Moving from the side line to the corporate box.
If you are the purchasing manager or sales executive in an outsourcing procurement, your view is akin to sitting on the second row behind one of the end zones at a sports event– you see those players in front of you, the heads of others behind them, and you know there are others on the pitch affecting the game.
AO has repeatedly measured poor alignment within the sales team, the delivery team, and between the customer and outsourcer, just three months after signing. AO has identified that contract SLA’s and performance KPI’s only account for 40% of the factors stakeholders are using to judge success.
A business process outsourcing firm used AO with their prospect to measure and maximize alignment around contract expectations. Despite a strong overall alignment, (81), there were several metrics where the customer was poorly aligned internally around their cycle time and quality level requirements. However, what surprised both parties, was a number of misaligned expectations as to ‘how’ the contract would be conducted. Reconciling these items removed concerns and issues with signing the contract.
The prospect’s CEO stated that the AO-based insights, and the conversations they led to with the outsourcer, ‘redefined customer-centric’ and gave him verifiable confidence that both parties knew what they were signing up for.
The outsourcer has enjoyed a growing multi-year relationship with their customer.
Even an aligned supplier cannot satisfy a misaligned customer.
AO was used during the start up of a new seven-year outsourcing contract to ensure a smooth transition from the sales team to the account delivery team.
The contract comprised six key deliverables over the first two years. Early signs of misalignment between the customer and the outsourcer’s delivery teams were being experienced in two areas.
The client expected the supplier’s operation of their business processes to deliver rapid, tangible process improvements. The outsourcer saw process improvement as requiring the client side of processes to be matured too, not just those elements ‘bought’ from the supplier. However, the outsourcer’s prioritization of initiatives to upgrade process excellence across the process lifecycle were being silently rejected by the customer’s leaders, by assigning lower priorities to staff activities and meetings.
Concurrently, unbeknownst to the outsourcer, and the client’s management team, the senior client executive weighted one of the six deliverables as ‘If this one doesn’t happen, the rest don’t matter’. The outsourcer had not been informed of this new perspective so was not treating the deliverable with any greater priority.
After surfacing these disconnects, the client explicitly acknowledged that they needed to participate in process improvement, and all parties agreed to publish a revised set of project priorities.
Removing roadblocks prior to the contract renewal process.
Large IT outsourcing contracts are typically complex, imperfect, collaborations. The relationship can be in any state when the renewal process starts.
An account executive at a BPO firm was uncertain whether her client would automatically renew, or go out to rebid. In the penultimate year of the contract, she used AO to optimize alignment across the 53 key customer and supplier stakeholders.
An Alignment Index of 75 revealed worrying sentiments and differences of opinion across these stakeholders.
Despite formal performance reporting, some customer personnel inaccurately believed that certain KPI’s were not being met. While the outsourcer had taken full control of the client’s processes, they were being judged negatively for inadequate innovation. Within certain groups, the customer’s sentiment was that they expected best practices yet it seemed the outsourcer was ‘doing it for the first time’.
On the other hand, customers would not admit to problems they caused, for fear that the outsourcer would use the honesty against them in future negotiations. This led to problems going unresolved too long, or the wrong remedy applied.
These and other issues were placed in front of the customer and outsourcer IT and process leadership, for resolution.
The customer did not go out to rebid, and confidently signed a multi-year renewal with the BPO firm.
Stakeholders with competing interests develop a policy for financial sustainability.
With the reduction in federal and state grants, the governing body of a Health Information Exchange (HIE) was faced with question of how it would fund its operations and growth.
With the competing interests of insurance company payers, health care providers and organizations representing patients and the public, the organization had been unable to agree upon a policy for financial sustainability.
By using AO that was both transparent and enabled anonymous comments, the governing body was able to transcend personalities in its dialogue and identified two critical misalignments.
The process diagnosed that stakeholders were using different definitions of the word “payer” in their discussions and held different financial assumptions regarding technology development grants. When these previously unstated assumptions were explicitly surfaced, the misalignments were rapidly resolved, and a policy that enabled financial sustainability was developed in 10 weeks.
This organization is now among the few Health Information Exchanges in the country with service revenues that exceed its operational costs.
Choosing whether to stabilize or maintain pace during a period of high growth.
A mid-size services firm with 3 years of double-digit growth needed to make important choices for the upcoming year.
Leadership understood the need to refresh and clarify their business plans, but with ‘all hands on deck’ handling the growth, business planning meetings were being postponed.
However, leadership was conscious that unresolved tension was growing between ‘slow the growth to consolidate our execution capability’ versus ‘continue the high growth and risk a few errors’. Similar debate was occurring around ‘grow share of wallet in a few major accounts’, versus, ‘expand into new markets’.
42 people engaged in the virtual dialogue and alignment maximization activities, mostly after hours – including participants from business development, service delivery and key contributors, in addition to the leadership team.
The low Alignment Index of 65 was actually greater than expected. On one hand, confidence in the business model, the leadership team, and the market opportunity was high, plus the two issues described above were validated.
At the same time, the virtual dialogue revealed unforeseen concerns over brand differentiation and decision-making policies.
In two, 3-hour leadership team meetings, the annual objectives were discussed and endorsed. The firm has maintained its growth rate over the following two years.
Annual goal setting surfaces discontent with a recently revised business strategy.
One year into their corporate re-positioning, leadership of this national retail organization determined they needed to take stock of the situation and select a few core objectives for the next 12 to 18 months.
With an overall Alignment Index of 78, AO identified strong alignment amongst the 8 senior executives around the more tactical, operational activities that were underway (AI’s in the 80’s), but weak alignment around their core strategy and go-forward operating model. (AI’s in the 60’s). The visual display of alignment across the strategic to tactical subjects lead the COO to declare ‘Houston, we have a problem here.’
There was distinct misalignment around the implementation of one aspect of their revised strategy, plus one of the revised operating policies, which several leaders were pleased to have out on the table in full view.
This lead to a re-evaluation of their competitive positioning and brand differentiation driven by their branded and non-branded product strategy.
Revised go-to-market priorities were set, and the organization is in its third year of revenue and EBITDA growth.
