We Turn Problems Into Profits

Radically Reducing Time To Proficiency To Save $1M+ In Missed Opportunity

Most organizations have experienced the operational drain caused by long learning curves required to master complex job responsibilities. For this renowned turnaround and restructuring firm, the time it was taking new hires to get up to speed had far surpassed inconvenience and mild disruption. In their world, where billing rates ranged from $300 - $500 an hour, every hour their consultants were less than fully proficient was having a direct impact on their ability to deliver the high-end experience and results their clients were expecting.

Problems surfaced when sustained rapid growth created a bottleneck for equipping their new consultants to independently produce one of their most important tools, a proprietary cash forecast model. This model was the foundational tool used to guide 100% of their turnaround or restructuring engagements.

Their volume of new hires increased to the point where they could no longer rely on their proven one-on-one process to train new modelers. Their more intimate training process had morphed into informal networking between new modelers and experienced modelers. This ad hoc process took an average of four months to equip new associates to work with minimal supervision or support when building cash models. The process was painful and unproductive for everyone involved. New hires were quickly frustrated, experienced modelers became overloaded, and those who desperately needed the forecasting model to move the engagement forward felt paralyzed. The firm began losing good talent while service and profitability goals were being compromised.

As the number of new associates hit critical mass, the firm recognized their need to radically reduce ramp-up time for new modelers so they could decrease the drain on productivity and client delivery. Because of the proprietary nature of the modeling tool, it was determined that the solution would need to be created in-house, however, the organization lacked the technical talent to complete the task.

We launched a project team consisting of client-side Subject Matter Experts (SME) and our Learning and Performance Experts to design a solution that would meet the unique needs of the target audience. The team decided to build a live, boot camp-like simulation that would be built around a mock engagement that closely mirrored real life. Though a boot camp-type simulation would radically reduce time to proficiency, it also added a formidable level of complexity and challenge to the project.

After being provided with detailed specifications, the client SME team took the lead in reverse-engineering and “sanitizing” the financials from an existing engagement. Our Learning and Performance Experts then used the financials to build a three-day, intensive, fast-track simulation where learners experienced and practiced every critical skill required for building the proprietary forecasting model.

We incorporated a team of professionals to act as the key clients from the mock business. Participants communicated with the mock executives via live roleplays and real-time email communication that mirrored the dynamics present in a real engagement. Experienced modelers acted as Mentors throughout the three days, providing real-time coaching, debriefs, and feedback to learners. By the end of the three days, learner pairs had used the mock financials, information collected from mock company executives, and input provided by their mentors, to build their first sophisticated forecasting model, something that would have taken them months to do on the job.

  • The time it took for consultants to build their first model was reduced from an average of 160 days down to three days, opening up approximately 157 days per new modeler that could be reallocated to more productive billable work.
  • This improvement in productivity provided immediate relief to those requiring the model to progress their work while also radically reducing the drain on experienced modelers.
  • The learning process itself increased the firm’s intellectual capital exponentially, as Mentors shared their own modeling “hacks” and nuanced strategies with the each other.
  • Mentors developed critical coaching skills that allowed them to be more effective when coaching clients and new associates, a much-valued skill set that was not otherwise being developed.

Re-Routing Strategy, Leadership, And Restrictive Company Structure To Turbo-Charge Growth

An international apparel retailer needed to grow rapidly. The senior leadership team recognized a long list of gaps they needed to close in order to accelerate their growth. Their list included overhauling and improving their strategy, company structure, leadership roles, working relationships between key departments, processing of goods from manufacturing to market, as-well-as development and support for overseas market associates.

Senior leaders and a microcosm of the organization planned the entire effort through four large group meetings of 200+ people each. Using six Real Time Strategic Change principles, the organization developed a new strategy and implemented a new organization-wide process.

The four teams executed a series of carefully sequenced meetings. The first two groups raised awareness and understanding of the new strategy. Then, the third group translated the strategy from plans into specific actions with timelines, accountabilities and measures of success. The fourth educated participants on all strategy-related initiatives, targeted needed course corrections, implemented the accelerated “GrowFast” strategy, and introduced a “FlowFast” management system to ensure the business quickly won targeted share in each new marketplace.

Immediate results included:
  • Additional funding from corporate to support the growth strategy.
  • Successful new store openings in the UK and Germany.
  • Success opening new stores in a new country, Poland.
  • Growth and implementation milestones achieved ahead of schedule.
  • Identified the need and successfully launched a European learning centre within six months.
  • Successful

Five-year results included:
  • Increase in total stores, with apparel stores increasing 41% and home goods stores by 100%.
  • Increase in Total Revenues to 58%.
  • Same store sales growth up 10% in 2013 and another 6% in 2014.

