Case Study: Performance Excellence Improves Debt Management Business

Opportunity:  A leading debt-management program (DMP) processing business faced the need to make critical business and cultural changes to survive in a rapidly maturing industry. This company had grown from a home-based startup to a highly profitable $90 million, 700-employee business in less than four years. But the market was maturing quickly, as competitors implemented better technology and reductions in bank fair-share contributions and other marketplace pressures were rapidly reducing profit margins. This company was at risk of going out of business as fast as it had grown to dominate its industry unless it could achieve some aggressive near-term business goals that would dramatically increase productivity and reduce costs.

Performance Excellence Audit:  Meetings with the companyís senior executive team and its management team identified a number of challenges and potential opportunities:

Operating and Management Process Improvements:  Having attempted productivity enhancement and performance improvement programs previously with marginal success, the company was initially wary about launching a high-visibility, company-wide initiative. But the executive team agreed that unless a comprehensive approach was taken they would be unlikely to identify and prioritize necessary changes fast enough to obtain substantial current-year benefits. They engaged us to help them conceptualize and implement this initiative, drawing upon models and methodologies we have refined over the past fifteen years.

The Performance Excellence initiative was designed to follow a four-step change management approach:

1.  Awareness: Make the organization aware of the challenges facing the company and develop commitment for the efforts which would be required. A goal achievement sponsor team was formed combining senior executives and middle managers, and they worked together to craft a consensus-based charter and to promote it to the organization. Volunteers were solicited to participate in process improvement teams.

2.  Strategy: Link the initiative clearly to the business strategy. The executive sponsor team worked together to define the core customer processes of the business, and to create a matrix that illustrated which of those processes impacted specific essential business goals. Four key customer processes were identified as having the highest potential impact on those goals.

3.  Process: Cross-functional teams of volunteers were assembled for each of the four targeted customer processes. Using our rapid process improvement methodology, the teams developed flow charts of each process, then conducted analyses for goal-impact opportunities. When analyses were completed all improvement opportunities were aligned and prioritized by the goal sponsor team. The process improvement teams then developed project plans for the highest priority projects and assumed responsibility to execute and implement the projects.

4.  Performance: Because the core customer processes all were highly dependent upon human performance, the next step was to provide Applied Performance Management training to the organizationís supervisors and managers. Drawing upon the detailed process maps, key behaviors were identified and managers were taught to selectively deliver positive reinforcement to performers for improvement of those behaviors. Process controls and performance measures were also derived from these detailed process flows.

Results:  Results were rapid and substantial:

Culture Change:  The Performance Excellence model first and foremost led to rapid achievement of critical business goals of productivity, revenue enhancement and cost reduction. But it also provided several additional, lasting benefits to the company.

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Revised: April 13, 2008.
Copyright © 2008 Conard Associates, Inc.