Ensuring Go-Live Success from Day 1 to 100
A set of global, corporate, and international change managers were appointed to lead their local section of an ERP upgrade impacting the company’s customer-facing quote-to-cash processes. The head of change chose a management consultant using SchellingPoint to assemble a globally coordinated change strategy.
Working virtually, the 16 assembled a change program comprising 47 actions across 7 workstreams to attain 18 objectives. These objectives described success from the first site go-live to the third, with consideration for scale-out requirements across the 60 locations.
In just several hours over six virtual meetings, the group covered every aspect of the implementation, from business unit priorities and IT capabilities and constraints to the role and use of internal subject matter experts and external consultants and mechanisms for handling scope clarification and change through to training efficacy assessment.
Beyond the pure technical changes impacting the business users, multiple policing around, for example, pushing information vs having users pull information, had to be reconciled. The modes, types, timing and levels of personalization of communications, training aids and job aids were specified.
The change strategy roadmap provided consistency across this global upgrade.
A Fortune 50 CEO wants to clarify his leadership team’s view of their vision.
After years of growth, the organization was heading into challenging economic conditions, and embarking on a nine-figure ERP implementation.
Rather than conduct a traditional management consulting project to clarify their vision, mission and strategy, they elected to use AO, for its speed, efficiency and cost.
The process was expected to clarify leadership’s mutual understanding of their vision, as the basis for selecting their focus and priorities for the next three years.
The alignment analytics surprised the leadership team, who had worked together for many years. For example, their different beliefs about the role and ranking of Operational Excellence, Customer Intimacy, and Product Innovation surprised the team.
Their assumed like-mindedness had led to actions and initiatives that were becoming fragmented, and silently had taken the implementation of shared values in different directions.
Realizing they needed to agree on a common viewpoint, three 2-hour meetings were used to maximize alignment around their direction.
The subsequent strategy, and how it implemented their definition of their vision, was rolled out to their top 100 leaders within three months. The initiative is credited with being fundamental to how the organization experienced strong financial performance over the next three years and throughout the economic downturn.
Who are we and what do we do?
The CEO of a cosmetics company was discussing with his management team and first level leaders how to organically increase revenue 20% over the next three years.
The conversation had quickly bifurcated around two different approaches to their go-to-market strategy. Ideas such as new pricing schemes, a new advertising campaign, a voice of the customer analysis, retooling the existing sales force, new partnerships, were being debated with little resolution.
AO was used to gain alignment around the growth strategy. The alignment analytics immediately surfaced a highly misaligned assumption, one that had not been explicitly discussed by the group.
Many of the senior managers believed the company sold ‘commodity cosmetics’, while others viewed their product line as a set of ‘value-added facial solutions’. This explained why the suggestions for organic growth were so different, as price, position and supply chain improvements competed with solution selling training for salespeople and value-based marketing strategies.
The CEO and his team spent three hours clarifying the nature of their product lines, clarified the terms commodity and solution, until the group agreed that they were selling low-differentiated cosmetics in a highly commoditized, competitive market.
This allowed the group to select the appropriate marketing and sales strategy adjustments, which have been core to continued revenue growth.
Establishing aligned action to fulfill a new business strategy.
As part of a corporate reorganization, back office operations within five business units had been reorganized into a single shared service function. The new organization, comprising two thirds of the original headcount, had crafted vision and mission statements plus a set of strategic objectives. However, after nine months, performance was not meeting expectations.
AO was used to surface the underlying issues and identify how to bring performance on track. The leadership team’s virtual dialogue showed that a set of fundamental beliefs and assumptions regarding the environment they were operating within were found to be misaligned.
For example, one key assumption related to their success rate in part of R&D, and how they compared to benchmarked peers. One of the fifteen senior leaders felt their performance was poor, the other fourteen felt it was top-tier. When asked for their reasoning, the general response was that “We are XYZ, we are the market leader, we are as good as any competition”, whereas the dissenter wrote “I have a three-month old report showing that we are not half as good as our benchmark peers.”
When the group accepted this markedly different competitive position, it changed an underlying foundation of their strategy discussions.
Additional disconnects revolved around a lack of shared objectives, and cost-reduction objectives insufficiently complemented by value-creation objectives.
The group retained the vision and mission statements but maximized alignment around a revised scorecard with supporting actions.
Changing to a customized leadership competency (behavioral skills) model
Talent Strategy Partners (TSP) is one of the consulting firms using SchellingPoint’s Consulting Software to improve their consulting product…adjusting their people – process – technology mix to bring their clients better outcomes. TSP used SchellingPoint’s templating facility to create their proprietary SchellingPoint product, Culture EngineTM. With this asset, they enable their clients to achieve desired business results through culture change, including people’s values and behaviors. It allows their firm, in much less time than previously, to draw conclusions about stakeholders’ culture- related opinions and transform these into the culture initiatives, endorsed by the group, that will have the highest impact.
A long-term client of TSP is Main Line Health (MLH), a regional system of five hospitals – four acute care and one rehabilitation hospital – as well as a drug and alcohol treatment facility, a research facility, and a home health service. Health care reform and market dynamics have increased pressure for the health system to further enhance their performance. An initial strategic business planning process surfaced the need to create more holistic attitudes about policies, protocols, and practices across the hospitals to support ongoing improvement efforts in quality, safety and financial results.
MLH identified the assessment of the system’s culture and subcultures as a critical success factor of the business plan and decided to engage TSP with their SchellingPoint-based Culture Engine to further define the cultural context of the required change. Championed by President and CEO, Jack Lynch, and spearheaded by Senior Vice President of Human Resources, Paul Yakulis, a key outcome of this engagement was a customized leadership competency (behavioral skills) model.
In the three years since the competency model was implemented and incorporated into all human resources management practices, Jack Lynch and Paul Yakulis have reported the kind of results they had hoped for. They explain: “One example of cultural change driven by the Culture Engine process is ‘System-Wide Thinking’. With a focus on this competency, localized thinking and behavior is receding and is being replaced with initiatives to standardize clinical protocols across all facilities with the goal to achieve clinically integrated networks. Job rotations among the facilities are now becoming the norm and the sharing of best practices has become an organizational standard..”
They add another important outcome, “The competency ‘Developing Others’ has driven the creation of the first-ever employee development process and has kick-started the creation of a succession planning process that manages the organization’s talent from a system perspective, using a common definition of leadership.”
