The Continuous Service Improvement Process (CSIP): A method to structure internal improvement efforts and to develop the service culture in the same time
CSIP is an incremental service development process, which stimulates bottom-up improvement idea creation and self-directed implementation in a transparent and engaging way. It was successfully introduced during an economic downturn and internal changes in Magyar Telekom by GROW OD Group
The CSIP process was invented in client-consultant partnership that started as a “usual” assignment, but it turned out to be a deep cooperation and an experience of mutual learning.
The two participants of this journey were:
- The client was the Financial division of the Magyar Telekom, led by Thilo Kusch (CFO), one of three biggest telecommunication company in the country,
- and the provider was the GROW Organizational Development group, a consultancy, who provides integrated services for last almost 20 years.
The environment for both of us was not really a nurturing one. Hungary – where both of us operate – has been strongly affected by the economic downturn. The client had to be successful in a very competitive infocom sector (with two other ‘big players’, who also had a multinational background). The whole sector has also been considered as a ‘cash cow’ by the government, and a number of different taxes and regulatory actions have been affecting their daily business. It has to be noted that Magyar Telekom – although now a subsidiary of Deutsche Telekom – has been built on the first national telecom provider in Hungary, thus – in certain segments of the company – it still had old cultural patterns, that date back to the non-competitive era of their operations.
There were many triggers that led the client to the idea, that they need external support in the form of an organization development process.
1, The most notable extrinsic triggers were
- GDP slowdown and consumer stagnation from 2006, that painted a not-too shiny future for the whole sector,
- Financial crisis, the Hungarian consumption decreased by 14%,
- Extra tax was issued by the new government, which reduced revenues by one-third
- The organization was restructured into an integrated functional organization,
- BPR and rationalization of the finance organization has taken place. A centralized structure and operation was established.
2, Intrinsic motivation:
- There was a strong desire to be recognized as a service-oriented organization within the group. They had a deep intention to provide WOW experiences to their clients.
- The expectation to be more service-oriented, has been explicitly stated by the other divisions of the company as well. They needed a more supportive financial organization.
- So the main strategic objectives was to develop a service excellence culture, with a credo that "I am responsible for business success". The realization of this motto required an attitude change of every manager and employee. They should have considered themselves as business partners, who provide value-added service, instead of reward/punish (Motivation 1.0) role
So with all these triggers and forces in motion the client has decided to seek support from an OD company. Their main aim was to develop service excellence in the finance department (working as an SSC) while receiving a “soft” change management support for the implementation of the “hard” restructuring.
We have worked long hours on our consultancy proposal, and had the feeling that we need some extraordinary to come out as winners from the negotiations. We took another look at the concepts: „What is the common, usual way of increasing service level? Of course it is a series of trainings… we have good trainers, they go there and train the people in some basic and advanced customer care concepts, some communications etc…” But would that be good enough? We knew that the client wanted a game-changing approach to development, as their leaders were some seasoned executives who would not buy anything. They have already seen some good – and as we have guessed, some really bad processes as well.
So we have decided to do something entirely different. Let them figure out how to enhance their own business. Let’s just give them a structure and a support to do so. This was the moment when the idea of the CSIP has been born.
We have won the tender. And during the final talks we decided in three goals:
- Develop a service excellence culture,
- Create an empowering and supportive leadership attitude, which can be the only real role model for staff, to operate as the desired “service owner”,
- Finally to develop the service approach on the employee level through "continuous improvement activities", what increased the necessary personal responsibility as well.
What is CSIP?
The initial idea of the CSIP – Continuous Service Improvement Process – was born just before the final round of negotiations with the client. And it was a winning idea. It is a structured process that can involve any number of participants in cycles, as incremental service-level enhancement activity. It defines four distinct steps – from idea generation to implementation – that are carried out by self-directing facilitated “CSIP teams”.
So what is CSIP? - It’s a general concept somewhere between:
- an idea generation platform (collect ideas >>> select >>> celebrate winners >>> somebody else implement),
- and the kaizen process (specific goals from an idea/issue list >>> invention by cross-function team in 3-5 day workshop >>> test and implementation).
The story of the invention and implementation (2010-2012):
- Start: An intensive work has been started on the CSIP structure, we have started to look out, and integrate tools and approaches to “flesh out” the idea of the CSIP.
- Fine-tuning: On one hand – under the direction of a Lean expert – we have developed the process description of CSIP. Critical questions, like the size of the CSIP teams, the decision making process, and rules of facilitation have been addressed. Although GROW had a good idea on the parameters, the final – fine tuning – decision were made together with the Client.
- Preparation: GROW worked out the supporting materials, like descriptions for the tools to be used, an agenda and content for the CSIP facilitator training, and the elements of the “On the job development toolkit” were created.
