One of the advantages of working for a large consulting firm is that you get exposed to some great workshop tools, together with their talented facilitators.

During my days at Ernst & Young, and then Capgemini, I had the good fortune of working on some powerful, cutting edge executive workshop tools, working with some bright and talented leaders.

One of the tools I leaned to use is called GE Workout. If you want to cut through red tape and bureaucracy in your organization, I can think of no better way.

I have combined it with another excellent tool called ASE, or the Accelerated Solutions Environment. Together these two are a powerful way to get your senior management team to align on your strategic vision, prioritize your objectives, and then develop a plan you implement collectively.

But let me share with you how I became exposed to General Electric’s Work-Out tool, and what some of the advantages are for my clients using it.

Where it all started

As the name indicates, Work-Out was developed in General Electric. In the late 80’s and early 90’s. Large headcounts at GE actually resulted in increased workload for the survivors. The problem with large downsizing initiatives was that the underlying processes didn’t change.

As a company grows people develop ways to get something done. They develop work-arounds, shortcuts, and in general, inefficiencies. Things slow down, but as long as you have enough people working for you, you can keep going relatively smoothly (at least on the surface). Still, now bureaucracy has metastasized.

Then, if suddenly many people leave, you still have all of those added steps that were built up over time. However, you now have fewer people to execute the same number of bureaucratic tasks and hand-offs. Eventually breakdowns occur. Some are just embarrassing, others financially costly.

That was the situation with General Electric back in the late 80’s. So the CEO at the time, Jack Welch, had his team work with a team from Ernst & Young. Together they developed a workshop tool that helped radically eliminate many unnecessary steps and reduced the bureaucracy. GE came out of that initiative more focused, more efficient, and more nimble.

“Efficiency is doing better what is already being done.”

-Peter F. Drucker

The team from E&Y knew they had a good thing going, and took their newly developed workshop tool to other clients. One of those was the Ford Motor Company, which also used the same tool to improve their efficiency and become more focused.

One of the leaders of those teams at Ford then taught me. I in turn have had good success with it in companies such as Ontario Power Generation (OPG) Nuclear, Enbridge, and others.

What clients like about Work-Out

Here are a few benefits that my clients have realized by using this workshop tool.

Clarity – Reducing unnecessary tasks leaves primarily those that are absolutely relevant. To paraphrase Cal Newport:

“Clarity about what does not matter, provides clarity about what does.”

Once you eliminate distractions, suddenly things become a lot clearer in terms of what has to be done, how, and by whom.

Focus – Once you eliminate energy-draining and distracting tasks, people in your organization can pay more attention on what’s important, and not just on what’s urgent. You may have heard the phrase, “Tyranny of the urgent?” Well, Work-Out reduces that.

Alignment – One thing I love about the workshop is that it challenges a team to solve problems collectively and plan the solution as a team. All rowers rowing in the same direction, in rhythm. Management loves this too.

Sponsorship – Another thing I love about Work-Out is how senior decision makers are pulled in and are put on the spot to make decisions. Most failed projects fail because senior management was not behind it. With Work-Out, senior managers and executives end up front-and centre. Middle managers especially appreciate this about the workshop.

Discipline – Maybe this is a personal peccadillo, but I am very impatient. If I feel time is being wasted, I become irritable. Sometimes that gets me in trouble at home, but it’s (usually) a positive at work. The Work-Out workshop is very, very tightly facilitated. As a matter of fact, this is the hardest thing for new facilitators to learn, how to impose tight time management discipline on their paying clients! However, the solutions and up being clearer and better defined. And executive leaders love this aspect of the workshop tool.

Want to know more?

There are a few other benefits I could tell you about, but then I would sound like I am droning on and on. Or I would sound like someone who has had too much of some lubricant. Either way, I would then be wasting your time – and mine. And I don’t want to be the cause of my own irritation.

However, if you want to know more and want to see me wax lyrically about the beauty of a workshop (ridiculous, right?) then email me.

Seriously, if you want to know how this can be used in your company, email me and within a 15 minute call we’ll both know whether this is something that could help you.


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