When Executives and Managers Change So Do Their Organizations

The Lefkoe Institute has helped many organizations produce greater profits by changing the beliefs and behavior of managers. Below are several examples.

Lands’ End Reduces the Time it Takes to Bring an Idea to Market from 14 Months to 6 Months

For years the people at Land’s End tried and failed to reduce the time it took to move new products from conception to catalog. Before we began working with them it took 14 months. The Gap and Limited went from idea to store in six months. The people at Land’s End were vastly inefficient by comparison and they knew it.

The executives and the managers in each department tried to make the departments more efficient—they tried to speed up design, purchasing, inventory, quality control and catalog. They barely made a dent in the time it took to bring a product idea to market despite all their efforts.

When I worked with them I knew that a breakthrough was needed and that this breakthrough wouldn’t come from doing anything obvious like trying to improve the efficiency of the different departments. I also had no idea what they needed to do. But I knew my approach to creating innovations would help.

So I held workshops to help the top management and department managers examine their assumptions using the Lefkoe Method.

Over 700 people began to question their definitions of their jobs and the role of their departments. They came up with many suggestions and a company-wide committee was formed with people from all departments and all levels of management to solve the problem.

What they found was very simple yet it led to a very powerful solution.

We discovered that everyone in the company had the belief

We have to have different departments, each of which is responsible for a different function.

This “department system” was every inefficient. Each department had to communicate with other departments to get things done. This caused tasks that required several departments to work together to take a lot of time.

Once this belief was identified and eliminated, we put together a team of management and non-management employees to come up with an innovative solution to the problem that would’ve been impossible before.

They suggested that Land’s End get rid of the many cumbersome departments and replace them with “product teams” that had specialists in the different areas (i.e., Catalog specialist, Design specialist, Inventory specialist etc).

Management loved the idea and decided to put it into action. Each group, such as the men’s accessory team, was responsible for coming up with ideas for new products, contracting with vendors, being responsible for inventory and quality control, etc. No time was wasted in interactions between departments because they no longer existed.

The new time from conception to catalog: six months.

The Lefkoe Institute broadened our thinking by getting us to question some of our long-held beliefs. That enabled us to develop new solutions we couldn’t have even imagined before. LI’s techniques peel away old ways of thinking and open the mind to realizing that almost anything is possible.
Mike Smith, former CEO, Lands' End

Kondex Reduces “Cycle Time” from 33 Days to 24 Hours

Kondex, a small manufacturing firm in Wisconsin, had been trying for many years to reduce “cycle time,” the number of days it took to run an order through the shop. At one point it took 33 days.

The managers worked hard to solve the problem but after several years of trying they were only able to reduce cycle time by 58%, to 19 days.

When they hired us I discovered that managers rarely asked employees for ideas or solutions and when employees did offer solutions they were often ignored.

I knew this had to change if Kondex wanted to dramatically reduce the time it took to fulfill an order.

I also knew that just explaining why managers should listen to employees wouldn’t work nor would training on how to listen better.

What was needed was a revolution in thinking and that’s exactly what we provided for them. We helped managers uncover an unstated assumption that ran through the entire company.

It’s management’s job to make all improvements, not the worker’s.

This belief kept management from requesting ideas from workers and from using the ideas workers volunteered.
This belief was also held by many of the workers and kept most of them from making suggestions.

After we helped both managers and workers eliminate this belief managers started listening to workers and workers started to volunteer more and more ideas.

That year Kondex reduced cycle time by another 50% to 9 days. And almost every idea came from non-management employees.

During the next two years cycle time was reduced to less than two days. And when customers submitted orders through Kondex’s computer system it took less than 24 hours.

People have changed how they look at the world, both here at Kondex and at home. Changing people’s beliefs has led to people seeing a lot more possibilities.We no longer measure how many reported changes and improvements associates make, but they occur daily here at Kondex.

As you know we measured innovations at one time and achieved one hundred in a couple of weeks from less than 100 employees.

Now they happen so fast that many of them are shared at our weekly meetings, and many are just implemented without anyone even thinking about them.
Jim Wessing, President, Kondex

New England Telephone’s Managers Accept New Responsibilities without Resistance

Before becoming part of Verizon, New England Telephone began a program in which eight hundred of its managers were asked to improve service to each of the company’s largest customers. Each manager was assigned three or four customers and told to be a “customer advocate” for them. Their job was to cut through all the red tape and make sure the customer’s needs were satisfied quickly. Executives at New England Telephone expected that many of these managers would resist being assigned “an extra job responsibility.”

And they were right.

Once they were told about this “extra” responsibility, many complained that they already had too much to do and that they’d fall behind in completing the work required by “their job” if they had to do one more thing.

