Rapid Execution Case Studies
Consider the following examples of Rapid Execution from the Progress Consulting casebook
A well-known service company had embarked on a program of creating Quality Improvement teams.
“We formed 22 Quality Improvement teams and quality hasn’t improved.”
The results to date included increases in overtime, skepticism and backlogs of day-to-day work. They decided to engage a business improvement coach from Progress Consulting.
Immediately the coach noticed that teams were trying to implement changes that conflicted with one another.
“It was like dropping 22 stones into a pond and then being caught by surprise to see all the turmoil caused as the waves came crashing against one another,” the coach observed. The coach advised the company to form a steering committee of senior management and guided the steering committee to bring order and organization to the company’s business improvement efforts.
With proper coaching, the steering committee rapidly set priorities to reveal the three improvements that would accomplish most of what the 22 teams had been formed to achieve.
Twenty-two teams were reduced to three, freeing most employees to get back to their work. Backlogs diminished and the three teams’ work was co-ordinated to ensure that any changes would complement – not conflict with – one another.
Through coaching, the teams learned and applied Quality Improvement techniques, and learned how they could do so on their own after the coach’s mandate was complete.
The resulting improvements:
1. addressed customers’ primary frustration with the firm, and
- supply costs, and
- the length and complexity of the company’s most common form of documentation by 80 per cent.
A health care provider sought to improve its process for assigning a caregiver to a client.
Through coaching, the organization discovered that the process from a client’s initial call to the first moment of care involved 45 steps, as many as 20 documents and interface among six separate software systems. Each handoff or transfer presented an opportunity for error or omission, with someone’s health at risk.
The coach led them to simplify their processes in a co-operative atmosphere, which revealed that internal rivalries had long been a primary obstacle to making improvements.
Previous consultants’ studies had been rejected by staff, who felt threatened. By contrast, the Progress Consulting business improvement coaching process equipped them to make the changes themselves and feel less threatened by the prospect of change.
As they worked through the concepts, they could see how the changes would improve their quality of work, work life, service and cost-effectiveness.
They also developed an enhanced capacity for working together to resolve their own issues in the future.
A well-known and highly regarded third party shared service bureau had landed one of the country’s largest brokerage firms as a new account.
A major portion of the brokerage’s in-house computer system would be transferred to the external shared service company. Resistance to this change within the brokerage firm was frustrating both parties. Costs were escalating and deadlines were in peril. The brokerage firm was losing confidence in its decision to make the switch.
With the permission of the brokerage firm, the shared services bureau engaged a business improvement coach from Progress Consulting. In the first meeting with brokerage staff, the coach encountered significant resistance, even to the coach’s presence.
Through skilful trust building, communication improved. Applying root cause analysis, the coach’s search for the cause of resistance began.
After two meetings with resistant brokerage staff, it became apparent that the new computer system, despite its many worthy features, would remove some significant and essential functionality that the in-house system had long provided.
Unfortunately, representatives of the shared services bureau were not applying listening skills that would have revealed this. For its part, the brokerage firm had no process to capture their own users’ perspective in any organized fashion. In fact, the brokerage firm’s forums for discussing the computer conversion were held in a setting and a style that was intimidating and actually discouraged employees from speaking up.
When senior executives were asked about any problems, they honestly replied that they hadn’t heard of any. However, this certainly didn’t mean that problems didn’t exist. Having revealed the root cause of resistance to the new computer system, the business improvement coach achieved consensus among the resistant brokerage staff, the shared services representatives and the brokerage executives that all would adopt a fresh start to their relationships. If problems arose, they would give each other the benefit of the doubt as to the others’ intentions and would voice their concerns immediately, in a non-accusatory style that they learned from their coach.
The coach also developed essential active listening skills among the shared services representatives. The brokerage executives learned from the coaching how to separate constructive criticism from unconstructive criticism. After that, they realized that almost all of the internal criticism was constructive. Months later, the shared services bureau reported that it had a highly satisfied and profitable new client. Its customer was pleased with the best of both worlds that had been achieved – all of the functionality they had enjoyed in the past combined with improvements they were unlikely to have achieved in-house.
