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Tom Devane is a consultant, author, and co-author of provocative bestselling books on achieving extraordinary results using methods that systematically engage people in organizations and communities.
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    TOM'S BOOKS

     

    The Change Handbook

    Over 60 methods that engage groups quickly and produce extraordinary results.

     

     

    Amazon

    Barnes & Noble

    Berrett-Koehler

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    Integrating Lean Six Sigma and High Performance Organizations

    A leader's guide to blending technical and people aspects of performance improvement.

    Amazon

    Barnes & Noble

    Wiley & Sons

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    FREE STUFF

    White paper on Positive Deviance

     

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    Archives (by topic and month)

    Tuesday
    Dec062011

    Directly improve operational results through group methods

    These group methods draw on people’s collective thinking to improve their organizational unit’s performance at work.  

    In the first of these methods – WorkOut -- the focus is on process improvements, such as streamlined the workflow.  In the second method the focus is on organizational structure, increasing day-to-day engagement, and increasing organizational energy to achieve the strategy.  In the third method the focus is at the project level – both how to improve outcomes from the ones that participants are working on, and also how to make future improvements to make similar ones go better the next time they’re executed.

     

    Group method

    This method…

    WorkOut

    Bestows upon employees in an organizational unit the eligibility – which they may have had little of before –  to identify high-leverage improvement suggestions and develop action plans to implement them.  Employees are provided several briefings to assist them with tools and principles for their improvement recommendations. After employees have developed solutions their immediate managers are required to give a quick yes or no for the idea, and then provide ongoing support for implementation.  More…

    Participative Design Workshop

    Bestows upon employees in an organizational unit the eligibility to redesign their organizational unit into self-managing teams.  Employees are provided several briefings to assist them with tools and principles for their organizational redesign work.  More…

    After Action Review

    Provides space, time, and training to employees to conduct a systematic analysis of what went well and what went poorly for a particular project or other endeavor (such as a product launch), and how to improve the next time one is encountered.  More…

     

     

    Monday
    Dec052011

    WorkOut -- An Overview

    WorkOut is a group method that engages people to tear down bureaucracy, improve key processes, and improve customer relationships.  It originated at General Electric in the late 1980s and has yielded dramatic results in a variety of operational settings.
     

    Key outcomes

    • Prioritized areas to work on
    • Clear objectives with measurable goals
    • Action plans and an accountability system for monitoring implementation of the recommendations
    • Improved trust relationships between workers and management when worker ideas are implemented.

    Sample client uses

    WorkOuts produce great results in a wide variety of environments.  In a growth-oriented electronics company we used the method to reduce the time required to design and bring new products to market by 40%.  In a consumer packaging company we used it to reduce shipping and stocking costs by 28%.  In a pharmaceutical company we used it to improve the speed and efficiency of their clinical trials process.
     

    Time investment

    Preparation time: 1-4 weeks
    Session time: 1 to 3 days
    Follow-up: 2- 4 months
     

    Number of participants 

    20-100 participants 
     

    General flow

    The session starts with a group of cross-functional people who brainstorm potential areas for improvement.  The large group breaks into smaller subgroups and analyzes the issues and develops recommendations.  Often they use tools such as Asking Why 5 Times to Determine a Root Cause of a Problem, process maps, or simply looking at unnecessary reports and meetings that are currently occurring.  People develop recommendations, and then present them to senior management, who must give a yes/no decision on the spot (if a recommendation needs research a decision still needs to be made quickly, usually within one week).  When a recommendations is approved, the team spends the rest of the time developing action plans to get results within 90 days, and also develops an accountability system to make sure the recommendation is implemented.
     

    For more information

    Additional information is available in The Change Handbook (Holman, Devane, & Cady, 1999, 2004).  The WorkOut chapter can be obtained economically by just purchasing the WorkOut chapter of The Change Handbook.  Other great sources of information are the Schaffer & Associates website and and a second site.   
     
    This is but one method of several highlighted that provides a template for engaging employees to collectively develop robust, sustainable solutions.  A list of these other methods and an accompanying brief description can be found in the blog entry Excel at employee engagement methods...

