Written by Frank Devine

In a previous LMJ article, which you can find here (it is highly recommended that you read that first) the distinction between engagement on the one hand, and involvement and consultation on the other, was explained as follows:

“The conventional approach is that organisations try to sell their corporate culture to their employees; in the process outlined here employees create and own their own culture.

Traditionally, employees ‘have a say’ or are involved or consulted, but the power to make the final decisions remains with management alone. Throughout this process employees are involved in challenging adult-adult conversations and decisions, they never ‘ask management’ or ‘make representations’, they make decisions and actively prioritise, they are never in a child-parent relationship.

As a result, employees are not the passive recipients of ‘engagement’: rather they act on their system of work in such a way that they become actively engaged.

In this sense, management doesn’t engage employees; management create a process whereby employees become engaged and then work to sustain the new system created.

As an analogy, the process creates a tiger, management has to feed and sustain the tiger and ensure it bites the right things!”

This article explains the practical methods for making that vision a reality, and sustaining it over time despite changes in Senior Leadership composition.

The success of this engagement process in driving metric as well as engagement score and award outcomes (Shingo Prize; Best Companies etc.) is demonstrated in the Appendix of Case Studies.

As an indication, the research results from two MSc Dissertations into the effect of the Rapid, Mass, Engagement Process found tangible metric improvements such as:

  • 73% increase in productivity
  • 45% reduction in absenteeism
  • 300% increase in ideas implemented per person
  • 30% increase in engagement scores and a 34% increase in Q-12 engagement scores

(Whyte and Twomey both 2011)

Key Themes:

Critical to achieving these transformations are the following key themes are explored below:

  • Why relying solely on a values-based approach is insufficient to create the powerful and rapid impact possible with this approach – the conventional method is to rely on integrated Corporate Values
  • The detailed process required to achieve the powerful levels of employee engagement that produced results such as those above
  • Why diagnosis is separated from problem-solving in the process
  • Risks and examples of when the process has not achieved its objectives – this will provide practical help for any organisation serious about achieving such high levels of engagement
  • The need for leadership development specifically designed to sustain the High Performance culture created by the employees, and to systematically reinforce the quality of continuous improvement explicit in the process

This article builds on a previous LMJ article (Devine 2016) which examined:

  • Typical mistakes that organisations make when they attempt to engage their workforces
  • The concept of ‘motivation towards’ in contrast to ‘motivation away from’, which explains why a burning platform is not essential
  • What Engagement means and why it is not the same as involvement, participation or consultation
  • Culture change options: ‘top down’ or ‘bottom up’?
  • Why the process is Rapid and Mass
  • The difference between the width and the depth of engagement and why both need to leverage each other
  • How the culture changes in advance of the explicit processes designed to change it, what I call the bow wave effect
  • The necessity to optimise both the Social and the Technical aspects of a system (Trist 1981)
  • Why engagement alone is not enough

Why Values are not enough

Why is the conventional, values-based, approach insufficient to achieve the kind of results discussed here?

I spent many frustrating years in corporate life trying to hold senior leaders accountable to Corporate Values; senior leaders are intelligent and articulate and have little difficulty creatively aligning corporate values with their habitual behaviours!

To overcome this, the concept of Behavioural Standards was created. To appreciate how Behavioural Standards differ from values an adaptation of the OD concept of Integration v Differentiation, (Lawrence and Lorsch, 1986) is helpful.

Integration is provided by those aspects of an organisation which are optimally the same across different locations, examples are financial reporting standards and corporate values.   Differentiation is provided by those aspects which need to be different to maximise results in different locations due to important differences in national culture, legal requirements, taste etc. An example is the diversity in food content in McDonalds’ restaurants across the world whereas the service aspect remains integrated/standardised.

A contribution to achieving a high performing organisation is the avoidance of consultant-inspired lurches between high integration and high differentiation by explicitly and situationally deciding what they will integrate and what needs to be differentiated, so optimising both.

Behavioural Standards are differentiators, i.e. locally decided cultures agreed by the employees in a particular location and owned by those employees. They supplement, but don’t replace, the integration effects of well-designed and communicated Corporate Values.

The differences between Behavioural Standards and Values based approaches are summarised below:


For a strategic exploration of the value of creating “Behaviour Standards”, albeit from the more usual, top-down perspective, see Campbell et al, 1990. 

The Rapid, Mass Engagement Process in Detail

An example of the process is outlined below, an explanation of which follows:

screen-shot-2016-10-31-at-16-10-22 Key Phases of the Process:

  1. The initial Diagnostic Day when senior leaders are facilitated through a diagnostic process to decide the level of employee engagement necessary to achieve their business goals and the exact process most suited to their specific circumstances. This includes the Higher Purpose or Vision which employees are being asked to address in the process
  2. The initial Diagnostic Workshops.   The separation of diagnosis from problem-solving is crucial here to prevent the creation of workshop-specific/sub-system ownership of outcomes. The Workshops provide:
  3. the behavioural data from which the Behavioural Standards are derived
  4. the prioritised obstacles to achieving the Higher Purpose or Vision agreed on Diagnostic Day
  5. the representatives elected by their peers to attend Consensus Day
  6. Consensus Day when, by consensus not compromise, all the representatives elected join with the Senior Team to agree:
  7. the action plan to address the issues prioritised by the employee workshops and
  8. elect the sub-team to codify the new culture in a set of Behavioural Standards

Key Success Factors for Consensus Day:

  1. The facilitation of this event is crucial. The quality of the Action Plan agreed is important and key longer-term issues will require high quality data gathering and project planning; the facilitator needs to be capable of managing this. The facilitator also must be:
    1. external
    2. experienced in large group facilitation such as Search Conferences and in this process itself
  2. The event requires genuine consensus not compromise and thus there are no majority votes or ‘splitting the difference’. This takes as long as it takes and requires a deep understanding of problem-solving techniques. The longest Consensus ‘Day’ lasted 35 hours elapsed time and 24 hours in session.

