ABB: Quality & Operational Excellence


ABB is a global leader in power and automation technologies that enable utility and industry customers to  improve performance while lowering environmental impact. The ABB Group of companies operates in around 100 countries, employs approximately 120,000 people and recorded revenue figures of 31,589 MUSD in 2010. To enhance their ability to delight customers with the products and services they provide, a global Operational Excellence programme was launched in 2010 and Oakland were engaged from the outset.

As part of the Quality and Operational Excellence Vision 2012 targets for efficiency, safety and quality, ABB recognised the need to develop a global Operational Excellence (OPEX) programme that would help build a culture of continuous improvement across the organisation. As part of the programme roll-out, a selection of internal improvement and change agents would be required to help engage and enable people at all levels through continual training and development in quality improvement.


Oakland was assigned to support the mobilization of the ABB Operational Excellence Programme and develop the necessary internal capabilities and programme infrastructure ready for global deployment, in timescales that supported the achievement of the 2010 improvement targets.


Programme mobilization and infrastructure

During the early formation of the programme, Oakland conducted a series of mobilization workshops with the senior management team in order to help establish the necessary foundations and supporting infrastructure for a global programme of this nature. An essential element of this early work was to design and agree the training deployment approach across all four regions of the organisation: Europe and Africa, North Asia, South Asia and the Americas. As the programme progressed, Oakland then worked with key stakeholders to develop all the processes and procedures for the future scale programme. Oakland continues to coach the senior programme management team on the full deployment of the programme across ABB.

Assessment and selection of programme trainers and coaches

The training was to be deployed by internal change agents that would deliver both ‘Basic’ and ‘Advanced’ level workshops globally across ABB. These trainers required the necessary skills and capability to deliver effective training in the ABB improvement methodology and then coach improvement projects that would deliver benefits to the business. They also required the enthusiasm and energy to help drive the programme, establishing credibility and momentum. Oakland designed, built and deployed a complete candidate assessment process that:

  • Assessed and validated the suitability of potential trainers and coaches against a specific criteria of key competences
  • Identified the individual’s learning needs to be addressed and provided guidance on their development requirements as a programme trainer and coach

Developing internal trainers and coaches

For the initial rollout, approximately 20 trainers were identified to run courses across all four regions of the business. Oakland designed and conducted a comprehensive ‘Train the Trainer’ programme to rapidly equip the trainers with the capability to run training courses and coach improvement projects. The training included:

  • Technical knowledge of quality and performance improvement tools and techniques
  • Coaching skills for improvement projects to ensure they delivered real business results
  • Workshop delivery and group coordination skills in different cultures
  • Presentation and inter-personal skills training

Quality and continuous improvement training material

The ‘Advanced’ level workshops provide training for experienced improvement practitioners who have the capability to lead medium/large-scale improvement projects on cross functional value chains. A level of expertise was therefore required to structure and develop this training material. Oakland led the development of this ‘Advanced’ training material, combining best practice lean and six-sigma principles. The training modules included: Value Stream Mapping, Measurement System Analysis, Statistical Methods, Project Management, Cost Benefit Analysis and Change management.


The assignment has delivered some early success:

The Programme infrastructure:

  • Has been designed and developed to meet the future scale requirements of the Programme
  • Is fully documented and deployed across the organisation

The standardized assessment process:

  • Has become embedded within the programme infrastructure as a sustainable approach to qualifying internal trainers and coaches in the Divisions, Regions and local business units, ensuring a standardised global approach whilst meeting local needs
  • Has accelerated development of the initial wave of trainers required to meet the language, cultural and geographical demands of the ABB global organisation

Qualified trainers and coaches:

  • Have provided the early momentum required to establish the programme credibility
  • Are distributed across the entire organizational footprint and are supporting all Divisions and Regions in ABB
  • Have delivered training to over 450 people and coached improvement projects that are now delivering immediate benefits to the business

The ‘Advanced’ workshop material:

  • Provides a sound basis on which to develop expert quality and operational excellence improvement practitioners within ABB
  • Forms the necessary platform to deliver advanced projects with improvements in on-time, on-cost and on-quality delivery.