Conquering Self-Sabotaging Leadership Practices To Improve Productivity, Quality, And Turnover

This family-owned manufacturing business that produced cabinet doors found itself burdened by many business issues, in spite of their previous profitability for 20+ years. Their list of issues included:
  • Poor communication and low levels of accountability
  • Consistent failure to meet scheduled deadlines
  • Escalating quality problems leading to excess rework
  • High turnover, with new employees often quitting during their first week
  • Out of control overtime expenses
Our team immediately started working with three key leaders, providing hands-on coaching to the Plant Manager and two additional managers. We provided them with a proven accountability system and coached them in effectively communicating expectations and improved supervisors coaching and feedback.
Our rapid diagnostic identified:
  • Multiple process issues that were causing quality issues and frustrating the staff, leading to much of the turnover.
  • Gaps in communication that left employees “in the dark” regarding plant performance.
  • Hourly employees that had been promoted to supervisors without any training or practical support and were not interested in being coached.
  • Poor performing supervisors that were not being held accountable.
Our team quickly developed a plant-wide scorecard to help communicate to everyone how the plant was doing compared to daily expectations regarding productivity and quality. The scorecard provided hard data that demonstrated that it would be best to return the untrained, disengaged supervisors back to their original jobs.

We implemented process improvements which relieved much of the employee frustration and mildly impacted the turnover. Greater improvements were needed, so we redesigned their recruiting, hiring and selection, and onboarding systems.
  • Increased productivity by 22%.
  • Improved on-time delivery to 99.4%.
  • Reduced overtime dollars by 32%.
  • Reduced rework to 4.35%.

Eradicating Obsolete Plant Management Styles To Improve Culture And Productivity

After shutting down production on an entire product line, a major car manufacturer in the United States sought a special, one-of-a-kind partnership opportunity that would allow the relatively new plant to be brought back to full operation. With the reopening of the plant, the car manufacturer would also be able to provide work for the nearly 4000 employees who had been laid off when the plant closed.

The deal was finalized, bringing with it a multitude of challenges for the manufacturer. Primarily, the agreement with the outside agency required that the car company completely shift the way they managed plant procedures and operations. In order for the partnership to be successful, the car manufacturer had to learn to work with the outside agency to completely rebuild the plant, and overhaul the plant’s employee culture to one that promoted a commitment to innovation in labor-management relations.
Our team, along with five leaders from both of the partner organizations, were brought together as a dedicated steering committee to identify benchmark standards of some of the best, top performing, manufacturing plants in the United States. Upon review of the benchmark data, the steering committee noticed that top performing plants all created an equal-opportunity and supportive working environment for management and laborers.

While the walls, flooring, and new plant equipment were being installed, the steering committee took action to design standards to stimulate a plant culture that benefited all associates and the performance of the plant.

Our team and the steering committee developed evidence-based systems that promoted effective communication, improved labor-management cooperation, and increased worker investment in the success of the plant. The systems included:
  • Removal of all time clocks from the plant
  • Abolishment of the plant “foreman” position
  • Removal of management dining rooms and special parking spaces
  • Elimination of quality inspectors which were replaced with giant, red STOP buttons all over the plant to allow anyone the right to stop production if a quality or safety issue arose
  • Posting of conspicuous performance scoreboards all over the plant
  • Design of a plant wide training curriculum that every employee would complete
  • Regular steering committee meetings (scheduled for two hours every Monday)
  • Company issued uniforms worn by all employees, no matter their position
  • Installation of two team coordinators on full time staff to act as cultural ambassadors
  • Employment for the nearly 4000 out-of-work associates.
  • In less than two years, the plant surpassed production standards and quality performance at a rate never before seen in the history of the auto industry.
  • Recipient of a Ward’s Automotive Engine of the Year Award at the Detroit Auto Show.
  • Recognition for having zero quality issues anywhere in the United States for an entire 90-day period, an accomplishment that was a first for any engine plant in the auto industry.
  • Became an internationally sought-after plant for benchmarking standards in manufacturing.

Implementing Succession Planning And Process Improvements To Achieve Record-breaking Outcomes

As leadership begins to age out of the workplace toward retirement, proper succession planning and training must be established to ensure that the success of an organization remains intact. For this privately held North American manufacturing company, the need for a succession plan was immediate due to the fast-approaching retirement of the senior leadership team. This was further compounded by the company’s twelve 90-100 year old facilities that desperately needed to be rebuilt.

