How we got 8.1x greater engagement in our first pilot

Our first ABC Change pilot was in the catering sector. Teams who make coffee and serve food are relatively hard to influence every day, customer after customer. You can’t change they way they work by changing a few IT screens, you’ve actually got to persuade them to do things differently. The consultants were also up against change-fatigue: several OPEX practitioners had attempted Lean process improvement with these operational teams. So the consultants received a mixed welcome - polite but guarded. There was a definite sense the operational team were just hoping the consultants would disappear and leave them to get on with their jobs!

The OPEX experience in this business up to this point was that a lot of follow-up was needed, an average of 6 further phone calls and 3 further site visits required in order to actually make the change happen and even partially ‘stick’.

What happened with C-Change from SixSF?


With SixSF it was different. After the day on site, the consultants only needed to make a single follow up phone call, which they did 2 weeks after the site visit. At that point, every single action agreed had been implemented. That’s 89% less time spent on follow-up (or 93% if you include travel time), hence the figure of 8.1x greater engagement. . 

How did we achieve increased engagement and reduce follow-up?


Here’s the key: instead of trying to impose change on the operational supervisors, they recruited them as agents of change. 


There’s good neuroscience behind this. When people are told what to do, they often see it as a threat and it activates their fight-flight systems. They think of all the downsides of that change (even if it’s only the extra work to make it happen). In other words, they start resisting.


However, when people think of something for themselves, it makes a new connection in the brain. That gives them a shot of dopamine, which feels really good: it’s the same “neurotransmitter” that’s activated by drugs like cocaine! Dopamine is at the heart of the brain’s motivation and reward system. So when someone has an idea for themselves, they feel good about it, they take ownership of it and feel highly motivated to make it happen. 


You might have experienced something like this yourself. For example, if your significant other wants you to change something, and repeatedly asks you to change it, how does that feel? How well does it work? Whereas, if you come up with the idea for yourself, how about that? Do you feel more motivated by it? Are you more likely to implement change that’s arisen in this way?


So with SixSF, the aim is for operational people to identify the change for themselves - so they own it and they’re committed to making it happen. Consultants guide them in this process, to help them generate and implement their process improvement ideas.

How well does it work?


In the pilot, operational people identified 95% of the improvements spotted by the OPEX experts. Each of the team supervisors averaged 9 actionable improvements, with some up to double that number. Importantly at least half of the improvements were seen as happening within 1 month of the initial conversation with the consultants. It works...and quickly.

How long does it take?


With this method, the deployment time was actually reduced by 30%.

The meeting to identify changes and devise action plans took the same length of time, even though the operational people were coming up with the ideas. And with SixSF there's no need for the consultants to independently analyse the situation - hence the 30% time saving.

How does a SixSF consultant engage operational people, enable them to generate ideas and transfer ownership?


It’s a tricky thing to do - it’s crucial to have the right approach and skillset. When it’s done well it looks effortless and easy - but it is a subtle art. That’s where the SF in SixSF comes in. SF stands for “Solution Focused” - it’s a positive change methodology used by organisations such as Canon, PepsiCo, NHS, Metropolitan Police, Sky, and many others around the world. It can be described as “client focused” and “progress focused,” building on existing resources to create change that’s pulled not pushed. It’s a way of constructing conversations, meetings and workshops that generate resistance-free change (if it generates resistance, it’s not SF!)

How does SF work in Process Improvement?


SF starts by connecting with people’s frustrations and how they’d like things to be different. It connects with their desire for change and helps them turn frustrations and desires into mini projects - things they could actually see themselves doing something about.


It helps them connect these mini-projects with business goals (which of course determines priorities and ensures they’re investing their time and energy wisely).


Throughout the process, SF keeps people out of “avoidance mode” (where people feel threatened and defensive) and keeps them in the “approach mode.” Evidence suggests that people in the approach mode are twice as good at coming up with creative solutions to difficult problems. 


SF also helps people draw on their experience of what’s worked in the past. It’s remarkable how often they can build on this to easily come up with effective ways forward, in even the most difficult situations. When it comes to action planning, SF helps them devise a concrete action plan that’s full of easy and effective steps they’ll actually want to take.


Along the way they usually want to call on a practitioner’s expertise, to help them implement the changes. They’ll certainly need some help to work through some LSS tools that SixSF brings from LSS to make sure progress is objective, measurable and visible right up to the Board.

How does SF fit with Lean Six Sigma?


SixSF draws on what’s best in Lean Six Sigma and Solution Focus. We know that LSS works well with process change. As you can see from the case study above, SF works well with people change and ultimately culture change. SixSF combines the two, creating a methodology to embed continuous change.

It's this combination of people, process and culture that produced the results.

95% of process improvements identified by operational staff

30% time saving for consultants in initial deployment

100% of actions implemented at first review

89% less follow-up needed.