I knew that there was a way for them to take on a new responsibility as well as get everything else done and for these managers to see this they’d have to change their beliefs.

In small meetings with 20 managers at a time I helped them identify and eliminate the belief “This service assignment is not part of my job”.

Then they decided that it made more sense to expand their job description to include taking care of these high priority customers. At that point the “extra responsibility” was no longer “extra,” it was part of their daily job description.

This lead to them putting their full focus and energy into their new set of responsibilities without grumbling or resistance.

As a result New England Telephone’s new plan was a huge success.

Surveys of the customers that had a management “customer advocate” showed that their customer satisfaction increased from the low 70s to the high 90s out of 100.

The Customer Advocate training program the Lefkoe Institute developed for us has met all of our expectations and goals.
Douglas Martin, Division Staff Manager, New England Telephone

The Copps Corporation Creates Unheard of Innovations in Customer Service

Copps, a $500 million wholesale and retail grocery chain, was determined to significantly increase its level of customer satisfaction.

Each store already had a high degree of customer satisfaction as they did many things to improve the customer experience.

  • They had information at the head of each aisle listing EVERY product down that aisle, not just a few broad categories. This made it very easy for customers to find the specific items they wanted.
  • Each store had a system for getting customer suggestions and the stores implemented the ones they received.
  • The managers made sure even the smallest details improved the customer’s experience, from keeping the restrooms and aisles spotlessly clean to making sure that the outside grounds looked beautiful.

So I knew that to gain any further improvements I’d need to help their employees come up with innovative ideas. And to do that we needed to identify hidden assumptions that block the way to creating new ideas.

One of the hidden beliefs I helped the company’s employees spot and get rid of was:

Our opportunity to satisfy customers starts when the customer enters the store and ends when he leaves.

Soon after the employees discarded this assumption a part-time high school bag boy suggested that umbrellas be loaned to customers as they left the store when it was raining.

This idea made customers much happier. But there were two problems with it

  1. it was difficult for customers to carry several bags and hold an umbrella at the same time
  2. a lot of umbrellas were never returned which made the solution too expensive as Copps lost thousands of umbrellas

Noticing this, another employee suggested a creative solution.

Copps could hold on to the groceries after customers checked out, provide an umbrella for customers to use while walking to their cars, and then have customers proceed to a drive-in window where they would exchange the umbrella for their groceries.

These innovative service ideas required that employees look at the customer experience outside the store and would have been impossible while they maintained the original belief.

Through your leadership we bought into the idea that we’re all limited by our personal and corporate belief systems. There have been enormous improvements in our corporate culture and our ability to communicate with each other as a result of having gone through your Lefkoe Belief Process. I might add that our corporate sales and profits have continuously headed upward and at this moment we are experiencing record profits.
Mike Copps, CEO, The Copps Corporation

Phone Company’s Workers Learn to Thrive on Change

The Lefkoe Institute helped several of the “Baby Bells” improve the customer service of their service technicians. This happened just after they were split off from ATT. All of a sudden they had real competition and customers could take parts of their business elsewhere if they didn’t like the service they received.

All of the regional phone companies quickly provided training sessions for thousands of technicians. Unfortunately, the attendees referred to their classes as “Charm School,” to show how little they valued the training and most of the technicians kept doing what they had always done. As a result customer service ratings improved very little despite millions of dollars spent on repeated training sessions.

The Lefkoe Institute was first called into New Jersey Bell (now a part of Verizon) and asked to work with over a thousand technicians. We knew that giving them more “charm school” wouldn’t improve anything. They already knew how management wanted them to treat customers and they knew why. They just didn’t believe that they should do it. So what we did is help the service technicians find the belief that made them feel that customer service wasn’t their job. We discovered that they each believed

I am just a service technician, and my job is to install, fix and maintain equipment.

And because of this belief when they were asked to listen to customers they thought “That’s not my job” and they resisted doing it.

We took them through a simple six step process I developed that helps employees in an organization eliminate a belief they formed in the past and replace it with a more useful belief in the present.

Once they completed the process they discovered that it now made more sense to think of themselves as Customer Satisfiers whose job is “to ensure that our customers are happy with our service.”

As a result they took on entirely new behaviors to support this belief such as…

  • Introducing themselves to clients when they arrived at the work site,
  • Keeping the clients informed of their progress during the day,
  • Explaining to the client in as much detail as the client wanted exactly what they had done,
  • And making suggestions for preventative maintenance.

Customer satisfaction surveys showed an immediate improvement after this and because of our success, we were asked by several other phone companies to help their service technicians become customer satisfiers. We worked with about 5,000 of them over the next 2 years.