The company faced two coinciding challenges: succession training and leadership development needed to be established and implemented at the same time that the organization underwent a four-year process to rebuild the primary manufacturing facility which required oversight by its own unique project management team.
Our first action established a succession plan that identified a leadership pipeline for the senior leadership team. We then developed training guides and processes to prepare future leaders for success. We provided them with procedures that could be utilized immediately, and in the future, to provide ongoing associate training that would increase the availability of internal associates able to assume key positions in the company.

Once succession training was underway, we identified a plant-wide steering committee to oversee the four-year construction of a new facility. To ease the strain on the leadership committee and their successors, the steering committee worked independently of the rest of the company, and were responsible for identifying and implementing critical protocols and positions needed in the new plant to make it run effectively. Under our guidance, the steering committee committed to a core training curriculum of technical, high involvement training courses, and train-the-trainer processes so that all courses would be taught and facilitated by internal associates.
  • Senior leadership roles turned over with minimal strain on business practices.
  • Of the plants across 46 countries in the company portfolio, the new plant’s launch was considered the most successful in company history.
  • The new plant had the fastest production, and least amount of quality issues of any plant in the company’s history.
  • The steering committee system and training process developed is now used as the model for plant conversions and new plant constructions for the entire company.

Redirecting Mismanagement And Poor Performance To Achieve Profitability

The Trustee of a charitable trust that owned a metal finishing company sold the company to a buyer through a stock sale installment agreement that allowed for monthly payments to the estate until the purchase was complete. One year after the sale, the buyer informed the Trustee that he could no longer make payments to complete the purchase. The Trustee and the buyer negotiated to transfer the entire metal finishing company back to the estate via a stock transfer.

We were engaged to complete the transaction and restructure the company as needed. During our initial due diligence, we became aware of numerous legal, financial, and potentially criminal claims that had arisen against the company and its successors under its new ownership.
On behalf of the estate, we declined to complete the transaction to transfer the company back to the estate, instead we repossessed all the assets as a secured lender without the attached liabilities.

Unfortunately, the company’s issues were plentiful: the production quality was unpassable, the customer base was down, liability, casualty, health and workers compensation insurances had lapsed, and there was no money available to pay the employees or fix broken equipment. To bring the company back to full operation, we negotiated a very small, short term advance from our client and the charity and began the process of repairing equipment, improving processes, paying employees, and obtaining proper insurance.

Using the advance, we determined where to focus production improvement efforts to gain the best return on investment in order to begin to re-stabilize the company. Shortly after our intervention, the company returned to making a superior quality product.

Armed with the superior product, our team set out to regain customer trust. We were challenged by customers who at first were hesitant to give the company a second chance, but our team of experts were prepared to prove that the company was back in safe, reliable hands.
  • Avoided significant (six-figure) liability and cost for our client.
  • Converted disparate assets and a ragtag group of worn-out employees into a cohesive team.
  • Regained customer support and discovered new customers.
  • Rebuilt production capability and the business.
  • Within nine-months we were able to sell this metal finishing company for a profit.

Overcoming Reprehensible Conduct To Avoid An Environmental Disaster

Due to poor performance and mismanagement, toxic waste generated by an industrial electroplating company was not being processed out of the plant promptly, as required by federal law. The waste was comprised of powerful and dangerous ingredients including cyanide, acids, and controlled heavy metals that require specific waste disposal standards be met to avoid dangerous environmental impacts. The discovery of these unsafe, and unlawful practices also led to the exposure of other hazardous industrial processes and financial issues.

To top it all, a small fire in a nearby building that was rented by the company’s owner revealed an illegal environmental waste storage facility that the owner had been using to store waste from the plant to avoid paying fees associated with the disposal of toxic waste. Due to unsafe practices, the storage barrels inside the rented storage facility were leaking toxic chemicals. The company was issued over 30 violations of State and Federal law, which amounted to over $100,000 in penalties, plus additional criminal penalties.
Our team engaged Subject Matter Experts (SME) to advise us and assist in the negotiation of a solution with the Department of Environmental Quality, who took a lead role on behalf of the EPA and municipalities involved. Our project team approached the resolution professionally and responsibly as a third-party representative of the company, and was able to settle the situation within two-weeks, with a positive outcome for our client.
  • The waste was properly contained, cleaned-up, and removed to a toxic waste storage facility at a relatively low cost to the client.
  • All of the client’s penalties and violations were waived.
  • New practices and policies were put into place to avoid any future occurrences.
Optimized people, processes and operations are only a click away…
Creative Partnerships, Inc.
5036 Dixie Highway
Waterford, MI 48329
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