- Acceptance: The senior management was committed to do something new. As we have kept them informed, involved and supported during the whole initiation process we could ensure that everything was reviewed carefully.
- Pilot: A pilot CSIPs were carried out with selected departments. These meetings were facilitated by GROW consultants and the experiences were fed back to the design process – both into the finalization of the process, and the finalization of the materials.
- Implementation: The CSIPs were initiated and implemented gradually within the organization. Initial reaction was mixed: we have seen curiosity, energy and a smaller amount of cynicism as well. “Nothing is going to turn real from these…” These were the points where the presence of the senior management came in handy: we could credibly point to them, and invite them into the process to deal with such concerns.
- Roll-out: Despite some initial individual challenges the pilot projects were considered to be successful, and the full roll-out of the program could be started. The roll-out process included the following elements:
- Initial discussions within every directorate of the client organization,
- All staff communication regarding the program,
- Facilitation training for would-be CSIP leaders,
- CSIP workshops for the CSIP teams: introduction and „how-to” demonstration,
- Preparing the directors to sponsor the CSIP activities.
How does CSIP look like?
Please take a look at the attached diagram "CSIP Cycle" that shows the main steps of the cycle:
- In general it is a cyclical process through the year (exclude only peak seasons).
- It includes a scheduled formal weekly meeting (max. 1 hour), with agenda and minutes. This meeting is attended by the all members of the team, who came from the same department of the organization. As members come from the same place within the company, they have a shared responsibility for their processes and work, and they also have the understanding of their own issues and environmental factors. The meetings are facilitated by a trained CSIP facilitator whose role is to keep the process of cooperation on track. Teams are kept small, around 5-9 participants/team.
- The team – collectively – chooses an issue to deal with, an aspect of service to improve in a given cycle. Teams can choose anything they can improve. Anything that they do or experience – anything over which they have any means of control could become a subject of the development. All decisions are made by the team as a whole. There are no bosses to call the shots.
- During the meeting a work plan for the week is created, and on the following week the plan is executed. Tasks of the execution are distributed amongst the team members by the team itself. The first meeting focuses on finding potential issues to work with. Thus the first week of work focuses on analyzing selected issues, collecting information etc. Second meeting focuses on finalizing the choice of issue, and brainstorming on the potential action plans. Second week of work is then dedicated to developing actions. Third cycle element is about deciding among action plans and executing them, fourth week is then assigned to assessment and evaluation of the cycle. Then it starts again with a new issue.
- The CSIP also involves a biweekly 20 minutes progress report to the Heads of the division, using the CSIP board.
- CSIP teams were gradually set up within the organization, at all hierarchical levels, till the whole organization got covered. All teams worked on their individual CSIPs in a parallel manner.
- Experience sharing between teams was part of the overall program, and it took place at the end of the individual cycle. This fosters cross-fertilization between teams, and the sharing of best/next practices.
How is it supported?
1, To support the teams a number of physical or virtual tools have been created for them:
- A3s (based on the lean A3) a tool to monitor and visualize the developments and activities of the given CSIP team. The A3-s served as both roadmaps for the teams, and information points for the other teams.
- Effort / added value matrix with detailed instructions. These were used to select issues and to select action plans for the given issues.
- Fishbone & 5whys analytics, to support the analysis of the issues and situations.
- CSIP boards, - a composite board, showing all the A3s of the team, plus team information, team pictures and more. The “personal visible base of the team.”
- Stakeholder analytics / communication matrix: tool to address the stakeholders involved in the current CSIP topics.
2, In the overall project the CSIP was only as a part of the program, and without the other elements this process could not have been so successful. The other elements of GROW’s consultancy work included the following:
- Service excellence program and team building for the senior management, to ensure their support: this has ensured a real support and commitment towards the CSIP from the senior management of the client organization.
- Leadership awareness and inspiration by the interpretation and breakdown of the "WOW” service. In this program element we have created events to show the ‘WOW” level of service to the organization: inspiration and motivation to enhance their own services were ignited through these events.
- Empower and make capable the leaders (and align systems) to develop their staff on service operation (either content, or communication, or process side): trainings and help (e.g. “On the job development toolkits”) was available for leaders to be able to support the CSIPs.
- How to implement in a big organization, across many team without side effects?
We came to understand that proper preparation and a good process are the keys of the CSIP process. As the initial assumptions (“process decisions are made at the top of the hierarchy”) were not really compatible with the whole grassroots creativity idea we had to have a strong, and prepared senior management team to give an idea-level approval for the whole CSIP.
- How to involve people?
As the participation in the program was compulsory we faced the “it is just another task and meeting that we need to attend” thought. This has been dealt with through the first CSIP workshops, where teams had a taste of “what is it like to work for yourself”. They could clearly experience empowerment, and it had its effect. (Plus the previously mentioned WOW events did their job as well, igniting the inspiration to do better service…)
- How to commit people on the long run?
