This Is What Makes Us Who We Are
Below is the second half of my interview with our CEOs, George Coffey and Jim Ostrosky. In this section they discuss who we are as a company and how we make a real difference for our clients. Read Part 1 of our interview.
How do you feel USCCG is different from other firms? How are we unique in the market?
George: Many of our clients who have had extensive experience with other firms tell us that we develop a greater depth of understanding of their business and the issues they face which enables us to better design pragmatic solutions to improve performance. Many also feel that we have a more effective approach to engineering change in their organization that fosters ownership by their people. Prospective clients will ask us what we are good at and what makes us different. What we are good at is achieving results. We are able to generate substantial results in a relatively short time while enabling our clients to sustain and accelerate improvements .We strengthen their internal continuous improvement capability with enabling tools, skills, infrastructure, and culture. Generating near term results, while strengthening on-going organizational effectiveness, makes us different from many other approaches.
Jim: I believe a key differentiator between USCCG and our competitors is the depth of experience that our consultants possess in the various industries and domains we service. In this age of specialization, it has become more and more challenging to maintain a cadre of capable resources, but we have been able to do exceptionally well at that over the past 4 ½ decades. We continuously train our people utilizing internal methods as well as memberships in various professional organizations that offer certifications and continuing education credits. Perhaps, more importantly, we have been able to retain our people, which is also a key success factor. In addition, our deployment methodologies have proven to be very effective. We look at the processes by which a client operates, the technology they deploy, and the skills of their people. Real changes are realized when you link all three things together: their People, Processes, and Technology. We feel we do that better than most and that is what makes us different. Another key difference is that we involve ourselves in the implementation. Many consulting firms will analyze a company, and compare current performance to industry norms and benchmarks, create a road map, and leave behind an answer, but it often times that solution will never get implemented. When practical, we prefer to be involved in the implementation of our recommendations, so our clients can realize the value and we can change the processes, the systems and behaviors, so the results last. When we are engaged to work at the process level of a company, we believe that enables us to cause even more fundamental, lasting change. Much of what we are doing in regulated industries, such as Oil & Gas, Energy, and Healthcare, are at the process level. As the government regulatory agencies issue changes and directives, our clients need to verify they are in compliance and understand where they’re lacking. They must put auditable processes in place to keep them in compliance as well as doing so in a cost-effective manner. We have been doing a great deal of work in this area recently.
What makes a successful project, both from our end and the clients’ end?
George:The most critical aspect of a successful project and a successful client relationship is communication. We find when we’re talking to our clients routinely and objectively about how the project is going in a very open and forthright manner, we are able to understand and mitigate issues as they arise over the course of a project. We believe that we are putting the success of the project at risk if too much time passes without meaningful communication with all levels of our client’s organization to get a shared understanding of exactly where we are, what we can do to improve the process, and take corrective action. We typically organize a steering committee protocol to enable efficient communication and decision-making. The steering committee is kept absolutely abreast of where we are with respect to our projected improvement and also to the specific tasks associated with that.
Jim: Communication is a critical component, but to communicate effectively, we need to always do our job at the front end of a project to create a crystal clear shared vision. As we engage with a client, it is imperative that we fully understand what must change and create a clear vision of the end result that is co-owned by USCCG and our clients. It then becomes our job to create a change model to continually reinforce the vision adjusting as we go to make sure that we’re of one mind with all levels of the organization. We believe it to be very important that everybody feels like they’re doing what’s in the best interest of their company as most employees have pride in their company and they want to succeed. Our change model is one where we involve everyone in the organization from the process owner on up to the highest level that we can access on a regular basis. The difference between a good project and a great project: in my experience, it has been the amount of involvement we can gain from our clients especially at the Steering Team Level. We built our change model around a shared vision of employee involvement, combined with the appropriate changes to the processes, the technology, and the skill sets of the process owners and their managers all which serve to make our model very effective.
In what ways have you noticed technology’s impact on our project process and how has that changed what we offer to our clients?
George:One of the more important aspects and benefits of being able to deploy and utilize more technology is the sustainability of our efforts. Good management practice depends on accurate data and timely information. Earlier on, we had to depend on the manual collection of data and the manual preparation of reports. As a result of that, it was very difficult to sustain some of the procedures we would put into place because they were very demanding from a time standpoint. Now, that information comes with a lot less pain, very often automatically. It makes all of our efforts, processes, and procedures easier to sustain. Since we are getting the information more quickly, good management requires timely corrective action when issues are identified. We are able to do more effective problem solving with a greater sense of urgency as a result of having that information more quickly. The whole business intelligence aspect of performance improvement is absolutely critical today.
Jim: With current technology, data has become readily available in various forms and in some cases, in excess. Some of our clients feel as if they have too much data and not nearly enough information. Often our job isn’t to provide clients with more technology, our job is to help them leverage the technology investments they already have made by sorting out the data they currently have and making it actionable. To do this we filter it, slice it and dice it, create meaningful metrics and Key Performance Indicators out of that plethora of information. In many cases, there have been tremendous investments in technology, but sometimes these systems leave out a key part of the organization: the people at the execution level of the process. Management and accounting have better information than ever, but the people who actually execute the process often times don’t receive timely accurate feedback of actionable information. Our job is to make sure we link the data and information from the board room to the process owner, and every step in-between. By sorting out the data, making it relevant, and holding the people accountable at the points of execution we leverage technology to help provide the underpinnings to meaningful lasting change.
What hurdles or objections do we encounter most often with respect to beginning an initiative with a new client or even a new project with an existing client?
George:Sometimes clients feel that they have so many other issues and programs underway, that it’s difficult to add yet another project to everyone’s to-do list, even if it clear that something should be done. There’s never a good time to start these initiatives and there’s never a bad time to start making the kind of dramatic near term and strategic improvement that we can make in business performance. To start, we really have to talk through how many resources we have to bring to bear and get a good solid understanding early on about what the time requirement are going to be for our client’s people. These requirements should be properly assessed, understood, and planned for. There aren’t any businesses or organizations out there that don’t have many different distractions, different initiatives, and different problems. We are very effective at being able to come in and integrate into our client’s organization and be a net increase in their resource capability, not a distraction or a dilution to the already existing initiatives underway.
Jim: One of the questions that comes up often in the early phases of a relationship with a client is, Do you think I have the right organization in place? Or, I don’t feel that I have the right organization in place, therefore now is not the time to begin a project. It can be difficult to see the organization through the client’s eyes, but if the client could see their organization through our eyes, they would understand that it likely is an appropriate time to start. We can optimize their processes, upgrade their skills, implement systems, and technology to help enable their people to become better at what they do. A manager who may not be quite as effective today as a client would like them to be, after having gone through a USCCG deployment will have tools, improved supervisory skills, and will be much more effective than they would have been prior to starting the project. From our perspective, there’s rarely a bad time to start a project as in today’s competitive world improved performance is an imperative to survival. Perceived organizational deficiencies aren’t always a reason not to get started; often they are THE reason to get started.