: For somebody who hasn’t driven a steering committee meeting before, what does that meeting look like? What’s an effective steering committee on a monthly basis?

EH: Firstly, you have to make sure you’re tracking actions. I don’t believe in a meeting that you don’t have actions and you don’t have accountability for those actions, and a timeline for those actions.

SD: Couldn’t agree with you more on that one.

EH: And then I would say making sure that you’ve identified time to report the status of how the project might be going or how the team is working together, have a spot for when issues are being identified. So, leaving time for the group to have a roundtable to identify if there’s any concerns. The last part of the meeting, opening it up for any new business. So not focused on the task at hand, but if you’re if you’re trying to develop a partnership, it’s not just what you’re doing today, it’s what you’re going to do in the future.

SD: And that’s a mechanism to find those areas of mutual growth, then on a monthly basis you’re opening up to have time and the right people at the table to discuss what could come next.

EH: Yeah. And I think it’s when you’re looking at the issues that are being faced in the project, not letting that be a distraction from that future growth mindset for the partnership. So I’ll just repeat one, making sure that you have clear accountability of your actions taken during the meeting. Two, making sure that you are setting time aside for any of the issues, that are being faced in the current work that’s, that’s being undergone by the team. And then three, making sure that you allow the time to continue that relationship and mindset of how do we consider ourselves to be one company or one entity that has a shared goal?

SD: So that’s an interesting approach where you have two companies and the desire and the objective is really to act as one. Outside of the steering committee Is there other pieces of advice that you could give to those that are listening to drive that behavior two entities acting as one?

EH: Yeah, I’d say early escalation of any issues. So making it clear to the team, how issues are escalated and it not being a acting independently. So, you know, one part of the the partnership escalates within their organization. And then the other side is doing the same. making it very clear early on how issues will be escalated. And so it’s not about making dual reporting, it’s how do we escalate to get the necessary outcome that we’re trying to drive. So if an issue needs escalation, because that decision needs to be made, we’re very clear as to who has to be the one to make that decision. And it doesn’t have to be on both sides of the organization. The other part, I would say, is making sure that the team has time to bond and, identify any issues that they are facing. So the steering committee is at a leadership level, but at the working level that you’ve set time aside for the individuals who are working on the project to raise any issues.

SD: Right. And that’s the leadership team creating a structure for effective communication and then recognizing that team building is important not just within their own organization, but across this one enterprise that’s working together.

EH: Exactly. And then celebrating the wins along the way. So, you know, these kind of mission critical projects don’t happen overnight, it’s a journey. But there’s milestones along the way that you can celebrate together.


SD: Something that you said before was it won’t always go well. And I find this in the discussions that I have around the partnerships that I manage. You’re always going to have issues and if you did everything yourself, you’re also going to have issues. And there can be this strange perception that now when we’re working together in two organizations, yeah, that obviously creates problems and things don’t always go well, but it also creates a lot of benefit and it can get lost a little bit if there are challenges. Have you seen an effective strategy on how to deal with that type of situation, or how to set effective expectations around two organizations that are working together as one?


EH:  I think it comes from the leadership. So when you have the bumps along the way, if your leaders develop the culture of the team to expect these issues and to not react. I think that’s really where the best part of a partnership can be seen, because if you react whenever there’s issues, then your team is going to learn very quickly that you’re not really a team, that you’re singling people out and you’re going to go back to the pointing fingers approach. But if you focus the team on the problem at hand and the issue at hand and attacking it together, then that’s what drives the partnership. So less reactive, less accountability as to who’s at fault. But what’s the issue? What is what are we trying to achieve? And then how can we do that together? How can we move forward?

SD: I couldn’t agree with you more. And I think it speaks to two of the points that you’ve already touched on in clear expectations and objectives up front, and then an effective communication strategy so that when things do go wrong, because they will something will go wrong.

EH:  Yeah, we’re doing I mean, mission critical and it implies that it’s going to be hard. It’s if it was easy you wouldn’t need a partnership.

SD: Oh, that’s a really good point. Yeah. You’re right. If it was easy, you could do it alone. You probably would have. You know, there’s a necessity that is bringing these two organizations together. Speaking of mission critical and doing things for the first time, that means there’s a lot of joint innovation that happens. Have you seen a best practice or do you have some areas of advice for those that are about to embark on their first partnership for addressing that innovation culture across two organizations?

EH: So transparency together. So it always comes back to me for leadership. But the leadership has to be present in that first meeting. Even if it’s going to be a workshop, like a Kaizen event that drives the innovation is to say this is the problem at hand. We need to be transparent about what are the drivers behind it. What are our limitations? What are our constraints? So that the team can work together effectively on the problem. So the leadership has to do a preamble of the of the workshop to make sure that everyone understands that there is no behind the curtain here, the curtain is wide open, and both sides need to be free to problem solve and brainstorm without any constraints. From an individual company perspective, a lot of the time when we do brainstorming events, we’re not even necessarily looking at it from an automation or trying to sell automation. It is what could the potential solutions be? And automation might be the solution, but it might not be, and it might just be a different way of looking at it and using lean principles to solve the problem at hand. Or a better tool for the worker. Automation doesn’t have to be the solution. So if you come from a framework of I’m just trying to solve the problem and think of any solutions and then do that brainstorming freely. And then once you have all those ideas, putting it up on a, on a two by two matrix and looking at, you know, what’s the benefit versus the cost or what’s the benefit against the risk or what’s the benefit against timeline or ease of implementation. And then collectively as a team going through each of the ideas, ranking them and then deciding what you’ll move forward on.

SD: And walking through that process not only fuels the innovation, and especially that approach of automation isn’t always the answer. And so freely talking about the problem, freely talking about what the potential solutions are, and then stack ranking them, that helps the teams work together. It helps build trust.