The formerly resistant staff boasted of their “new and improved” computer system that they could rightly take credit for shaping into its final form.
Fourteen associations with a common interest, but who had also been competitors, recognized the need for co-operation and synergy in the interests of their common stakeholders.
They challenged themselves to act as a single virtual organization where the 14 CEOs would collectively act as the organization’s virtual management team. There were no rules or regulations to govern their deliberations.
To complicate matters, these organizations were spread among a dozen different regulatory environments. Only teamwork and consensus building would ensure their success.
These 14 CEOs engaged a business improvement coach from Progress Consulting to coach them through their first year as a virtual team. The coach provided them with objective leadership, creative problem-solving and consensus-building methods and effective implementation tools.
Now, several years later, the group thrives as the guiding team to achieve synergy among their several organizations.
Six organizations launched a joint venture to create a new and innovative post-secondary private educational organization.
Expectations were high and all eyes were on the venture. The organization was up and running on time and its credibility and reputation began to build nicely.
Two years later, the joint venture was hampered by differences of opinion among its sponsoring organizations.
The sponsors’ conflicting messages, conflicting priorities and inconsistent policy directions were distracting the educational institution’s CEO. The venture’s Board of Directors was unable to resolve these differences and convinced the sponsors to sort out their own issues. The sponsors engaged a business improvement coach from Progress Consulting.
The assignment was to conduct an initial, one-day meeting of the sponsors’ CEOs and Chairs. Given the extent of the differences of opinion, they estimated it would take two or three additional meetings and six months to resolve all of their differences.
In telephone briefings, the objectivity of the business improvement coach helped identify certain patterns among the areas of disagreement and raised the possibility that the sponsors shared, not many differences, but only one disagreement that materialized in several different ways. If this was true, resolution could be achieved far more quickly than they had predicted.
The coach then met with the whole group for a day. While the agenda included seven items, the coach received the group’s permission to assign half the available time to one issue and then led the group to delve deeply into that issue to get it resolved. The group then confirmed that doing so had addressed the root cause of the other six issues.
The meeting ended early with no need to reconvene. What they expected to achieve in 6 months, they resolved in less than a day. The educational institution’s Board of Directors and CEO were delighted with the result.
Although it took some weeks for the resulting decisions to work their way through to the operational level, this one-day conflict management session returned the organization back to its very successful path.
The management Board of a major multi-billion dollar government agency was in the final stages of its annual budgeting process. As one participant wryly put it, “Only the contentious issues remained”.
The disagreements were due to policy, power-sharing and personality issues. With only a day or two to resolve the issues, it engaged a business improvement coach from Progress Consulting.
After a technical briefing on the issues, the coach conducted private interviews with the key players to quickly understand their issues and gain their trust. The next day, the coach led them through a one-day problem-solving session to address the areas of disagreement.
The meeting revealed key issues that would enable the group leader to make decisions that all members of the team would eventually support.
The Board of a leading organization needed to hire a new CEO and was concerned that “group interviewing” might not produce the best result. They engaged a business improvement coach from Progress Consulting, who designed and led a comprehensive and completely transparent process to evaluate candidates.
Before the interviews, each candidate talked to the coach by telephone to ensure a thorough understanding of and support for the process.
During the interviews, the members of the board watched as the coach applied advanced questioning techniques. Candidates and Board members became confident that the process was strategic, consistent and thorough. The coach’s skill enabled Board members to evaluate each candidate’s claims and identify potential contradictions. Board members appreciated the penetrating questions that clearly distinguished the relative merits of each candidate. Candidates appreciated the coherent, in-depth questioning that enabled them to clearly demonstrate and distinguish their capabilities.
Following the interviews, the coach negotiated terms of employment with the successful candidate. Board members and candidates appreciated how the coach’s role as a buffer permitted both parties to begin their post-hiring relationship on a fresh and positive basis.