How did a mining company succeed where others had failed in reviving mining responsibly in a historic mining district? Comstock Mining CEO explains in an interview how Intelligent Management’s systemic Decalogue methodology has brought his company to mine successfully and in a responsible manner. This is an extract from an interview with Corrado De Gasperis in ‘Energy & Mining International’.
Successful, sustainable mining
“With the successful completion of the first pours, mining has responsibly returned to the Comstock, one of the largest and most historic mining and industrial centers in the world during the mid-19th century.” Corrado De Gasperis, CEO of Comstock Mining Inc., attributes Comstock Mining ’s success to an uncommonly strong alignment toward a common and clear goal. This alignment is founded on the leadership and planning of its management team, the quality of its people and processes and a project-based discipline emphasizing positive change. The approach is defined by “the Decalogue,” its operating methodology and is founded on quality, speed and sustainability. This methodology guides the company on how it defines its system, the goal and its operational measurements. The system is supported by a “playbook” that thoroughly maps all of the interdependent processes, defining all roles, responsibilities and operational measurements. This management theory is based on Dr. Eliyahu M. Goldratt’s Theory of Constraints and Dr. W. Edwards Deming’s Theory of Profound Knowledge.
“A system can only move as fast as its slowest part. The Decalogue is an algorithm or method that takes the management thinking of Deming and uses statistical process control to understand how the process works,” he explains. “We define our system and its measurements so that we truly and intimately understand the rate that we generate throughput, that is, the rate that we generate cash.”
A unique management methodology
In the 1990s, he says, two professionals that had devoted their lives to understanding and implementing these systemic management processes – Domenico Lepore and Oded Cohen – developed the Decalogue as an integration of Deming’s and Goldratt’s theories to create one cohesive process, tools and software that bring the work of these two thinkers to a more practical and productive level of accessibility. Comstock Mining used this thinking to plan its future, establish its goals, design and implement its system and ensure the ability to predictably deliver on all of its objectives.
“It’s not common in this industry for companies to adopt this method fully from the boardroom to the shop floor, but that’s what we’ve done,” De Gasperis says. “It ultimately focuses the whole enterprise on a finite resource. If we don’t ensure that point – the point the constraint defined – is running 24/7 on the best possible product mix, the opportunities are lost and can never be recovered. It creates a tremendous focus, intimate understanding and clear sense of urgency.”
Statistical monitoring and selfless management
Comstock Mining uses this method to statistically monitor the entire system “in intimate detail,” he stresses. The Decalogue guides how it plans its business strategies and how the company schedules its activities. De Gasperis says the system requires “selfless people who are more interested in the system’s goal than individual goals,” but the individual goals can all be met, as well, if the company puts the right people in the right positions.
“Everyone in the operation has to subordinate to the system, and that’s not at all a bad thing,” he adds.
De Gasperis admits it is not common for companies to work this way, but without a structure like this in place, many operations deal with “misalignment, lack of clarity with goals and faulty measurements.” Comstock Mining engaged Lepore to help train its entire organization in this way of operating, and its success is ongoing.
“With this system, we know what we want to do,how we want to do it and how much time it will take,” he says.