EH: I think if people aren’t feeling like they’re just being sold to and that they’re you really do have a mutual interest in trying to solve the problem at hand. And how can we help with that then that trust builds upon itself.

SD: In your career, have you seen a relationship like this not go well?

EH: I think there has been partnerships I’ve seen in my career where there has been troubled times and the leadership have had to have a real hard look at whether or not the partnership will serve them well for the future. It’s like a marriage, you know, do you keep investing in the marriage because you’re stronger together, or are you going to invest in a new partner that will potentially be in the same situation in five years time? And as long as you keep investing in the partner that you have, the marriage will keep working. If you don’t find that you are going to keep investing in the relationship, then that’s where it can go off track. And so if the leaders aren’t willing to make that investment because they believe that there is a better relationship elsewhere, then then that’s when the partnership fails.

SD: Investment in the partnership and just making sure that we’re clear across those that are listening. What would investment mean to you?


EH:  Investment of time and energy. So it’s not about money. It’s about making sure that you are committed to spending that time with each other, having those tough conversations, and be willing to look at the future together. That takes time away from everyone’s days. So for me, investment is time.


SD: And I like your analogy about a relationship or a marriage, and it is the same thing. You’re investing time and energy into your marriage, your partnerships, your friendships in order to make them successful and these mutually beneficial relationships are really no different in the workplace.

EH: Yeah. If you if you’re stronger together, then you’ll keep investing the time.

SD: So from your background, if you’re trying to avoid mutually beneficial relationship going south, it’s around prioritizing time, prioritizing effort, making sure you’re investing in that relationship and doing so generally leads to success.


EH: Yeah. And I think having that future mindset because if you don’t have the future mindset, that’s when people can get bogged down into the issues at hand and then they’ll start looking at really where’s the mutual benefit if it feels more one sided at that time and they’re not looking at the future, then, then that’s where I feel like the relationship can start to crack because they’re looking at their own immediate needs at that point in time, because just like a marriage, it’s not always 50% equal. It ebbs and flows depending upon the challenges that are faced at that time. Who’s who can invest more time into the relationship.

SD: Speaking through this, does team structure play a critical role in the success of a beneficial relationship, where you have people who can focus at the strategic level and then those that are more focused on the day to day? Should those team members be separate or are they the same?

EH: They are separate, because the team has to be focused on the milestones and the and the work at hand, and the leadership needs to be aware of the challenges that the team is facing, the working team, but they have to have that future mindset because like I said, otherwise, it drives the wedge into the relationship whenever there’s issues that crop up.

SD: And so I think that’s why leadership becomes a key theme of our discussion, is there needs to be an investment of time and energy in, the future state, not only what’s being worked on today.

EH: Yeah, it’s a commitment. So it’s the commitment to the objective that you set the team today. But it’s a commitment to continue to work together in the future.

SD: And for many people that listen to the Enabling Automation podcast, they’re looking for insights from team members, from experts who have done this many times before, because they may be doing it for the first time. For those that may be entering their first relationship, looking for that, that mutual benefit on something that’s mission critical. What advice would you give them?

EH: I would say if you’re entering, make sure that you have the first alignment amongst your executive sponsors so that they have a good bond. They have a shared objective that they’re clear on how they’ll win together and how each of them can help to create that winning solution. They’re about to endeavor on it. Like Brené Brown, you know, Daring Greatly. They’re about to dare greatly. And they must, go in together, you know, hand holding eyes wide open and have those conversations about, okay, when challenges come up, how are we, as the leaders going to work together to solve those challenges and lead the team to the solution? And then I would say, once you’ve established that that sponsorship level bond is set the team up, where the objectives and the roles are clear, it’s the messages communicated to the team that we are one. We’re going to win this together and we will celebrate together.

SD: It’s great advice, and the only thing that I would add to those that are listening is for clarity. Make sure you write things down, and it doesn’t always sit in discussion, because sometimes perceptions or perspectives can be different coming away from verbal communication. But it’s much different in written.

EH: Absolutely. I mean, when we created our a Obeya room, we put up a banner across the whole wall. That was our mission critical statement because we knew that if you see it every day when you walk into that room together, that it drive the behavior that we wanted.

SD: Emma, we’ve just touched on how shared goals are so important to mutually beneficial relationships. What makes a good goal for two teams that are working together as one?

EH: So Simon, you talked earlier about the fact that you have to have it written down. When you write down the common goal, it needs to be, what is the win? It shouldn’t be the an objective like that. The part or tool or system is delivered on X date. That’s not what the win is for the team. The win could be that the customer sees a tangible result on their shop floor after implementation. So if you can make the goal be about the win, then as new information comes out or as the team learns information, as the project’s moving forward, it allows the team the flexibility to pivot or change their direction in order to still satisfy the real goal, which is how will we win together? Rather than some arbitrary objective of a delivery date.

SD: Right. Because if you’re too specific in your goal, you’re going to limit the team’s flexibility as they go through discovery and share their expertise.

EH: Exactly. And then that just limits the ability for the team to pivot as well. And then you really won’t get the win that you’re looking for. So be clear about what will define as a win for both organizations.

SD: Emma, thank you so much for joining us today and sharing your expertise, insight, background on establishing and maintaining mutually beneficial relationships. Really appreciate that conversation.

EH: Thanks, Simon. Great to be here today.

SD: As always, to those listening, thank you so much for joining us today. I hope that you took away some key insights into how to establish your own beneficial relationships, when to do it, what’s important, and how can you take some steps to set up a successful path towards achieving a mutual objective. I look forward to joining you next time, where it’ll be the third episode of our third season, and we’ll tackle the globalization of an automation company with Maria from our CFT Group, who’s based out of Italy. Thank you so much for joining us today, and I look forward to next time.