Breaking Down Barriers - Cutting across silos with Simureal

The Invitation

‘We are bringing in a new ERP system across the whole manufacturing process, it will affect everyone. It will be much more sensitive to accurate data than the old system. People will need to be much more disciplined in the way they record and enter data. Can you help us make everyone enter data properly?’



The organisation was a manufacturer of about 250 people, mostly on a large site. The people involved in each part of the process were separated from each other by distance and physical barriers: it was a typical silo organisation. Historically the site had managed the many inadequacies of its ‘built like topsy’ legacy IT systems by workarounds, off-system excel spreadsheet accounting and so on. Good, clean accurate data could be hard to come by.


The Process

Appreciating Change helped the organisation to reframe the challenge as ‘making work work better’ suggesting that the investment and involvement being asked of the workforce could help make their working life better, and wasn’t just for ‘the management’.

Working with a cross hierarchy, cross functional planning team we decided to use the simureal process, whereby the whole manufacturing process is re-created  in a large space. After introductions we asked the system to address three questions in turn. In between each round of system activity we held a round of reflective conversation. Round one was: What happens now? Round two: How could work work better? Round three: Testing out our decisions. Throughout the day there was an action table where decisions could be made regarding the process. As these decisions were made they held for the duration of the exercise and were then reviewed. At the end of the day there was a collective discussion about what needed to happen and who would do what.


The Outcome

The energy and engagement on the day was tremendous. Learning happened in the moment as people realised the difficulties caused to others by their actions, where time and effort was wasted or duplicated; and came together to design and decide ways to improve the situation. Specific decisions were taken, and work groups were set up.  Some of the ambitions and outcomes were

Implementing a system for accurate counting of scrap in a particular function (individual scrap counters provided at each station).

Weighting individual items rather as appropriate rather than taking gross ‘guesstimates’ from weighbridge data.

Bringing the intranet into the plant (which was done by installing a new PC in that area almost immediately).

Introducing an electronic maintainence system.

The accurate setting and use of scales (again quickly scales were all calibrated, repaired as necessary, instructions for use laminated and secured to surface, a procedure produced).

The design of a new ‘easy to read, and secure’ label for the booking out system. 

This self-organized, active, follow-up relied on minimum push or drive from management. Instead it was built on the energy and enthusiasm of those whose working lives would benefit by these changes being supported by management to make them.

This event proved to be the beginning of a series of events that resulted in clean data, good and widespread understanding of the dependencies of the physical and virtual system; and facilitated the on-time implementation of the new system.


More on these and related topics can be found in Sarah’s book Positive Psychology at Work.

See more articles from the Knowledge Warehouse on this topic here.

Appreciating Change Can Help

Appreciating Change is skilled and experienced at supporting leaders in working in this challenging, exciting and productive way with their organizations. Find out more by looking at how we can help your organisation change it Culture.

For further information on these alternative approaches to change, please contact us or phone 07973 782 715