MLH explains their experience with the Culture Engine was differentiated by the early identification of barriers and unintended consequences. “The methodology used by Talent Strategy Partners allowed us to quickly identify the key challenges and opportunities so that the team could begin to work through them in our first meeting. Without their process, it would have taken months just to figure out the best approach to move our organization to the next level of excellence. .”
Defining, measuring and improving a culture of quality with Xavier Health and PwC.
Effective supply chains are vital, especially in the pharmaceutical industry, where shortages and recalls can impact patient health. The 2012 FDA Safety and Innovation Act gave the FDA new authorities to address the challenges posed by an increasingly global drug supply chain.
In response to the FDA’s recent interest in an organization’s ‘commitment to a culture of quality’, Xavier Health, in collaboration with PwC, started an initiative to engage with industry to (1) define ‘a culture of quality’ and (2) to measure and compare groups within one company as well as compare results across companies, all to improve supply chain quality.
Xavier Health and PwC asked SchellingPoint to help them create alignment within the industry as to how to define and then measure a culture of quality, and assemble a repeatable model for assessment and action planning to drive supply chain transformation through culture change.
The results of the initial work included the following:
Using SchellingPoint’s cause-effect matrix, influence map, and sentiment indices, Xavier, PwC and SchellingPoint identified a subset of all of the Subject Matter Experts’ (SME’s) opinions on the topic that constituted the cultural root drivers of quality.
The SchellingPoint method for turning opinions into tangible metrics produced pharma supply chain actions that the SMEs agreed could be measured.
Using these findings, the SchellingPoint consulting software was used in a pilot with a large number of Pharmaceutical companies to assess their “culture of quality”. The pilot data that came back from the system indicated an overall sentiment that the culture of quality in the pilot sites was below ideal overall. Interestingly, quality leadership was generally of the opinion that a culture of quality existed while production operators were ambivalent at best.
The software-driven ‘Quality Culture Assessment and Improvement Service’, built using SchellingPoint’s templating facility, is now being deployed by PwC and Xavier Health with pharmaceutical supply chain companies committed to operating with the highest levels of quality.
Using alignment awareness to increase contract performance.
A global products company deployed a series of AO uses within its supplier base, using AO to measure alignment in several multi-year, direct materials, contracts.
The sample of contracts ranged from new relationships to long tenured suppliers, small and large contracts, successful and challenging relationships. Each customer/supplier pair involved between 16 and 72 individuals actively involved in leading and operating each relationship.
Each customer and supplier team analyzed the alignment within their organizations, and between their two organizations, across 14 aspects of the relationship. The alignment analytics were used with each supplier to acknowledge alignment and pinpoint a variety of known and unknown misalignments invisible in traditional Voice of the Customer and Voice of the Supplier surveys.
Beyond enhancing the performance of each relationship, for the customer, trends appeared which indicated a correlation between internal practices which lead to higher alignment and greater relationship success, and others that were the cause of weaker contract performance.
The customer’s supply chain group has adjusted its practices and is applying AO to additional categories of direct and indirect spend.
Replacing proxy, indirect measures of alignment to accurately pinpoint action.
Supplier-side relationship managers want to ‘be aligned’ with their customers, but have only had indirect methods to assess alignment. Voice of the Customer, Satisfaction Surveys, and Contract Performance Scorecards are valuable but incomplete measures of a B2B customer/supplier relationship. They measure satisfaction and performance – which is different to alignment.
Organizations are using AO to explicitly quantify alignment and surface the conversations that their traditional meetings fail to reveal.
In one case, a mid-size manufacturing company used AO to provide the data for their semi-annual business review, with a large, growing customer relationship. Once their alignment was acknowledged, two key statements in their misalignment lead to a conversation the supplier’s account manager felt ‘I would have never imagined being able to have if it wasn’t there on the screen’, and lead in the same meeting to a conversation between a customer executive and her sourcing manager that ‘adjusted the sourcing manager’s understanding of what was deemed success for the supplier.’
The supplier is now enjoying increased opportunities to grow their Share of Wallet at the customer.
Solidifying the identity of the customer in a B2B product company.
When you make a product that is specified, bought by, and then used by different organizations on the way to the consumer – who exactly is the customer?
How does R&D factor in the variety of needs, interests, and preferences beyond gathering and listing them? How do they create a view that is shared by marketing, sales, manufacturing, and finance?
The R&D leadership team wanted to be clear about the answer to these questions as they saw the market and their competition changing.
AO’s use has revealed that few teams who set out to plan a future state are highly aligned around their current state. This R&D group exemplified that dynamic, with alignment around only 20% of the opinions describing their current state.
This insight enabled them to pinpoint the 14 misaligned factors they needed to translate into accurate, verified assumptions to ground their future state principles and behaviors.
Which mechanisms for gathering customer insight work best? How well did third-parties represent the customer’s needs? More customer insight, or different insight?
Through global teleconferences, data and reasoning was shared and discussed that led to a set of Agreed-To assumptions. These became the basis for 11 objectives describing successful implementation of customer-centricity.
A Chief Procurement Officer needed to refresh her 3-year strategy.
With category managers and sourcing teams on all continents, the CPO wanted a way to accomplish the task without travel. AO was used so that the 95 procurement leads could collaborate virtually.
AO was expected to surface a routine set of ideas which would be discussed and translated into a set of objectives and plans. Strong alignment (87) was confirmed around the function’s role and purpose.
However, the alignment analytics identified that two strategic decisions had to be made. The first related to a concern that a round of technology upgrades and related processes changes were insufficiently implemented and stable, where others disagreed and were eager to get on with new initiatives.
At the same time, many saw the function supporting the business strategy through transactional excellence, whereas others felt the function could provide more value-add, strategic services to the corporation.
The global community, represented by their regional leaders, established a plan to cement the new foundations being put in place, with an innovation workstream that would experiment with new service offerings.
Capability maturity models (CMM) are a common method for assessing the state of a business process.
Most maturity assessments are conducted by specialist consulting firms and provide a structured, external perspective.
AO’s ability to quantify like-mindedness enables those running a process, those participating in that process, and those paying for it, to learn their internal alignment around its state. These stakeholder’s opinions can be interpreted to determine where the process lies on a four or five tier maturity curve – and where misalignment exists around the level of maturity.