We have seen a number of CSIP teams in action, and as soon as they have realized that they really have a chance to change things for their own good, their involvement, and their creativity increased tremendously. From small ideas, like “continuous exchanges of anonymous favors” within the department, to ideas on new presentation templates, and a re-design of a financial planning process (resulting in a saving that amounted to more than 200.000 EURs) were all on the table.
- Handling the need for control of the management
On the other hand we had to deal with the realistic concerns of the management, who wished to retain some control, and who had a business (and at the end of the day financial) responsibility for the effectiveness of the organization. As all the teams were self-directing, and acted without a formal approval process this was a crucial point. We have applied a number of tools and ideas to manage this:
- The scope of action for each of the CSIP teams was well described too: they could work on things that they were handling / dealing with on the daily basis. E.g. a team of controllers could not change the structure of the agenda of the management meetings. As the focus of the developments were service quality they had to strongly consider the expectations of their internal service partners (e.g. other teams within the Client organization – the CFO area – and the expectations of the business units) as well.
- In the second wave of the CSIPs the teams were organized in a different way – cross-functionally, along the internal processes, with members from different teams and hierarchical levels. This gave another type of – process oriented – ownership to the CSIP teams, and ensured that main processes remained in place.
- All CSIP teams had to do a bi-weekly short overview of their current developments to the members of the leadership, and other channels of communication were encouraged as well.
- Senior managers we prepared to act as mentors in the CSIPs, thus they could add their wisdom and business insight to the “operations critical” elements of the developments.
- In the first wave of CSIP, the teams were facilitated by their team leaders. This has brought in an “eye for control” that could guarantee the safety of the operations. Leaders were trained specifically to support the emergence of new ideas, so they could avoid becoming blocks within their own teams.
- The focus of the program was crystal clear: increasing service quality. Changing HOW they do things, and not the core of WHAT they do. During the kick-offs some of the directors gave an even smaller focus for the CSIPs in their fields (e.g.: a certain contracting process etc.)
As the Client was a CFO area, numbers and hard measures were critical in evaluating the process. The main outcomes were the following:
- Pioneer in efficient operating model: 40% decrease in headcount
- Clear positioning as a business partner: 21% higher internal customer satisfaction
- Employee Engagement: employee satisfaction increased by 32% according to the "Spirit" survey
- CSIP ideas resulted in a saving that amounted to more than 200.000 EURs
- The side effects of CSIP were a strong team building through the experience of cooperation, the discovery of previously hidden capabilities, and break the boundaries on staff level.
- The other main result was perhaps the "awakening of the organization." They understood the motto and they want to be excellent in the service they provide. And do for it, every week, every team, every worker through the CSIP process. They are looking for and carry out improvements ideas, which results in a qualitative and quantitative leap in terms of initiatives and responsibility.
For a selected number of quotes and success stories please see the attached materials.
The whole project has been awarded the “Best OD Project – 2012” prize by Hungarian Association of Organization Development (SZMT).
- We were lucky in the project as we received an exemplary support for the project from top executives not just on the level or words, but an authentic representation,
- The project made a full-course "assault", all levels, all staff were involved in a given phase, although on a step-by-step basis. Involving everyone, and thus “shooting for the stars” was a high-risk / high gain strategy. The number of CSIPs that ran parallel in the organization ensured the emergence of fundamentally good and significant improvements. As these could be fed back to the system as success stories the whole initiative received higher and higher attention and credibility. The process generated its own credibility after a while. Realizing this, and paying proper attention to internal communication was another key factor in our success.
- Systems approach: we have influenced the emotional and rational side, the hard and soft factors, attitude/mindset, peoples and systems in the same time. The coordination of these controls resulted in synergies and positively reinforced each other,
- Learning organizations – operation mode built in the business as usual process and remained after the leave of our consultants.
There are lots of people to give credit for the above described process:
- László Eszes, former CEO of GROW OD Group, must be credited for the initial idea of the CSIP.
- Zoltán Kőrösi, former senior consultant at GROW OD Group was a key person in designing the details and the planning of the process.
- Orsolya Lőrincz, the current head of the consultancy division of GROW was instrumental in the implementation of the whole process
- Thilo Kusch, CFO of Magyar Telekom – the leader of the client organization must be credited for his openness, cooperation and willingness to work with such a novel approach.
- The participants, who used their openness to become parts of a great and successful experiment,
- The staff of GROW who did a great job in developing all the materials, delivering all the trainings and personal support during the program.
We attach two slideshows to this story:
- GROW_CSIP_cycle and tools: this contains the diagram of the CSIP cycle and some examples of the tools we have used during the process
- GROW_CSIP_Success stories: containing quotes from participants regarding the results of the CSIP.