     

    Monday
    Dec052011

    After Action Review -- An Overview

    An After Action Review is a group method in which participants gather to examine the difference between intended results and those that were achieved.  Most often used with teams because the participants have experienced a common challenge together, After Action reviews can be conducted throughout a project (to help make mid-course corrections as necessary), as well as at the end of a project (to help future people who do similar projects).  For example, one might be held for a product launch team, or for a department that did not meet its goals, or for a Lean Six Sigma quality improvement team three months after their process changes have been implemented.
     

    Key outcomes 

    • Adjustments throughout a project that increase the likelihood of its success
    • Increased accountability and motivation to improve by people who participated in the reviews 
    • Builds organizational capability to quickly learn and adjust, which is proving to be a distinguishing competency in many organizations operating in a fast-changing, turbulent environment.

    Sample client uses

    After Action Reviews can be used in many different environments.  In a pharmaceutical company we used it to help in the launch of a new product in a new therapeutic area.  In a hi tech company we used it to diagnose and fix the problems associated with a high rate of device failures in the field.  In a biopharmaceuticals project we used it to assist in the implementation of a large, enterprise-wide computer system called SAP.  And in a global consumer products company we used it to assist in seasonal planning for merchandise. 
     

    Time investment

    Preparation time: Less than one hour (the actual performance data is collected while the activity is going on)
    Session Time: 15 minutes to 3 hours
    Follow-up: Continuous monitoring and adjustment
     

    Number of participants 

    5 to 15
     

    General flow

    The agenda starts out by having the group examine what the intent was.  They take a deep dive into original objectives, people and groups involved, the initial timelines proposed, anticipated barriers, etc.  The group then takes a look at the actual results obtained.  In this stage it is extremely important to neutrally describe exactly what happened, and not assign value judgments of "this was good" and "this was bad."  The assembled group then explores what went well and why so these practices can be sustained in the future.  The group also looks at went could have gone better and root causes of that.  The group then collectively explores what could be improved, and how those improvments might be done.
     
    Though many people who have heard of the “After Action Review,” which was invented by the US Army, think that these types of reviews only happen AFTER all the action has occurred, that is not how the method is being used today.  When used effectively, it is used throughout a project, and many organizations also start a project with a Before Action Review where they specifically spell out intended results and measurements so they can later be reviewed in subsequent After Action Reviews.
     

    For more information

     
    Additional information is available in The Change Handbook (Holman, Devane, & Cady, 1999, 2004).  The After Action Review chapter can be obtained economically by just purchasing the After Action Review chapter of The Change Handbook.  Other great sources of information are US Army Study Guide, Wikipedia, and Signet Research and Consulting.
     
    This is but one method of several highlighted that provides a template for engaging employees to collectively develop robust, sustainable solutions.  A list of these other methods and an accompanying brief description can be found in this blog entry Excel at employee engagement methods...
    Monday
    Dec052011

    Participative Design Workshop - An Overview

    A Participative Design Workshop is an event in which participants design an organizational structure consisting of high-performing, self-managing teams.  They give special attention to the design of each team as well as to the connections among all the teams.  Giving participants the required information to do this design, as well as authority to do it, leads to increased levels of knowledge, responsibility, and motivation to achieve their strategic intent.  I’ve seen productivity improvements of over 200% in organizations that have used this approach.  Even after having worked with this method for over 15 years, I'm still amazed at the extraordinary organizational energy and business results that it produces.
     

    Key outcomes

    • An organization -- or high-performance work team -- based on the foundations of self-management and coordination of their actions with other groups
    • High engagement of the workforce in setting local goals and monitoring results
    • High energy and accountability for meeting the organization’s strategic goals
    • Improved business results in the areas of quality speed, cost, and flexibility.

    Sample client uses

    Participative Design Workshops have benefited a wide variety of environments.  In a rapidly growing software company we used the method to organize into teams that could make design decisions quickly, and rapidly sense and respond to changing market conditions for their selected niche, which they were helping to shape.
     