Applications include a national logistics company whose procurement function measured their internal alignment, and compared it with their executives and their peer departments in operations, finance, engineering, and other groups.
The alignment measurement identified where the executives, logistics staff and their peers shared the same view of procurement’s maturity, and where procurement’s leadership needed to understand and reconcile misaligned judgments of its maturity.
With strong alignment between Marketing, R&D and Field Operations noted (89), the ensuing continuous improvement plan of activities required that issues and concerns raised within Supply Chain Management and Risk Management (71) be addressed.
One year after a supply chain strategy revision, few milestones have been met.
AO was used to learn why progress was poor in this multi-location, distributed project coordinated by a corporate project team.
Supply chain leadership were concerned that key parties did not agree with the stated objectives and were passively resisting the change. With a low degree of alignment (63), the analytics data surprised project leadership, indicating that several leaders had doubts about the underlying data used to justify a number of the changes.
To exasperate the situation, different attitudes towards the role of outsourcing, quality control, and process improvement methods had emerged during implementation.
Project leadership ran a series of virtual meetings to clarify definitions, expectations, and the reasoning for certain components of the strategy.
Several business cases were reviewed, leading to some actions being postponed or removed from the plan. The revised plan was implemented.
Ensuring executive dialogue is authentic and safe
This mid-size B2C service organization had grown to over 3,000 employees in four locations across the US. The Chief Human Resources Officer determined the organization should clarify its diversity strategy. The leadership team agreed to the strategy as an objective on their balanced scorecard.
It was agreed that the strategy revision start with the CEO and executive leadership team. Due to the sensitivity of the subject and the need to ensure executives could share their most genuine opinions on the topic in safety, a consulting firm using SchellingPoint was selected to run the process.
The strategy’s scope covered all company personnel, customer segments, supply chain partners and suppliers, plus their competition. Topics ranged from the definition of diversity to diversity’s role in enabling the company’s mission and supporting its values, to whether diversity was optional or mandatory and whether any actions should be implemented quietly or overtly.
Strong alignment surfaced around the need for greater cultural competency in all personnel and stronger accommodation of diversity in the firm’s services. Leadership alignment was weak around the approach to deployment with the primary debate being whether the strategy should set a path to attain defined goals or be allowed to emerge through a series of steps.
The leadership team converged on an endorsed strategy and roadmap commencing with the cascading to the balance of the personnel.
Shifting a global disease strategy from research to patient impact.
Four leaders from philanthropy, academia, disease control, and industry shared a common concern for the lack of progress being made against an infectious disease, whose primary victim is children.
International research and aid groups were reporting their individual activities each year, but there was immaterial progress in reducing patient count. 36 global specialists from places such as Australian, Brazil, Ghana, Switzerland and the United States were invited to formulate a coordinated global strategy to eliminate the disease.
Working virtually, with one in-person meeting including online participants, AO enabled the group to converge on a single, two-step strategy. With a strong initial Alignment Index of 82, the small degree of misalignment required some fact checking and experience sharing to reconcile their differences of opinion. The focus of the discussion then centered on developing a common vocabulary and the action roadmap.
In the two years since the coalition was formed, ideas and techniques have been successfully field tested, new detection and treatment training has been implemented, and new fundraising is providing a channel of investment from the coalition to the villages and patients.
With a focus on Early Detection and Early Treatment, one group piloted methods that lead to severe case counts falling from 187 to 2 in the first test district. The initiative is now entering its scale up stage.
Making 1+1+1=1 through deep collaboration.
A think tank’s research suggested that Mass Back Office Collaboration amongst industry members would be critical to the industry’s growth, by creating step-down reductions in operating costs of core processes.
AO was used with 367 organizations to surface the industry’s transformation roadmap, which has become an executive guide for those organization’s stepping into mass back office collaboration.
AO is also used by individual organizations to assess leadership’s ‘interest in and ability to engage in mass collaboration’. As each new organization conducts this dialogue, AOT’s ‘matchmaking’ analytics identifies like-minded organizations, who are then invited to collaborate to design innovation to a common back office process.
Groups as large as 32 and 66 companies have used AO to identify those with shared interests in the subject.
For example, one cluster of like-minded organizations from across the US were invited to collaborate in their mutual interest in applying mass collaboration principles to the increasing burden of federal and state regulatory compliance.
The collaboration surfaced three workflow and knowledge sharing innovations they could implement together to reduce their individual operating expenses while increase overall quality.
Releasing the potential of pre-competitive collaboration.
Multiple pharmaceutical companies and university research centers around the world were individually investigating a field of human biology they all saw as foundational to changing the pace, cost, and success rate of drug development.
The research leader at one of these organizations felt that more progress could be made if organizations would engage in a coordinated, pre-competitive research program.
Representatives from 25 organizations accepted an invitation to participate in creating such a program. AO was used to enable the distributed experts to conduct a virtual dialogue prior to a 2-day workshop where they would hopefully assemble a global research agenda.
The experts identified 79 actions that should be taken, but only with mild alignment (74). Their two-day retreat was the venue to recognize their alignment, confirm the actions they would commit to, reconcile their misalignments, and remove the constraints to their collaboration.
The agenda included issues such as the lack of standards (35), inadequate communications between inter-disciplinary silos (39), and intellectual property ownership (45).
The event was hailed as a unique industry success in cross-industry and multi-disciplinary collaboration, and is still credited with setting the research agenda four years later.
Turning the thoughts of 542 experts into 1 endorsed roadmap
A successful collaboration process is intrinsically about conversation that leads to alignment. The best predictor of outcomes attainment is stakeholder endorsement more than the technical accuracy of the recommendation.
The European Commission knows a thing or two about (mis)alignment. So when it wanted to create an innovation roadmap for part of its Healthcare 2020 strategy, which needed the brains of over 500 of Europe’s experts in the IT, Life Sciences, Academic Research, and related industries, it hired the consulting firm using SchellingPoint.
Over 18 months, the consultant used SchellingPoint to gather insight and opinions through virtual dialogues and used powerful analytics to pinpoint the important conversations to conducted in four meetings across Europe using SchellingPoint’s framework for roadmap completeness.
