This is a five-part mystery:

  1. The mystery
  2. The call
  3. The investigation
  4. The solution
  5. The Happy Ending

Part IV – The Solution

   On Monday, Si met with Mr. Under to begin planning the work of changing the company.  The first step was to send out an invitation that invited all of Mr. Under’s direct reports and their staffs to a mandatory meeting in the auditorium of the company headquarters in two weeks.  As part of the meeting each of Mr. Under’s direct reports was required to bring with them a list of their organization’s goals and objectives, the top 10 customer problems, the top 10 business problems, and the last two years of financials.

   The second step was to identify five people to work with Si.  These people needed to be comfortable working with senior management and facilitating meetings.  They were invited to a mandatory meeting that Wednesday with Si so that their training and preparation could begin.

   The third step was scheduling rooms and equipment for use during this initial training and discussion.

   Si spent the next two weeks interviewing Mr. Under’s direct reports, working with the assigned facilitators, and visiting different facilities around the company.  At the end of the two weeks Si had a good understanding of the company and how it worked.

   Mr. Under kicked off the meeting with the leaders of the company by telling them what he wanted them to do and why it was important.  He told them he was personally committed to making the change successful.  Further, Mr. Under emphasized that this was not a pilot.  The company wasn’t “trying this out”.  It was mandatory and he expected everyone in the room to participate.  At the end of his speech, Mr. Under told them to go on a 30 minute break.  He would stay at the front of the room to answer any questions that anybody had.  At the end of the 30 minutes, he expected that all the people who came back were committed to helping him make the change.  For anybody who did not come back, the company would help them find new employment.  With that, Mr. Under announced that the break had started.

  At the end of the break, everybody but one person came back to their seats. 

   Mr. Under introduced Si to the group and described his role.  With that, introduction, Si was off and running.

   Over the next 3 days of the meeting, Si introduced the company’s leaders to the process, their personal role, the roles that different people would play in support of the change process, and there were several breakouts.

   Most importantly, Si discussed with the leaders the concept of the hidden factory.  It was much more than a sterile slide presentation.  During his visits over the last two weeks, Si had collected testimonials, taken pictures and videos, and conducted formal assessments in several locations.  He had packaged all of this into a two-hour summary showing the leaders just how pervasive hidden factories were in their businesses and functions.  He told them as he began that what they were about to see wasn’t intended to embarrass anyone.  Every organization was represented in the presentation so hidden factories were not an isolated phenomenon.  But it was important in this kick-off that it was clearly understood that hidden factories were everywhere, and, rather than punishing people for having them, finding and eliminating them are to become a cause for celebration and reward.  If the change was to become successful, this attitude would be an important enabler.  Si told them, “I know this will be hard for some of you, but I want your attitude to be one of wanting to find the problems because you know that this will make your customers happy and your business more successful.”

   On the last half of the third day, each business and function leader gave a 20 minute presentation.  Included in the presentation were:

  • Their team’s understanding of what they were being asked to do and the commitment that was expected of them.
  • Data describing different aspects of their organization’s performance over the last two years.
  • A list of known hidden factories in their organization.
  • A list of the top ten customer problems and the top ten business problems.
  • The team’s estimate of their organization’s contribution to the bottom line of the business if their top ten hidden factories were eliminated.
  • A list of ten of their organization’s top performers who would be the first to learn the work of the change. (The organizations could not add people in response.)

   Following the last presentation, Si showed them a calendar of events covering the next twelve months.  This calendar included training events, reviews, and a schedule of updates by each business and function to Mr. Under and the staff.

  Mr. Under then closed the meeting by repeating many of the things that he had said during the kickoff meeting.  Most importantly he stressed that this was not optional nor was it a pilot.  This was a change that the company was going to make successfully. 

   Further, he told them that there would be no company-wide announcements about what the company was going to do.  He wanted some successes first.  Mr. Under wanted to be able to tell the company about the successes and that there would much more to come. 

   Lastly, Mr. Under committed to them that his door was open to each of them for anything on their minds. 

   With that, the teams were dismissed and the change was launched.



Stay tuned for Part V – The Happy Ending

If you would like to request a listening session for your business, you can contact me, George Strodtbeck, by email at