    Second, in accordance with one of Nelson Mandela’s directive in the dismantling of apartheid, I was fortunate enough to be on a team in which we redesigned a South African government agency with 26 locations called the Land Bank.  Research and my personal experience have shown that when people are provided with the right information and placed into teams that are collectively accountable for results, extraordinary results can occur.  In this South African agency, the productivity increased 233% within 18 months.   Other clients have found similar results in hi tech, research & development firms, information technology groups, data mining companies, and pharmaceutical organizations.
     
    And here’s one interesting peripheral application beyond redesigning an entire organizational unit.  In several organizations we used this method to build a temporary team to implement the enterprise-wide computer system SAP.  It was been highly effective in helping develop clear goals and having employees self-motivated to meet tight deadlines.
     

    Time investment

    Preparation time: 2 weeks to many months
    Session time: 1 to 3 days
    Follow-up: Ongoing
     

    Number of participants 

     15 to 200
     
    Larger organizations host a series of these 200-person workshops and consolidate the results.  Though performance tends to increase exponentially once the redesign is done, for many organizations the move to such an environment is not trivial, and requires a good deal of time with upper management and key employees before the actual workshop.
     

    General flow

    The agenda starts out by examining the processes and structures that the organizational planning unit (company, division, department, business process, or major project) is operating in. Participants then receive critical information on designing high-performance teams, and they then develop and refine a series of designs that show how teams of 5 to 12 people will interface with other teams to achieve the organization’s big picture strategy.  Once there is agreement on the design and interrelationships among teams, each team gets together and develops a plan on how they will best set goals, assess their required skills, work with members of their team, and also how they will interface with other teams.
     

    For more information

    Additional information on this method and others is available in The Change Handbook (Holman, Devane, & Cady, 1999, 2004).  The Participative Design Workshop chapter can be obtained economically by just purchasing the Participative Design Workshop chapter of The Change Handbook.
     
    This is but one method of several highlighted that provides a template for engaging employees to collectively develop robust, sustainable solutions.  A list of these other methods and an accompanying brief description can be found in the blog Excel at employee engagement methods...

     

    Thursday
    Dec012011

    Search Conference -- An Overview

    A Search Conference is a participative process in which a group of people develops a set of strategic goals and tactical action plans that they will later implement.

    Key outcomes

    • A well-articulated set of goals
    • Coordinated action plans for achieving the goals
    • A community of people who have learned how to actively and adaptively plan
    • A shared commitment to, and energy for, plan implementation.

    Sample client uses

    I’ve used Search Conferences for diverse purposes like developing strategic plans for start-up divisions seeking to capture new market share, kicking-off a Lean Six Sigma effort to dramatically improve operations in a hospital, developing powerful common goals for the marketing and the sales divisions of a global pharmaceutical company, and establishing agreed-upon land use goals for a diverse set of stakeholders in a Colorado mountain community.  A description of one of the Search Conferences that I conducted at Microsoft can be found in The Change Handbook.

     

    Time investment

    Preparation:  Typically 1 to 4 months
    Session time: Two days and two nights consecutively
    Follow-up: Self-sustaining
     

    Number of participants

    20-35 people in one conference, if more are required results can be integrated.
    Attendance needs to be representative of all perspectives who have a vested stake in the outcome, or who have a critical part of the puzzle needed to develop a superior solution.
     

    General flow

    The agenda starts out by examining the environment that the planning unit (company, division, or initiative) is operating in. Participants then explore the capabilities and characteristics of the planning unit, and determine what needs to change to best address the shifting environment.  In the final part of the conference participants develop goals and action plans to implement them.
     
    One YouTube video provides a quick overview of what a Search Conference is, while another video makes the case for having multiple perspectives in the same room debating and mutually crafting alternatives and goals to accomplish them.
     

    For more information

    Additional information is available in The Change Handbook (Holman, Devane, & Cady, 1999, 2004).  The Search Conference chapter can be obtained economically by just purchasing the Search Conference chapter of The Change Handbook.  Other great sources of information are the books The Search Conference (Emery & Purser, 1996), Futures that Work (Rehm, Cebula, & Ryan, 2002).
     
    This is but one method of several highlighted that provides a template for engaging employees to collectively develop robust, sustainable solutions.  A list of these other methods and an accompanying brief description can be found in the blog Excel at employee engagement methods...