The result was a 57-3 vote in Brussels to adjust the EU’s healthcare policy to support the project’s findings and recommendations, and the Avicenna Alliance was formed as a 501(c)3 to take roadmap implementation forward as a public/private partnership.
Using consulting process innovation to design consumer product process innovation
A US CPG company had grown its investment in product innovation, with the majority of new product R&D conducted in collaboration with a primary innovation partner. Due to the rapid growth in projects in the innovation pipeline, the communications, decision-making, and responsibilities became less clear.
To prevent negative impact on innovation output, the CPG company procurement group selected a consultant using the SchellingPoint process to help them optimize the innovation process.
51 stakeholders across the US and Canada were identified as those key to a complete, credible, and viable change plan. The 51 from both organizations ranged from senior executives to technicians in the new technologies group, supply chain, compliance, shipping, quality, product management and other functions.
From onboarding new staff and the process for chartering new projects to core intellectual property sharing policies and the multiple definitions of innovation to new working methods and rewards systems, the group assembled a change plan with nine workstreams.
The consultant ran the project 100% virtually from their offices, meeting the client and all participants only via telephone and GoToMeeting.
Determining how to increase sales of the market leading product
The client’s product was the recognized market leader by sales volume, in a mature market with several competitors. However, marketing estimated that sales could grow further by 200%. This prediction was based upon two factors – removing the barriers to first use and removing the causes for churn and customers leaving the product.
The consultant assembled a representative set of stakeholders comprising cross-functional client personnel plus external product and industry experts from key points in the supply chain. Collaborating entirely remotely across the US and Europe, without any physical meetings, the group generated 99 distinct ideas, covering 20 aspects of the customer journey.
The idea set was processed and reduced to 20 changes, 7 of which would increase initial use and 13 mitigating the current reasons for stopping use.
The proposals became part of the company’s Intelligent Product project, and have received dedicated resources for prototyping, market research, and scale-up.
Ensuring full support and commitment to a complex, expensive, IT initiative.
A government software and services firm wanted to upgrade a core enterprise application from client-server to the internet. The current version was established and operating in multiple states across the country, and several CIO’s indicated interest in collaborating with the supplier in the transition.
3 CxO’s from seven states and 8 software company personnel used AO to share their views on the project. Their virtual dialogue surfaced 193 unique opinions on the project’s objectives, priorities, barriers, principles, and 12 other themes relevant to such projects, from integration strategies, reporting requirements, and user interface design to customization, localization and standardization of processes.
With alignment acknowledged, misalignment and concerns were assigned to four working groups, who converged on agreed plans and objectives. Two core issues related to the scope and funding of customizations, and implementation planning.
As a consequence of the discussions, one state chose not to participate, and the software company surfaced a fundamental misalignment within their group they had to reconcile before they could continue in the discussions.
For the six partnering states, this was the first time such state groups had procured IT collaboratively, and the conventional two-year procurement cycle was accomplished within three months.
The project was funding with a shared budget and the technology transfer took place.
Stopping silo-based misalignment from compromising a corporate initiative.
A products company had revised their customer relationship management strategy in light of changing buying behavior and a desire to strengthen their 1-to-1 capabilities.
A revised CRM system, touching multiple market stakeholders, was a key element in implementing their new go-to-market strategy.
Three months into the foundation phase of the three-year project, the corporate strategy executive was aware that concerns he had raised when the project was being designed were starting to appear.
AO was used to measure and maximize alignment across 52 marketing, sales, R&D and IT leaders, including the executive sponsors and the project implementation team. The overall alignment index was an inadequate 77, deemed too low at such an early stage in the project.
Inquiry into the key misalignments indicated that the financial benefit, based heavily upon projections of customer adoption rates, were not agreed to. This was partially due to some considering adoption to be poorly defined, and ultimately, causing some to vocally support the program while others privately questioned its priority.
The executive sponsors, while all supporting the foundation IT project, each had different opinions as to its role in the long-term customer relationship strategy. Unaware of their different beliefs, their functional teams and the project implementation team were receiving different guidance regarding the scope and content expected in the new technologies.
Compounding these issues, representatives from marketing, sales, field services, and customer support services had differing opinions regarding the degree to which the project in the foundation project should be a technology swap or a functional paradigm shift.
In the absence of a defined decision-making protocol, IT was being forced to make business decisions, for which they were then being criticized.
The executive sponsors acknowledged how their incomplete alignment was causing cracks throughout the organization below them, and used two 2-hour teleconferences to reconcile their misalignments and set clear direction for the rest of the project.
Finding the best path out of a perfect storm.
A strategic investment and a new leadership team had put this national services company into the top tier of their industry, but IT was identified as a critical weak link during a corporate risk assessment. A new CIO was hired, chartered to bring the IT function up to par.
The new CIO and his 12 senior IT leaders refreshed the corporate IT strategy. The strategy involved re-balancing the applications portfolio from mostly custom to include packaged applications, moving to an agile development methodology, and upgrading the IT organization’s development and maintenance skill sets. Undocumented, single point of failure applications were to be retired, and the desktop and server infrastructure was to be upgraded across over 100 locations.
Unfortunately, within six months, progress had almost come to a standstill.
AO showed an Alignment Index of 60 amongst the IT leadership, critically low for a group not six months into their own strategy. The analytics identified that three conflicting activities were causing the transformation to stall.
20% annual business growth was demanding IT-enablement and support for an accelerated number of field deployments of fault-intolerant systems. At the same time, IT was trying to source, learn, and re-platform legacy applications to packages. To compound the change, IT staff with new skills were trying to transition to an Agile, SOA-based architecture.
The business could not wait for the project lead times required to accommodate IT’s learning, incident rates were increasing, and the interdependencies between IT activities were causing ‘root cause versus symptom’ disputes. Over 110 opinions described a plethora of issues, for which there was alignment around only 4, and strong misalignment around 31 of the problems.
Maximize alignment, comprising the 12 IT leaders, was used to prioritize, reconcile, and design mitigating solutions to validated issues, as the path out of the storm.
Enabling authentic dialogue around a critical but sensitive topic.
Acquisitions of the weak by the strong have been occurring for many years, but in one industry, the ‘Merger of Equals’ has become a trend.
