Putting Culture at the Centre of Strategy

By Marty Parker

By putting culture at the centre of strategy, organizations can take advantage of an exceptional opportunity to leverage what makes them unique – their culture – as competitive advantage. It also ensures that teams and leaders are planning and working toward their goals in a way that reflects purpose, values and behaviours of the organization and that connects with their people.

I recently sat down with Michael Rencheck, President and CEO at Bruce Power, to talk about the vital role that culture plays in developing and executing a strong organizational strategy.

The interview has been edited for space. You can find the full conversation here.

Marty Parker:
Mike, how do you and your team ensure that culture is really at the center of strategy for Bruce Power?

Michael Rencheck:
Culture enables strategy to be executed and executed well. As we all know, if you have a strategy and you’re unable to execute it, it really doesn’t lead you anywhere. And I think that starts with our vision of just simply stating we will power the future, and also with our mission. Our mission is to generate clean, reliable, and affordable electricity, lifesaving medical isotopes, that strengthen our communities, protect the environment, and secure tomorrow. I think that core mission of a safe, reliable, secure tomorrow really helps keep us in alignment.

And we place that in what we call our excellence model, so that mission is the center of it. And then we drive our excellence model through the values of our people, through behaviors, and through what we call our human performance tools. So it’s always a focus on the people, it’s always a focus on what we’re here to do and then how we go about doing it, to make sure that we’re getting the results at the site that people are counting on us for, and we’re doing it in a manner that we find really fits our values of our people.

Marty Parker:
So, you talked about the excellence model, Mike. You launched it in 2019. Talk a little bit more about that, about how it came about and how it’s actually helping drive performance.

Michael Rencheck:
When the company was first started, the Bruce A units were shut down, and quite frankly, the company was started to be able to restart those units and really breathe back life into the Bruce assets and the communities here in rural Ontario. And as we accomplished that, it became apparent that we could really do a lot more here at Bruce Power.

So, we changed our vision and mission… for the company in ’19, and with that we went out and we talked to about 400 or 500 people that work at Bruce Power to see really what made us tick as an organization. We aligned that vision around it and mission around it, but then we wrote down the values that we kept hearing over and over and over again. And the values were safety first, performance excellence and social responsibility. And those values aligned very well with our mission statement, our vision.

We looked at our company behaviors, how we go about doing that, driving results, communicating effectively, treating each other with respect. And then how we go about making sure that we perform our work every day to the highest standards. Things like our accountability model, which is really a structure for success. It starts with safety first, it talks about what we want to achieve. What does good look like? And then do we have the right resources and people to do it? And then we try it – and I know if we don’t succeed at first, we try, try again. We do a gap analysis, find out where it fits, and we go back at it again, but we don’t give up, we keep pursuing.

I think that’s one thing at Bruce Power that has made us successful over these 20 years, is that resiliency. Like I said, restoring the plants to operations, working through some really dark days here when the plants were shut down and the layoffs and the down issues in a community. And it’s really served us well in this pandemic to be resilient and keep working through this, supporting our communities, our supply chain and all the folks here in the area and throughout Ontario.

Marty Parker:
I know you have a very robust leadership development program that includes things like leadership assessment, a mentorship program, a high potential leadership pipeline program. So, with all of that and all the investment, why is leadership development such a focus for your team?

Michael Rencheck:
You know, leadership is key to creating a culture and keeping a culture. We do that through our leadership development programs, and we’re pushing it at an earlier and earlier beginning in the organization. It’s that alignment with the team, to make sure that we’re actually living our vision and mission statement through that development process.

One, it makes us sustainable knowing that when we’re all aligned around these values, around these behaviors, around these tools, that we put them into practice. And through that, it becomes habit. And once it’s habit forming, it will be sustainable for the long term. Granted, business changes over time and we have to change, and we continue to look at what others are doing and learn from it, but that’s part about having a good culture – it’s a learning culture. You learn from others and you take those things that fit you well and adopt them in advance, and those innovations apply in leadership development as well as the technical development. And we’re just excited to be able to continue doing these things.

Marty Parker:
So, looking ahead, Mike, three, four, five years, what do you see as being critical to aligning your people, your team members, to your culture, and to continue in other words, to sustain this high performance culture that you have today?

Michael Rencheck:
We have great things on our horizons. When I look at the people that are joining Bruce Power now – I wish I was that smart when I was young. They are fantastic, and getting them into the leadership programs, really getting the culture aligned and keeping that high-performance culture going forward, is going to be important, but when I look at the opportunities they’re going to have, it’s really creating and shaping a clean energy future for decades to come.

When we look at the Bruce Power facility here, we have plans to effectively create another reactor and a half’s worth of power. We have the ability to get into synthetic fuels, like hydrogen production, or other fuels that could be used in green transportation. Our carbon offset program is just getting off the ground now, and to be able to take that into the next decade, I think will provide opportunities on a very broad scale for people.

On our isotope side, I think the sky’s the limit there. When this new production system gets in service, it will be able to produce isotopes in real time, we’ll be able to align with cancer researchers on the isotopes that they want to prove out, and assure them that if they invest in the research, we can mass produce it when they’re done. And I think that’ll open up a whole new avenue in terms of cancer treatment, theranostics, where it’s both a diagnostic and a treatment at the same time. And I think these economic opportunities and synergies coming from the energy cluster that we created here, will really build a strong economic infrastructure, and with that, stronger communities. And with those stronger communities, a better socio infrastructure here, all throughout the area here in rural Ontario.