Case Study 3

Empowering People to Solve Problems

The top managers responsible for e-commerce at a major technical services corporation asked TDF International to help with problems hindering a smooth interface between the different technical groups involved in the effort.

Following interviewing, TDF International identified three key issues:

  • Process problems
  • A blame culture
  • Communication difficulties throughout the entire
    e-commerce group

TDF International suggested a Continuous Improvement Group, whose members would be a step below the top managers. We hoped that this break from the top-down style of this organization would itself be a major step forward. Rather than top-management directing changes, the CIG would empower staff to identify and solve problems. Problems are best solved by the people closest to them. A TDF International consultant facilitated and advised the meetings of this new group. At its first meeting, the CIG decided to focus on the following:

  • Documenting work processes
  • Planning crisis management
  • Coordinating planning between groups
  • Reversing the blame culture

The CIG focused on building a structure to bridge the internal tensions between speed, quality, and cohesion. This structure emphasized stronger quality assurance testing, to deal productively with the roots of the blaming. After four months, follow-up interviews indicated a widespread perception that the CIG was making positive progress toward its goals. Among the comments we heard were:

  • “Using the Task Force model is the way to go; it gets more people involved and the solutions are better, and people stop complaining about problems because they are involved in fixing them”
  • “Teams are beginning to reach out to each other. It’s a good start”
  • “People are thinking more before they start to blame”

The key has been to see that the problems are not just technical. The problems are human, as well, and the solutions will also have to be human.

“TDf helped to galvanize (my former) organization at a critical time and supported the achievement of these goals. The TDf team was a major factor in releasing the energy needed to achieve the outcomes.”
JOHN TOMLINS, OPERATIONS DIRECTOR
Selestia Investments

“TDf has been the most useful and impactful tool I have experienced in my twenty-plus year career!”
DIANE BROWN, VICE PRESIDENT FOR EXECUTIVE DEVELOPMENT
Conseco Finance