Consequently, board chairs and CEO’s are asking ‘How do we have that conversation within our board and/or leadership team? What should we discuss, in what sequence, in a way that will be authentic and deal with the emotions involved?’
Multiple CEO’s have used AO to understand their board and leadership team’s interest in, and views of their ability to execute, a merger of equals. Leadership teams comprising 6 to 22 executives have used AO to safely express their views as to why the option should be considered, and why not.
Do we have ‘equals’ out there, are any of them suitable candidates, what outcomes should a successful merger produce if there are, how might it cause damage? At the personal level, would a merger leave an executive feeling they have failed, would it have positive or negative impacts upon them personally, as well as their customers and staff?
AO is allowing CEO’s and their teams to safely and conveniently share their opinions on the subject, and learn their team’s alignment, within one hour. The alignment insights have been used to acknowledge their position on the subject, then focus the discussion to arrive at endorsed Evaluate/Reject decisions.
Ensuring genuine commitment before signing on the dotted line.
A firm’s acquisition team had completed due diligence at the acquisition target. Prior to signing the acquisition papers, AO was used by the 14 executives and acquisition team members to make their Go/No-Go decision.
AO was used to ensure that all parties genuinely endorsed the Go/No-Go decision, with everyone on the same page about what they would be taking onboard, or rejecting.
AO surfaced a surprisingly weak overall level of alignment (74). On one hand, the alignment analytics illustrated the due diligence team’s support for the acquisition (80), with three key elements of the post-merger integration plans enjoying solid alignment (83, 84, 88).
At the same time, AO identified critical misalignment around three of the assumptions built into the business plan (66, 66, 70) – the need for certain retained staff, the timing of investments, and the consolidation of the supply chain partners.
The majority of misalignments were resolved within the team, with two items being taken to the executive leadership team for clarification. The acquisition took place, with known alignment amongst those leading its integration, few surprises and no course corrections in the first year.
Ensuring coordinated action once the deal is done and reality hits home.
Prior to AO, no merger integration playbook or methodology possessed the means to measure or ensure alignment within the merged entities. The outcome is often declared, but no consulting firm or internal merger team could predict or verify it.
Two technology companies were three months into their post-merger integration activities. Two to four months is the soft under belly of merger integrations, when the two organizations have spent time together, have learnt about each other, have new and revised opinions about each other, and what success will entail.
AO, involving 152 executives, managers, team leads and key contributors from both firms surfaced their degree of alignment around the go-to-market strategy, product development plans and financial models the integration plan was designed to implement.
Overall, alignment around what, why, who, when, where and how, was strong (81) but in the 19 degrees of misalignment, four critical issues were identified. Two were due to errors in due diligence, and two were misunderstandings of the acquirer’s comments immediately after the acquisition in ‘town hall’ meetings with the acquired staff.
These items were dealt with, and alignment was re-measured three more times over the next 12 months to ensure the merger team had alignment data to work from.
This activity was still attributed four years later to being the most impactful element of the post-merger integration investments.
Removing a bottleneck in a national policy implementation.
After meeting quarterly for several years, over 50 stakeholders from the US government, industry, academia and environmental NGO’s were unable to agree upon an implementation plan of a new federal policy for sustainable purchasing.
With unresolved differences of opinion, AO was used to reconcile the key misalignments so that the group could begin to act.
Despite numerous divergent opinions, 16 previously unrecognized points of complete agreement were revealed. This reassured the group and formed a foundation for the plan.
There also existed a preconception that the differences of opinion were between demographic groups, (e.g. for-profit companies disagreeing with environmental NGOs) and thus rooted in core values. This was shown to be inaccurate. More divergence was within demographic groups than across them. This otherwise unavailable insight reshaped the conversation. The most contentious issues being debated at previous meetings were rapidly resolved by sharing data and information.
AO resulted in a fully supported plan being developed within twelve weeks. This plan led to the formation of a 501c3, successful fundraising, hiring an Executive Director and an organizational launch that drew the attention of representatives from over 1,000 organizations in more than 45 countries.
Retaining market leadership through customer-centric service policies.
A leading financial services firm decided to refresh their customer service policies to better suit their current customer portfolio and market direction.
As a regulated financial services firm, the organization’s interactions with customers, in-person and virtually, are dictated by multiple regulatory controls. The question at hand was how to maximize customer service while accommodating their regulatory and risk management commitments?
How do you support a customer’s desire for you to be ‘their advocate’? How do you define and implement their desire for you to ‘be consultative’? How do you implement ‘friendly’ when you cannot, for regulatory reasons, satisfy their request? How do you define this in a way that can be scaled across your customer-facing organization and accommodate different customer interests?
AO was used by the board, leadership team and first level of company management to surface opinions on the subject and bring the three communities into alignment around changes to their service policies.
The organization possessed a wealth of insight into customer satisfaction, interests, preferences and attitudes. The alignment issue was how to meet their regulatory restrictions while providing the strongest, most efficient 1-to-1 experience.
A core issue was the level of personalization that should be provided to the customer experience. The organization had built its position on efficient, low-cost operational excellence, which in many areas required a one-size-fits-all strategy.
The board, leadership team and managers used AO techniques to virtually and in-person discuss and select their policies for implementing greater personalization within their operations.
The three-prong plan of changes was endorsed by the board and built into their two year business plan.
Getting unstuck by realizing the things we take for granted others don’t.
Over 20 years a company had become the leader in their niche, and decided it was necessary to formalize their relationships with their growing partner base.
A seven-person team was established to clarify the company’s partnering strategy.
Six months later, the team was stuck, struggling to resolve disagreement around various objectives. Within three hours, AO identified that two core assumptions about partnering, that were driving team member’s opinions, had not been stated.
One was reconciled by the team themselves, the second was taken to the company’s leadership team, who made a policy decision that enabled the team to move forward and finalize the strategy.
Providing a major process redesign with unquestionable executive sponsorship.
The leadership of an international manufacturing company comprising six business units determined they could not afford six unique versions of the innovation process.
The business unit leaders were tasked to standardize the process and justify localization only where absolutely necessary.
As part of the Define step of Six Sigma’s DMAIC model, AO was used to clarify the scope, charter, assumptions, expectations, and concerns of this exercise amongst the business unit leaders.
