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Teamwork at 2000° Celsius

When Melbourne smelter technology company Ausmelt won a contract to build a new type of copper smelter in northern China, they knew a big part of their future would depend on a nine-person project team.


Located about 800km southwest of Beijing, amid some of the most remote country in China, is an immense copper reserve called Zhang Tiao Shan mountain.  Ausmelt’s unique and proprietary smelter lance technology was just what the Zhang Tiao Shan copper company wanted.  The challenge now was for a team of nine professionals to implement its part in the project - commissioning the heart of the large smelter - in a remote area, under time pressure, across language barriers and to a standard of excellence that showed what Australian companies can do.

General Manager and CEO Paul Abbott contacted Team Results.  The challenge - what could be done with the project team to guarantee a level of performance in China that matched what Ausmelt itself had done with its smelter lance technology?

After talking at some length with everyone involved in the project, Paul Abbott and Team Results Director John Kolm agreed on the parameters for a 2½ day tailored simulation, which was run at a country retreat near Trentham in February.

Having had prior input into what each individual wanted to gain from the simulation, the Zhang Tiao Shan team arrived in Trentham with very little idea of the project they would be asked to manage - not unlike the real team challenge they faced deep inside North China.  They quickly discovered that they were managing a hugely enjoyable but very demanding project, weaving together all the themes of remoteness, time pressure, communication barriers and need for excellence that they would face in China about four weeks later.

“In a nutshell, cohesion was vital to our success”, says CEO Paul Abbott. “The team needed to understand their strengths and weaknesses and to develop strategies to use when they were over there.”

After 2½ days of alternately devising and then reality-testing team strategies for handling the challenge ahead, the “ZTS Team” not only succeeded with their simulated challenge but emerged very confident that they now had strategies and understandings that :

· Worked

· Were born of reality and not the whiteboard

· Would deliver results for Ausmelt and personal wins for every individual.

“We now have a team in China that is relying on each other”, adds Paul.  “They are managing very well in a difficult environment, and what they learnt over the couple of days certainly made a significant contribution. It was money well spent.”
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