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Trane Trends: Work-From-Home Solutions for Personal Productivity and Team Collaboration

October 01, 2020

Mother working from home, her daughter distracts her and drawing attention

Each Trane employee views our industry through a personal lens of career and life experiences. It makes us stronger as a whole.


Working outside the confines of a professional, well-designed office space can be chaotic for an engineer (or anyone) who thrives on process and organization. While working remotely from home, Ken Durham, Trane’s Regional Operational Excellence Leader for the Pacific Southwest, took steps to restore his sense of order, and his advice can help anyone do the same.

With the added interruptions that occur when working from home, it is imperative to set priorities for each day and monitor your own performance. I have become even more diligent with using Leader Standard Work (a lean planning tool) and Franklin Covey® time management tactics to prioritize my activities,” said Durham.

He is an advocate for using lean tools and approaches, adapted to working remotely. “I created a couple of virtual lean training videos as an experiment to see if it would be effective in arming Trane employees in our region with lean thinking and tools they could apply immediately. The feedback was overwhelmingly positive, and we know this can only get better so long as we develop learning material with humor, real business examples, simplicity and practical applications for putting it into use. 

“In our office, we are also using an adapted lean visual management process called Customer MDI (Managing Daily Improvement). This process requires participants from every business stream to attend virtual meetings and escalate major customer issues. We discuss next actions and assign an owner to see the actions to completion. The goal is to resolve customer issues in five days or less,” explained Durham.

Multiple division leaders have collaborated to develop an approach to customer meetings that is based on a third-party project management platform. After initially testing a different solution, they adopted the Trello visual work management tool by Atlassian. The internal launch involved creating standard work, a training video, providing real-time support and using promotional tools to capture the attention of employees and increase their awareness of the Customer MDI Process. In the future, use of this platform may become a Trane best practice for virtual Customer MDI.

As the work-from-home model has extended from weeks to months, more changes have evolved. “Our regional leadership team underwent a schedule alignment process where we captured our current meetings and recurring activities. We then defined what meetings and activities we should prioritize based on our current business strategy. From there, we developed a standard schedule of operations for our entire region,” said Durham. “The goal is to allow our leaders to participate in things that are most important to the business. We shuffle our agendas and meetings around the needs of the entire business and our associates.

“We are also learning how to facilitate strategy sessions and other meetings virtually. It has been a big adjustment moving away from in-person meetings with whiteboards and sticky notes to conference calls and virtual platforms. We recently began using a new real-time digital collaboration platform.  This tool allowed us to conduct gap analysis created affinity diagrams and fishbone diagrams to visualize our barriers.  It also enabled us to brainstorm solutions and prioritize them using a Plan, Implement, Consider, or Kick-out (P.I.C.K.) matrix.  We are excited about overcoming the teaming and brainstorming hurdle virtually.  We foresee ourselves conducting Value Stream Mapping, Process Mapping, and other forms of problem-solving with ease from this point.  This is a game-changer and will reduce the cost associated with traveling as we choose to conduct improvement activities from home further increasing our Return on Investment. The goal is to have fun, be productive, and foster a sense of togetherness despite the physical distance between us.”

Now, recognizing that employees may be working from home indefinitely, efforts are focusing on long-term or even permanent solutions. “All Trane OPEX leaders across the country now have monthly meetings. We are beginning to work in focus groups to develop standardized processes that we can leverage nationwide such as virtual dashboards, problem-solving facilitation methods, sales excellence coaching, and virtual lean training,” said Durham. “At the beginning of the quarantine, regions were working independently, duplicating work and creating variants of the same processes. Going forward, we will be working together to develop our national operating system in a lean and efficient manner.”


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