break past problems

How-to: Solving old problems and getting fast action

I’ve heard it too often: “You’re the tenth consultant we’ve seen, and nothing ever happens!”

How do you break past that? The most effective ways are usually helping the people in the organization fix their own problems.

One example comes from a single-day training seminar — usually kind of a throwaway item where people sit through, have a nice lunch, and everyone goes home happy and unchanged.… Read the rest

customer recovery graphic

How-to: Customer recovery, or the forgotten country

Most businesses focus on attracting new customers and keeping the ones they have, but few seriously try to bring back people who left — customer recovery.

Some companies do sales-and-marketing efforts such as sending out coupons or making sales calls to past clients, but there’s another level out there, starting with recovery research. 

To find out how to bring back old customers (and keep more of the ones you have), the first step is to find out why they left.… Read the rest

change signs

How-to: Keys to successful cultural change

Cultural change efforts seem to fail as often as they succeed, partly because it’s neither easy nor fast — just brutally effective. Cultural change requires concentrated and focused effort over the long haul, a widespread belief that change is necessary, and the willingness to critically examine current beliefs, values, and practices.

In 1997, Chrysler was an oft-cited example of a company which had used cultural change to suddenly regain a leadership role, changing the way almost everything in the company was done within a few short years.… Read the rest

change tools

How-to: Getting the most from a consultant

There are times when a consultant is brought in, and the results are stunning, with clear gains; and other times when it seems like the only gain is to the consultant’s bank account. How can managers make sure their engagements are all in the first group?

First, before bringing in an outsider, explore the skills, resources, and knowledge of your own staff.… Read the rest

survey as a tool

How-to: Getting real change with an employee survey

How can you make employee surveys a real tool for change, at every level? There’s been a lot of practical research and trial-and-error; and we can conclude that there are things you can do which definitely work.


For many consultant, summarizing the data and providing recommendations is standard operating procedure, but it often leads to little action. That makes sense: most employees only get a little (if any) feedback, and the top managers are given a set of recommendations they can safely ignore or forget about.… Read the rest


Employee surveys – a tool for change

Surveys can be used as a change tool in several ways —above and beyond the usual goal of gathering information.

First, simply having the survey tells people that change is coming, and that something will happen. That is a key part of the change process, known as “unfreezing,”which is needed for people to consider doing things differently.

One other subtle way that surveys affect change is by telling people what is considered most important.… Read the rest

post-mortem tools

How-to: Project post-mortems

Have you ever noticed your group making the same mistake over and over? (Or perhaps your customers have noticed for you?)

Personally, I hate making mistakes. I think I’ve stunned a few vendors when we dug through a problem and found it was their fault. They were expecting to be yelled at, but I was too relieved at not having made the mistake myself.… Read the rest

How-to: owner validation for your web site

We are going to start by sounding techy, but will explain what it all means in human terms later.

Does your web site use the right secure sockets layer (SSL) certificate? Here’s how you can tell if it does: there will be a green lock and the name of your company in the address bar of pretty much any browser.

Which of these banks would you prefer to deal with?… Read the rest


Tips for building a valid survey

First, some warnings for employee surveys in particular:

  • Simply having the survey tells people that change is coming, and that something will happen. (Therefore, you must make sure something does happen and that people can see it happening).
  • Surveys subtly affect change is by telling people what is considered most important; “you get what you measure.” That’s one more reason to choose your questions carefully.
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workflow or process mapping

Process mapping: a step by step guide

Process (work-flow) mapping lowers errors, increases effectiveness, and enhances communication.  Process mapping sessions may result in sudden revelations such as:

  • “I didn’t know you did it that way, we do it this way!”
  • “But why don’t we do it that way instead?”
  • “No wonder it takes so long / goes wrong so often!”

There are several preconditions for effective process mapping:

  • The process(es) to be mapped must be specifically defined before the meetings start.
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