AO raised the concern that scientists and R&D professionals would feel that standardization would cause them to become generalists rather than specialists, with fears this would lead to damaging attrition.
The concern arose due to different interpretations of the term ‘standardize’. Some business unit leaders saw process as an inhibitor to creativity and that their staff would be confined to fulfilling predefined tasks, whereas others accepted that their local version of the innovation process had developed over time but was not necessarily adding unique value, and therefore, defining common core innovation processes could still allow for high levels of creativity by talented individuals, but within a manageable framework.
Examples of how the process would define what should be done, in ways that also showed the potential for creativity in the outputs, allowed the group to set aside this concern, and provided the material for preempting this concern in the communications process.
The virtual dialogue and one-day maximize activity produced a 47-activity roadmap that supported a $110M funding approval the next month, leading to 18 Lean/Six Sigma-based workstreams.
The three-year performance objectives were met by the end of year one.
Fixing the tactics to support the revised strategy.
As part of ongoing cost reductions in IT, a management consulting firm was hired to advise the transition to ITIL. Multiple IT support and service departments in locations in several countries were reorganized under a single ITIL model and centralized leadership.
Six months after go-live, there was deep dissatisfaction within the internal customer base, the front-line support managers and technical staff. After further process changes, and people changes, failed to yield material improvement, AO surfaced multiple underlying issues with the implementation.
The client was unaware of the common tensions created in such operating model changes, nor were they advised of the pattern. The overall design of the reorganization was deemed appropriate, however the implementation tactics were flawed.
AO surfaced that in the new operating model:
– Several important decision-making and escalation policies were unclear
– The definition of new roles and responsibilities were unclear to many
– IT leaders were not truly aligned with ‘Why do this?’ which lead to a lack of commitment and conviction at times when they were on the frontline of adjusting internal customer expectations.
These issues were validated and mitigating solutions designed and implemented to bring the revised processes to required performance levels.
Pinpointing where to advance a successful corporate initiative.
A global manufacturing company had implemented a Center of Excellence to improve operational performance. Through knowledge sharing, best practices, and training programs, the center was chartered to ensure over 30 global plants maximize quality, cycle-times, cost and labor efficiencies.
After the first year, the center leader used AO to learn how 110 global executives, managers and leaders felt about the initiative.
This group expressed 138 unique opinions about the initiative, covering its purpose, what was working, what wasn’t, what improvements should be made, and nine other aspects of the program.
Illustrating strong, broad support for the program overall (83), the alignment analytics allowed center leadership to pinpoint misunderstandings around factors such as mandatory versus optional training, inaccurate expectations around resource roles, and preferences for different support models.
Through four 2-hour interactions, program leadership assembled a Year 2 plan to build on their solid base established in Year 1.
Measuring alignment within customers and non-customers to guide your design.
A market-leading software company had been working on the business case and high level design for their next-generation solution architecture.
As with any such exercise, the business case was based on assumptions about the market; current customers, those who had chosen their competitors, and new buyers. The analysis contrasted the capabilities and value inherent in the currently available solution with unmet needs, predicted needs, and innovations ideas.
Prior to presenting the business case, product management sought market validation of their ideas, and a way to answer ‘what do we not know that we don’t know.
AO was used with 2200 customers, competitors’ customers, non-users, industry influencers, and implementation partners to learn their attitudes, without revealing the next generation architecture details.
Product management was pleased to see most of their core assumptions validated. However, two were not, which required an adjustment to the solution plans and the business case.
Of great value, was learning what would prevent current customers, competitor’s customers, and non-users from adopting the new solution if it ever became available. Similarly, the alignment data identified how the changes would cause concerns that would prevent upgrades and adoption.
These insights were used to develop mitigating solutions to the market’s expressed concerns. AO’s cluster analysis identified the characteristics of like-minded companies, which led to sales qualification checklists and presentations customized to the different market sectors.
Efficiently enabling leaders to gain value from collaboration.
19 non-competing technology CEO’s had agreed to meet periodically. Their objective, as a set of leaders in similar situations, was to learn from and help each other with ideas and advise.
After several events, the organizer’s implementation of the concept was proving unsatisfactory to many of the CEO’s.
The organizer used AO to clarify the think tank’s objectives, roles, program, and operating model. The CEO’s conducted the 3-step AO virtual dialogue online, meeting online to review their alignment analytics and pinpoint the discussions that would put the think tank on the right path.
With strong alignment around the think tank’s intended value (80) and underlying assumptions behind operating principles and reasons for participating (81), the CEO’s raised 46 reasons why the initiative would fail.
In a 4-hour meeting, the CEO’s resolved their key issues, primarily leading to changes in how their events would be conducted. The adjustments were implemented in the next meeting and the think tank went on to operate with every member’s participation.
Making changes based upon data rather than anecdote.
A national association of CEO’s and board members was experiencing high satisfaction ratings for their annual conferences but wanted to further optimize their cost/content proposition.
With several years of experience, multiple conferences per year, and a stable conference organizing team, there was no shortage of opinion as to what should stay the same, and what could change. While these views had driven successful continuous improvement, two leadership team members were making strong declarations as to what should change further.
AO was used with 1,400 CEO and board members to understand their views on receiving optimum value from the conferences. The alignment data did not support the two leadership team member’s opinions, which they accepted. However, the data showed an unexpected attitude towards events and activities that had always received high marks.
These insights led to changes in conference logistics and events that produced a return on investment within two months in the design of the next conference.
A project, or a program of projects, is the organizing mechanism for bringing resources together over time to attain pre-defined objectives – defined to greater or lesser degrees.
Many of the case studies listed in these tabs, from outsourcing-based transformations to global SAP implementations, from revised service strategies to strategic alliances, are just some of the initiatives deemed to be a program or a project and where SchellingPoint was used to ensure coordinated action through to outcome attainment.
In some cases, the program/project received a clear and comprehensive mandate via a set of detailed goals and plans – SchellingPoint being used to design and guide the implementation specifics. In others, where the program/project managers were brought in at the fuzzy front end, they used SchellingPoint to first translate a high-level statement of direction into accurate, viable and detailed goals and plans genuinely endorsed by the key stakeholders.
Healthcare leaders collaborate to improve patient outcomes and constrain expenses growth.
