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Two CEOs on Innovation

CMS Energy CEO Patti Poppe: When I was in charge of operations, I spent my first hundred days on the road. I went to every single one of our forty-three service centers across the state of Michigan. That meant spending the day in the field with the crews, wearing jeans, a hard hat, and safety glasses to really understand how work happens at this company – how we are taking care of our customers.

I was very surprised in many occasions that it did not go as well as I was expecting. Our crews, my co-workers, were very dissatisfied with their ability to deliver quality work for our customers on the first attempt – there was a lot of rework happening. So, we set about innovating and creating new processes – and that was really the genesis of our Consumers Energy Way.

What I loved hearing from my co-workers was their level of dissatisfaction with the status quo. They were not conditioned to think that getting their work done right only some of the time was okay. They wanted to get it right on time, every time – because they serve their friends, their families and their neighbors…

To show up on a job site and be late, not have the right materials, not have the right equipment, and not be able to complete the work is very dissatisfying. So we really target our innovation around solutions to the work closest to the customer – and all of the work is based off what we refer to as our CE Way playbook.

CenterPoint Energy CEO Scott Prochazka: The team looked across the organization. And they said if we want to be recognized as an innovative company, we need to recognize there's a layer in the middle of the organization where innovation isn’t thriving as it could be.

The Innovation Incubator Team was candid. They said there are barriers to innovation in our organization. It may be at different levels and in different parts of the organization, but it exists.

That led to a stronger campaign – focused on leadership – around what's expected relative to building a culture of innovation.

We developed a simple and memorable call-to-action, Reject, Find, Drive. This means we strive to challenge each other to think creatively and consider new approaches. We encourage a mindset to reject the status quo, work together to find new ideas, and drive them to completion. It is our goal to shape CenterPoint Energy’s future together using this mindset.

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Steve Mitnick, Editor-in-Chief, Public Utilities Fortnightly, and President, Lines Up, Inc.
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