How Companies Have Used The Fast-Track Change Process: Sample Projects And Results

Redesign of a Complaint Resolution Process: Leading New England Health Plan

The Customer Service division of a leading health plan used the Fast-Track Change Process to complete in record time a crucial redesign of its multi-regional complaint resolution process, including installation of a new IT system. This project was critical in retaining a 3-year NCQA certification.

The problem and opportunity

This newly merged health plan was about to receive its first three-year accreditation from the National Committee for Quality Assurance, a distinction achieved to date by only 40% of the health plans reviewed. NCQA accreditation was absolutely crucial to the company's growth strategy. However, the accreditation would be given only if the health plan rapidly and substantially redesigned its process for resolving customer complaints.

One big problem was lack of consistency across regions. Prior to the merger, the two health plans had used very different processes, one centralized, one decentralized. The growth of the company into new regions had only increased the inconsistency. The merged health plan needed to demonstrate not only that a consistent, well-monitored process was being implemented. It was also clear that the redesigned process would require a new, customized IT system.

An internally-facilitated cross-functional team of employees had already been working hard on the issue, meeting half-a-day, twice-a-month for a number of months. This team had mapped the existing process, done some analysis, and developed a framework of complaint categories. But they were far from completing the work needed, and they were unsure what would happen to their final report. Too often in the past, task force recommendations had disappeared into a “black hole” of senior management indecision.

At this point, the deadline for demonstrating an improved complaint-resolution process was approaching rapidly. Because the company had already experienced the speed and effectiveness of the Fast-Track Change Process, they turned to us to facilitate the project needed to ensure NCQA accreditation.

The project

This redesign project was co-led by the VP of Customer Service and a senior member of the Medical Directors Office. An additional project sponsor came from IT and from each of the company's regional offices. This Sponsor Team clarified the “project challenge:” To develop and implement the common procedures and standards needed for consistent, timely, “customer service and quality focused” resolution of all member concerns. Project participants also had to develop and implement company-wide procedures to generate data and analysis for quality improvement initiatives.

A cross-functional Planning Team, which included the members of the previous task force, planned a three-and-one-half day process redesign event that involved about 50 people who had an intimate working knowledge of the existing process. At this event, four cross-functional teams, each facilitated and assigned to a different part of the overall process, developed detailed, coordinated recommendations. A fifth team of IT experts simultaneously developed a set of high-level recommendations for the system needed to support the redesigned process.

On the last half-day of the redesign event, the five teams presented the Sponsors with their recommendations for change. Impressed with what the redesign teams had produced, the Sponsors approved all recommendations with only a few “tweaks.” Project participants were jubilant. The written evaluation at the end of the event overflowed with comments such as: “Other change efforts I've been involved in were no way as effective as this. This was swift, accurate, taken seriously, and highly prioritized. We got literally one year of work done in 4 days, with immediate feedback and buy-in.”

The results

Immediately after the redesign event, the approved recommendations were converted into a detailed implementation plan, spearheaded by a Project Champion and a Core Implementation Team consisting of key people from the redesign event. Every 30 days, this team met with the Sponsor Team to review progress. While all redesign meeting participants worked on implementation, Sponsors played an important leadership role throughout this phase, removing potential roadblocks to rapid execution. Documentation that this process was well under way won the company its 3-year NCQA certification.
Even more importantly, they achieved, in record time, full implementation of a much higher quality process, including the new IT system.

Redesign of Product Development Process: Leading New England Health Plan

As part of its strategy to differentiate itself on product customization, a recently-merged health plan used the Fast-Track Change Process to dramatically reduce the average time required to bring its products to market.

The challenge

This health plan faced intense competition in a rapidly consolidating regional marketplace, where it was no longer possible to compete on the basis of pricing, product uniqueness, or provider network. Major purchasers of health care benefits wanted increasingly complex products, and competitive bids were increasingly all-or-nothing. So the health plan decided to differentiate itself on product customization, along with quality of care and customer service.

To implement its product customization strategy, the health plan needed, within five months, to drastically reduce its time-to-market with new products, without in any way diminishing the quality of products or service. With the exception of one product, the product development processes for the two pre-merger companies were still separate. Once a new product concept was approved, it was averaging over a year to “go live” in a customer organization. The company needed one process with an average cycle-time of 20 weeks.

The project

A change process was needed that would move quickly, incorporate a great deal of non-traditional thinking, and mobilize sustained leadership support across a number of functional boundaries. To accomplish this daunting task, the VP of Product Development and five other senior-level Sponsors turned to the Fast-Track Change Process.

The Sponsors defined the objectives and “scope” of the change. Then a cross-functional Planning Team of eight people broke the highly complex process into five major components, identified teams to work on the redesign of each component, and clarified the objectives for each team. With our help, they planned an event where these teams would create a new product development process and present their recommendations to the Sponsor Team.

The redesign event was intense. About 60 people, many of whom had not been in the same room since the merger, worked closely together for four days. As the new process began to take shape, its critical path was tracked and fed back. Finally, on the last day a number of break-throughs were made, taking the time down to 18 weeks! In the Decision-Making Meeting at the end, the Sponsors approved 27 of 28 recommendations (and later approved the 28th). People were exhausted but overjoyed. The health plan's CFO, one of the Sponsors, got up and told the group they had clearly saved the company millions of dollars.

The results

A Core Implementation Team coordinated the larger group of 60, who took responsibility for implementing the approved action items. Every 30 days, the Core Team met with the Sponsors to review progress. As with all Fast-Track projects, the Sponsors' role was to hold people's feet to the fire and remove any potential roadblocks. Using this approach, the company was able to implement the necessary parts of the new process in 90 days.

Increase Software Revenues: Fortune 100 Computer Company

A global corporation increased its annual software revenue by $80 million.

The challenge

As part of it's strategy to increase shareholder value, a global computer and software corporation needed to increase its annual software revenue by approximately $80 million. The key senior managers also determined that this objective could be met only if the following organizational changes could be made quickly: (1) Stronger linkages between the Software Sales group and the company's industry-focused business units. (2) Stronger structural alignment on this objective within Marketing Management. (3) Better linkage between software development priorities and market needs for profitable products.

The project

Once a cross-functional team of executives scoped the project, a Planning Team came together to designed a three-and-a-half day event to determine the specific organizational changes that needed to be made. They identified three teams of managers (about 40 people in all) and clarified the mix of issues each team needed to address. For example, the Sales Linkage team figured out the changes needed in the sales process, in structure of some of the sales roles, in aspects of sales compensation, and in communications across groups. Because emerging ideas were constantly shared across teams, the group as a whole was able to come up with creative solutions that cut across the three areas.

The results

At the final decision-making meeting, all the teams' recommendations were approved. For geographical and logistical reasons, Sponsor monitoring of the implementation phase was structured somewhat differently than the usual Fast-Track Change Process: Every 30 days each team met with its own Sponsor team to ensure that everything was on track. The result: Full and effective implementation within 90 days.