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Tom Devane is a consultant, author, and co-author of provocative bestselling books on achieving extraordinary results using methods that systematically engage people in organizations and communities.
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    The Change Handbook

    Over 60 methods that engage groups quickly and produce extraordinary results.




    Barnes & Noble


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    Integrating Lean Six Sigma and High Performance Organizations

    A leader's guide to blending technical and people aspects of performance improvement.


    Barnes & Noble

    Wiley & Sons



    White paper on Positive Deviance




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    One Engagement “Home Run”


    As I sat down across the desk of the Manufacturing VP at the high-tech firm that was about to select a consultant from a pool of six firms, I asked lots of questions and jotted down notes.  The VP told me that that the high-tech industry was currently in the boom part of one of its historic boom-bust cycles.  And she had a serious problem.  The plant was producing far less than its capacity, and this meant they would not have the ability to capitalize on the current high tech boom cycle.  Which meant that, as things go in the semiconductor world of high capital equipment costs, during the next "bust" cycle, they might need to close their doors.  Simply because they hadn't harvested the necessary cash during the boom cycle.  An engagement strategy brought the company to record revenue levels within three weeks of its inception. 

    About two-thirds of the way through their manufacturing process, they had a terrible bottleneck.  It was in an area called “Board Test” where people tested to determine if certain electronics worked.  If the electronics worked, they were shipped on to the next department to be assembled into their final product and then shipped to customers.

    If they failed – which nearly 40% were doing – they remained in the test department where technicians diagnosed them, made corrections to the circuitry, and then tested them again until they were all fixed and could move on to the next department.  Since test equipment was limited, this bottleneck in the process also put a limit on how many final units could be shipped in a single day.  Which, of course, directly impacted revenue.

    After taking a plant tour and brief look at some process documentation, I developed my approach.  Based on my experience with similar situations, I proposed that I had a method that could increase throughout by at least 40%.  I said I only needed 2 weeks, but that I would need the participation – engagement – of key people in the process, and senior leaders to sign-off on any cross-departmental changes that might be required.

    The Manufacturing VP and her production team selected me.  She later confided in me they she selected me out of curiosity, almost as a joke.  Bids from other consultants all used external teams, and ranged form 4 to 6 months.  They proposed many electrical engineers and mechanical engineers to study the problem bottleneck.

    I proposed only me – with a finance and information systems background, equipped with an extraordinary process for convening people and releasing their creativity.  She wondered what I was really offering, and why it was so different.  And for the price of a two-week project she felt okay spending the consulting dollars to find out.

    We actually spent three weeks – the additional week was because management was unable to meet and make the decisions needed.  The results: by removing the bottleneck, within one month the company went from an annual revenue rate of $250 million to $525 million.  And one year later, they still held true at the $525 level.

    This is an example of the power of engagement.