Three healthcare leaders foresaw increasing federal requirements for quality of care transparency, that would lead to additional data collection and reporting costs. They proposed bringing hospitals, physicians, and insurers together state-wide to use the new data to improve the quality of hospital care, but in a way that would offset increased costs through collaboration, rather than each working independently.
With an initial Alignment Index of 76, the 32 CxO level participants from the 15 founding organizations enjoyed a surprising 16 shared objectives for their new alliance.
However, 45 concerns were raised, not all shared, as to why an alliance would not sustain. For example, the new data could be mis-used to compete against each other. The constraints were reconciled using ‘Collaborative Design’, a technique enabled by SchellingPoint technology to resolve misalignment and mitigate barriers to success, and the alliance was formed with all parties endorsing the principles and charter.
The alliance met its first year objectives, and within 4 years of inception, participation grew to over 180 member organizations. Measurable improvement in patient care metrics has occurred, and through their collaboration, the alliance has co-developed a unique set of care data and practice knowledge.
Using alignment to accelerate innovation in a strategic alliance.
A product research firm had entered into a 10-year co-development relationship with a consumer packaged goods company.
Three years into the contract, there were mixed emotions within both parties towards their joint output. They used AO to break out of the standard governance process and re-ground the alliance for the balance of the contract.
AO surfaced that beliefs held about each other’s R&D capabilities, by those required to conduct the relationship but who had not been involved in constructing it, were undermining information sharing. At the same time, different interpretations of innovation expectations were causing tension around decisions in the product development stage-gate model.
The 19 relationship leaders and operational managers from the two partners reviewed their mutual competency and capability model, leading to revised roles and responsibilities.
Strengthening partner understanding to maintain mutual growth.
Two companies collaborating in a global strategic alliance had grown their joint business development efforts into a significant incremental revenue stream.
However, an acquisition by one partner had created a competitive relationship between elements of their business. Alliance management determined that the scope of the impact had reached beyond a small group ‘talking it out in a meeting’.
AO surfaced that 37 executives, functional leaders, and team leads across both organizations had a lower than expected Alignment Index (67) around the state and direction of the relationship.
Their alignment was around shared views of the market opportunity, the value of their combined solutions, the methods for going to market. In fact, some of the insights lead to ‘We didn’t realize that you felt that way too.’ reactions that was followed up in a series of joint meetings.
However, the AO virtual dialogue surfaced a series of unexpected misalignments that were compromising trust and respect for each other. Negative rumors and inaccurate inferences were identified, surfaced, and resolved – releasing tension and unease that had been growing but difficult to discuss.
With the air cleared, the partnership continues its growth plan.
A Board of Directors develop and successfully implement a 3-year strategic plan.
A new non-profit organization recognized their need for a robust, up-to-date strategic plan before hiring an executive director, embarking on a fund raising campaign, and launching new programs.
The Board of Directors used AO to efficiently surface their opinions and translate them into an action-oriented strategic plan.
Each Board Member invested 90 minutes to communicate their opinions prior to a 4-hour Board Retreat. At the Retreat, the Board confirmed their aligned assumptions and aligned goals, and then resolved their key misalignments with the help of an Alignment Manager.
The effort resulted in a 3-year roadmap with 38 specific activities that assigned timelines and responsibilities to the Board Members.
After two years the organization had accomplished 34 of these activities and decided to use AO again to maintain its alignment and update its strategic plan. The updated plan added 23 new activities
Upgrading ‘my department’s strategy’ to ‘our company’s strategy.
AO was used to bring together 31 senior leaders from procurement to public relations, with external subject matter expertise through CSR and industry experts. Previously, notions of green and sustainability were local, functional decisions.
For most themes, their collective alignment was low, in the 60’s and low 70’s.
Seeing their collective opinions, and scope of alignment, brought the realization that no single department owned CSR, and that each function’s actions impacted their colleagues up and down the supply chain.
As part of assembling the 10-year strategy and investment model, the group had to reconcile several ‘Right for the long term, but costly in the short term’ decisions.
With their 10-year outcomes clearly defined, the group was able to ‘take the long view’, with immediate actions involving a third-party product certification, new levels of supply chain engagement at the initial source, and a revised engagement model with consumer advocacy groups.
Aligned around the concepts but not the tactics.
A 38-person coalition of philanthropists, business leaders, academics, and sustainability innovators were disappointed with their lack of progress making investments in sustainability initiatives. AO was used to clarify the group’s 2-year investment strategy.
Despite a strong degree of alignment (80) around their mission, objectives and goals, the group’s alignment analytics immediately surfaced two unknown misalignments (53, 54) causing fundamental differences of opinion around their use of funds.
One was the philosophical approach to investments – a series of planned actions versus emergent steps. The second was driven by rational but conflicting views of the direction of the earth’s environment.
With insufficient data available for people to shift from their core beliefs, the coalition realized they would be more effective splitting into two investment groups.
With a shared mission, each group now operates independently with their own investment strategy.
Transformation is the act of designing and making large changes to all or parts of an organization to bring it to a new level of performance. Most of the projects highlighted in this Case Studies section were labeled a transformation by the client and the consultants involved.
These case studies represent just some of over 250 uses of SchellingPoint by consultants conducted using these and their own proprietary templates.
Use Schedule a Live Demo below to see a full case study in the software.
Contact Us today to understand how you can use SchellingPoint tomorrow to rapidly, efficiently, ensure that your group is coordinating its actions around a valuable, viable, and endorsed shared purpose.
SchellingPoint has mapped over 100 common collaborations that occur within, between, and across organizations every day and digitized them as Topic Templates.
A Topic Template, for example, Designing the Acquisition of a Competitor, comprises a range of content necessary to provide the project with the correct and complete framing from the outset.
Subscribers to the SchellingPoint consulting software gain access to our Topic Templates Library and can add their own private, proprietary templates for their unique topics.
Management consultants addressing the same topic for multiple clients over time embed their intellectual property in private, proprietary templates to bring their organization’s full knowledge to bear on every project.
Organizations conducting the same collaborative activity repeatedly, such as IT projects, embed their wisdom, know-how, and knowledge in private, proprietary templates to rapidly launch them with complete, accurate, framing and content.
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