Sticky Solutions

You invest 4 months of your life. You work in close co-operation with the operational teams. You gain buy-in and agreement on an innovative solution to enhance business performance. You build sustainability into the solution. You identify clear benefits in terms of financial, process, people and customer. It’s a text-book project.

So return in 6 months time and what do you find? Rip-roaring success? No it’s been forgotten, the benefits were never banked and the pilot performance improvement was just a blip. Everything is back to “normal”.

It was a simple solution. Implement a feedback-loop to support continual learning.

When information is passed from team A to team B, team B return feedback to team A on the accuracy of the information supplied. Team A review this feedback and continually improve their process. Everyone wins……..or do they. Team A had more work to do in learning from the feedback and decided not to learn.

What can I learn from this? Thoughts go off in all directions on why there was the resistance to change. Maybe it was the feeling that they were being “done to”? Maybe it was because they weren’t being incentivised on achieving the improvement? Maybe it was because there is so much change in progress that this got lost in the fog? Maybe more people should have been hired to allow the change to happen? Maybe, maybe, maybe.

Handpicked Content:   Numb3rs

Tips please on how to make solutions stick.

Comments 13

  1. Ann Genova

    Read the book "Fish! Sticks" by Lundin, Christensen and Paul, about making changes "stick". Very interesting web site, too. I don’t have the address handy, but Google "Fish! Sticks". The idea is: Peer champions having individual conversations with and getting individual commitments from the people carrying out the change works in maintaining changes. Of course the sponsor is also a key. If the sponsor doesn’t monitor the change and insist upon accountability from those "doing" the change, it won’t last.

  2. Samantha Bureau-Johnson

    This is an all to familiar story and it is personally and professionally painful because you are then called back in a year to find improvements again.

    We take the following approach after being in the boat you described and needing a better strategy…
    1. we have a partnership agreement with the client (internal management) that spells out roles and responsibilities to include implementation and accountability – if they don’t hold the team accountable to implement – we don’t engage and we have a crucial conversation about their readiness.
    2. We stay involved during implementation and call in change leadership practices when we see resistence or going only the short distance
    3. We keep the relationship with the person we partnered with, which gives us the ability to reconcile and escalate (with full knowledge of the parties) to remove barriers and help get the team re-aligned
    4. We encourage shared goals and objectives
    5. We don’t disengage until we all agree that we need to disengage
    6. We keep open to changing business needs and priorities (like the economy collapsing) that require some things to stay at a slower pace.

    It isn’t perfect but we keep the relationships, the client and the goal all in mind and aligned as well as communicating consistently and clearly.

  3. Robin Barnwell

    Hello Samantha & Ann

    Thank you for these excellent suggestions.

    Samantha, I agree with staying engaged/keeping in touch. Its a good learning point. Do you formalise your agreements?

    Ann, I have watched the Fish DVD with people hurling fish around a market in Seattle. I did not realise it was part of a series. I am part of an on-line book library and will see I can review them.


  4. Jerusha

    I am an Industrial Engineering Management student at UNC-Asheville working on a research-intensive senior design project about Six Sigma and have been reading blogs to get personal experience. This blog is right up my alley on my project. To enrich my understanding on how the Six Sigma process works, how it is perceived in the business world, and if the return on investment is good regardless of the size of the business, I have developed the following short surveys. Please take a moment and answer the following questions.

    <a href="">Click Here to take survey</a>

    <a href="">Click Here to take survey</a>

  5. Jerusha

    So after posting the previous message about the surveys – I tried to use them and they do not work. If you are interested in assisting me with my project please email me and I will send you the links.

  6. Jerusha

    jerusha @ lpcutting . com

  7. Robin Barnwell

    I’ll make contact off-line

  8. James

    Several ways that we have made solutions stick

    1. KPI’s which have been added to a morning report which gets discussed by the management at a meeting (1 hr) on MWF………..of course the KPI sheet has grown significantly but the group only discusses anomolies

    2. We run teams in waves (quarters) – when a team has achieved their goal – the team leader goes on report back for the next 2 waves (6 months) …….the team is inactive – but the team leader coaches the area supervision, etc to make the changes stick. The team leader makes 2 short presentations (3 mo and 6 mo) to update the senior leaders on the status….
    The team leader and team know they are on the hook to be reactivated if the numbers are not sustained.
    Six months is typically long enough for the new procedures (habits) to become standard process.

  9. Jason

    Making the change stick long-term is a difficult proposition to be sure. I have found one solution that works better, for me anyway, than any other. Presence. The person responsible for implementing change has to remain present during and after the improvement has been made.

    The message that presence delivers is one that says, "This improvement is important enough to me that I am making time to be here, to ask the questions, to solicit feedback, and to make adjustments to the process as needed." It sounds simple, right?

    Improvement professionals lead very busy lives. They are continually monitoring existing projects, planning new projects, or analyzing data. However, to sustain the gains made during the project phase it is equally important to make the commitment to being present to the projects long after others would call them complete.

  10. Robin Barnwell

    Hello Jason, good points and agree I may have moved onto the next project just that little to early.

    Hello James, I created a set of weekly KPI’s that allowed full understanding of process capability. The trick, as you say, is to ensure they are embedded in the weekly routine. Interesting ideas on waves of teams thanks.

    Also, got an e-mail from the guys at McKinsey today, it’s their quarterly update and entitled "From lean to lasting: Making operational improvements stick" . Will review and let you know what their recommendations are and see if we can offer some advice back to them help them improve.


  11. Matthew Fitzgerald

    Good post, but have you thought about Sticky Solutions before?

  12. Robin Barnwell

    Yes I know

Leave a Reply