The Concept of Control Centres

Control centres are ideal places in which to encourage individuals and work teams to develop their own work space. Control rooms usually comprise a tight community of like-minded individuals who usually have similar work backgrounds and experi­ence. This work environment is most likely separate from other work areas and usu­ally allowed to be self-managing. The configuration of the work teams themselves is very important. This makes it possible (even desirable) for the teams to create the knowledge that the team itself needs to function optimally in the work. Impediments to this knowledge creation are likely to originate from outside this close working environment—for example, from the existing practices of the particular workplace, the extant thinking paradigms of the workers themselves, or a mixture of both. Here, we describe an environment of ‘high ceilings’ where managers practice a high toler­ance for ideas that at first might appear outlandish.

In many ways, we use ‘high ceiling’ as a metaphor for extending the figurative space made available to employees to think and conceive new approaches to their work. Creative thinking (otherwise known as ‘out-of-the-box’ thinking), is stifled in environments where employees are expected to follow existing behaviours and where managers ‘keep the lid on’ the work environment. For creativity to thrive, it is necessary to break through the barrier of traditional ways of thinking and doing. Obviously, in most control room situations one cannot compromise on safety issues. This is clearly a reason why the use of simulators is so important, as it is possible in a simulated environment to train and prepare for risky situations.

Control centres using advanced computer systems based on advanced mathe­matical modelling have only just begun to be developed incorporating the human factor. A key word in this context is financial engineering as taught at schools of advanced engineering and mathematics. This blending of analytical finance, sto­chastic mathematics, and mathematical modelling with process engineering is an excellent example of what we can expect of many types of control centres in the very near future, not only in the domains of finance and trading but in most control centre applications. Modern techniques of software development will make it possible to design and redesign simulation models. In this way simulation models can be used for development purposes at the same time as they are used for training and also in daily operations. When simulation models are used for training they can initiate cre­ative thinking and innovations that will lead to advanced system development.

The energy sector is likely to create a visionary future. There are enormous potentials, opportunities, and ramifications in such diverse areas as energy conserva­tion and environmental protection as well as in the optimisation of business functions and processes. This new trend will give rise to increased concerns about corporate social responsibility (CSR). Most likely it will be important to clearly separate busi­ness-related systems from the operational systems. The operational systems can be very large and cover nations or a group of nations. The Scandinavian countries have a highly coordinated system for electrical power production and distribution. At the same time there are large energy business systems operating over the whole of Europe. In the local market there are many other business operators serving the end consumers. For any organisation, the introduction of new technologies is a linch­pin for both technological change and for organisational-wide process development and change (see Hope and Hope, 1997). This is particularly so when technologies develop and evolve with such speed as to aid and abet an organisation’s activities and encourage a paradigm shift.