“If it weren’t for the people, this Energy Management stuff would be easy”

The title of today’s post uses a phrase from a friend and colleague, Peter Scholtes (author of The Team Handbook, a best-seller 20+ years ago during the big wave of quality improvement that passed through U.S. organizations).

Peter used to joke, with a twinkle in his eye, that quality improvement would be easy if weren’t for the people.

The concepts and methods of quality improvement, similar to the concepts and methods for effective energy mangement, are straight-forward and accessible.   It’s when we have to involve people–to get limited attention focused on the opportunities, to have people act somewhat consistently, over time–that we run into complications and obstacles.  And the fact is, we have to involve people.   So, are we stuck?

We designed Energy Stewards to help you solve the people problems with energy and energy management.   We especially target commercial and institutional organizations. Industrial customers have special, more technical needs, though the same concepts that we describe here apply to industrial customers, too.   (Check the recent article by Shiva Shuramanya in Energy Engineering  Vol. 108 No 5, pp. 63-77 for a good overview of issues for manufacturing organizations.).

Energy Stewards addresses four related problems:

1. Energy is mysterious to most people; energy terms are techno-speak, vaguely remembered if ever learned.

2. Energy costs usually are not the number 1 or 2 cost item in an organization’s budget so CFO’s often push energy management to the side.   The people who can most affect energy use in buildings (facilities staff and building occupants) usually don’t see the dollar and environmental costs of the energy that’s used.

3. Energy management is, as the name says clearly, a management activity.   Effective management comes down to people using a Plan-Do-Study-Act (or Plan-Do-Check-Act) discipline, based on data.  Management by PDSA requires effort.

4. To maintain and spread will-power and enthusiasm for energy management, we need to tell stories about what works and what doesn’t.   Harvesting and presenting the stories takes effort and often is not in anyone’s budget.

We’ll examine each of these problems and how Energy Stewards addresses them in the next four posts.

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