The above illustration is indirect, via employee representatives; in contrast, when the number of employees is small enough, all employees can be directly engaged in creating the new culture and agreeing the change plan.   Two examples are Promed and ICBF who agreed their organisation’s Higher Purpose directly with all their employees at the same time i.e. directly rather than indirectly. (For a full exploration of Higher Purpose see Mackey and Risodia 2013).

The organisational effects of the indirect process started in DePuy in 2008 are examined in Twomey (2011).

Having examined success factors let’s examine why diagnosis is separated from problem-solving and identify the risks.

Why is diagnosis separated from problem-solving in the process?

It is important that the initial workshops are strictly diagnostic and that the problem-solving is completed on Consensus Day for the following reasons:

  1. The initial workshops do not allow sufficient time for rigorous problem-solving.
  2. Any solutions emerging in the original workshops would create ownership behind “solutions” owned only by a small sub set of the overall workforce.
  3. Any such solutions would encourage rejection of alternative options emerging at Consensus Day or from the data-based project teams established to address complex issues.

Risks and examples of when the process has not achieved its objectives

Such a high impact process cannot be risk-free and the key risks are:

  1. Lack of complete ownership of the process by all members of the senior team. This is the basis on which I have advised clients not to proceed.
  2. The promotion of the senior leader at an early stage of the process before the culture is strong enough to sustain itself. This has happened twice and once it stopped the process within months. This can be managed, e.g. both DePuy (twice since 2008) and Boston Scientific (2015) ensured that successors were powerful advocates of the process. Never-the-less, succession issues are fatal if not handled well.
  3. Lack of support from Corporate leaders. Rolls-Royce included members of the Civil Aerospace Senior Team in the 3 local Consensus Days to provide this experiential and emotional support. Other organisations have included key corporate leaders in the process of evaluation prior to Diagnostic Day. Issues such as Corporate Values not being compromised by Behavioural Standards are addressed in this way.
  4. The experience in the process itself and the quality of the facilitator (see above), and the related issue of underestimating the depth of knowledge needed to understand the process well enough to produce a powerful Consensus Day and change plan.
  5. Not being willing to match the ambition of the business objectives with the ambition of the engagement process necessary to achieve it
  6. Not taking the time necessary to understand the process and do due diligence re the provider of the service
  7. Not ensuring that leaders are trained specifically to reinforce and sustain such a High Performance, non-hierarchical culture. For a full analysis of how this risk is avoided see Devine (2016).
  8. Not integrating the engagement process with the approach to continuous improvement.

Engagement Alone is not Enough:

Even if the engagement process is implemented in a systematically excellent way the new culture will not sustain unless two other processes are leveraged.

The crucial interrelationships are between:

  1. The Rapid, Mass Engagement Process
  2. An approach to Leadership Development systematically designed to sustain the culture created by it (see Brophy, 2012 and Devine, 2016)
  3. The specific approach to Continuous Improvement which sustains it.

The leverage created by these three areas of focus is crucial to the long-term success of any High Performance and continuously improving culture. The model below gives an overview of the leverage which can be achieved:



This article explains the first circle, engagement; the leadership aspect is explained in Devine 2016. How the continuous improvement aspects have been implemented are addressed in Brophy (2012), Garvey (2016), Twomey (2011) and Whyte (2011).

Predicable Consequences of Selective Implementation:

The analysis below outlines the consequences of not achieving these leverages because of selective implementation:



The journey that started in 1973 has led to thousands of employees achieving things that they thought were impossible, and many have written to the author saying it changed their lives and/or careers.

This process has helped to create and secure thousands of jobs, keeping families intact and local businesses alive; this has had cumulative effects on local communities particularly meaningful to the author who had to emigrate from his own community in 1974.

It requires leaders of very high integrity and courage.

It requires leaders prepared to systematically look for what is good in people and then leverage it – see ‘motivation towards’ in last month’s article.

May this article inspire others to similarly challenge what is possible with similar results re lives, families, jobs and communities.



Brophy, A (2012) FT Guide to Lean: How to Streamline Your Organisation, Engage Employees and Create a Competitive Edge (Financial Times Series)

Campbell, A, Devine, M and Young, D (1990) A Sense of Mission. Economist Publications/Hutchinson

Devine, F (2016) Demystifying Leadership-Setting Leaders Up for Success. Lean Management Journal.

Garvey, P (2015) Engaging an Organisation in Operational Excellence: A Case Study in Mass Engagement. MSc Dissertation, University of Buckingham

Lawrence, P.R. and Lorsch J. W., (1986) Organization and Environment: Managing Differentiation and Integration Harvard Business School Classics

Mackey, J., Risodia, R., (2013) Conscious Capitalism: Liberating the heroic spirit of business. Harvard Business School Publishing Corporation, USA.

Twomey, W (2011) Beneath the Waterline – A Study of the Effect of Applying Leader Standard Work to the Social Aspects of a Manufacturing System on the Performance of the System. MSc Dissertation Lean Enterprise Research Centre, Cardiff University

Weisbord, M. A (1993) Discovering Common Ground. Berrett-Koehler Publishers

Whyte, P (2011) Exploring the Use of Systems Thinking to Understand and Plan Change. MSc Dissertation Lean Enterprise Research Centre, Cardiff University