Q: What is your approach to pursuing such dramatic gains, and how do you know it won’t conflict with our existing methodologies?
A: Our approach is based on a single, foundational building block that applies to any knowledge-work environment: single-task discipline. This means the focused execution of a single task at a time, through to completion—how the human brain is designed to work. We add supplemental flow-maximization and team-autonomy techniques from Lean, Agile, and the Theory of Constraints, but no individual on the team needs to have any prior background in any of these areas. If you’re curious to learn a bit more about the details, check out this blog post, and these overview videos.
Q: What training will the team need?
A: Just a half-day session on (or before) Day 1 of the 30-day window, covering concept, a game, application, task-board setup, and task-board training. This half-day session is included in the 30-day flat-fee offer.
Q: What if we’re already an exceptionally high-performing, world-class team—would your guarantee still apply to us?
A: Absolutely! In fact, such teams can sometimes be the most fun, even if the bar is high.
Q: Will we need to have daily team meetings to review team performance?
A: Yes, typically for 30 minutes a day at first, but we would likely work this down to 5-10 minutes by the end of the 30-day period. Unlike most such “stand-up” meetings, the focus here will be on getting closer to single-task discipline, and on removing team-wide impediments.
Q: Will we have to do everything you say, no questions asked, or is there some flexibility in how this works?
A: As long as we agree on a few basics—such as the desirability of following a model designed for single-task discipline, and the relevance of scientific flow-density principles—we believe the team should have significant flexibility in how it pursues its speed gains. Indeed, such autonomy is a key ingredient to making this work.
Q: What if we don’t have a baseline for our team’s current speed? How will we know whether we’ve achieved a 30-percent improvement?
A: We can usually help you figure that out within just a few days, and with just a few calls, at no extra charge. However, if it quickly becomes clear that such a baselining activity will require more than a modest amount of upfront consulting help, we will need to negotiate a level of paid support to help get you to a credible baseline.
Q: Do we need to buy special software or other tools?
A: No. However, I do recommend using one of the many free or low-cost task-board (often called “Kanban board”) solutions available. If you prefer a physical task board in a single team room with sticky notes, that can also work, as long as all team members have ready access at all times to the board, and as long as the team has a dedicated team member able to log board metrics at least daily and generate a few basic reports in your favorite spreadsheet application. What we probably don’t want is people taking a daily picture of the board and emailing it around to team members requesting updates.
Q: Wouldn’t it be simpler to just charge an hourly rate like everyone else?
A: Yes, but after many years on both sides of the consultant/client fence, we understand the hesitancy to have consultants come in and “run up the meter,” and with the risk that promised results may not be forthcoming. Also, we do offer an hourly rate to customers who have already come to trust that we will help them achieve the results they’re after, and who may need more flexibility in tailoring the support they need from us.
Q: Why don’t other consulting firms offer such a guarantee?
A: Two reasons. First, even if they’re confident in their ability to help their clients achieve rapid results, there are so many factors outside of the consultant’s control, that it can certainly be a risky proposition for the consultant. It’s kind of like a personal trainer guaranteeing X lbs of fat loss, and trusting that the client really will improve their diet.
The second reason, frankly, is that most consultants’ techniques simply aren’t as effective and high-impact as the ACCLAIM Focus & Flow method. Some of our clients have doubled their speed in less than 30 days, so our feeling is that 30 percent is achievable for almost any team, and we’re willing to take the risk with you if you’re serious about pursuing dramatic gains.
Q: Why do you offer this only for teams between 5 and 30 people?
A: Only because that range seems to be “the sweet spot” for big jumps in performance in 30 days or less. Fewer than five is fine, but may present a harder “bang-for-the-buck” case to make. More than thirty is also fine, but may present greater coordination and readiness challenges, potentially delaying the start. Also, for project-centric environments having more than 30 folks, big jumps in performance typically require complementary approaches designed to maximize the throughput of project completions—such as Critical Chain Project Management (CCPM), in which we also have industry-leading expertise.
In our experience, it is usually more desirable to just get started with a more manageable-sized team that’s ready to go, before then spreading the goodness to other groups, or elevating it to the project portfolio level by supplementing with CCPM. While we’re fully comfortable with such enterprise-scale endeavors (and actually earn most of our revenue this way), such initiatives typically require unusual levels of courageous senior-executive leadership, engagement, and political will.
Q: How will we know when we’re ready to start the 30-day period?
A: We will share with you our “30-30 Readiness Checklist” once it’s clear there’s genuine interest and a desire to move forward, but before any contracts are signed, so you have a clear sense of what’s required. While all items on this checklist would typically need to be checked off, there are some situations in which a few can be skipped without harming the probability of success. Also, you may have additional, unique obstacles that we’d both want cleared out of the way before proceeding, and the intent here is to set things up for maximum success.
Q: Is this for new clients only, or can existing clients take advantage of this?
A: It’s designed to build trust quickly with new clients, but we’re willing to consider exceptions, especially if you think this might help motivate a peer group inside your organization get jump-started.
Q: How do we mitigate the risk of disagreeing on whether the 30 percent really was achieved at the end of the 30 days?
A: A good baseline goes a long way here. If possible, we will also want to try and find some type of “absolute” metric that clearly demonstrates an “apples-to-apples” comparison. For example, one client began to use more granular task breakdowns, making it hard to know how much of the gain in throughput was due to this additional granularity, and how much was due to genuine speed improvement. As a software-development team, they agreed that the volume of release notes would be a credible absolute productivity metric for their team, so we simply measured how much the volume of release notes went up.
Further, I designed and priced this guarantee at a modest enough price point to make it as unlikely as possible that either party would ever find it worthwhile to pursue any type of legal action.
Q: What if our environment is really chaotic, with so many priorities shifting so constantly, and with really bad morale and high turnover?
A: We can still help you, but we would need to ensure that some semblance of order, ability to prioritize, and ability for knowledge workers to focus are all within reach before agreeing to start the 30-day guarantee. Such things are spelled out in greater detail in our 30-30 Readiness Checklist, and may call for some upfront consulting support from us. Again, the intent here is to set us all up for success.