Q&A with EFESO Consulting’s Neil Webers

Webers_Q&A

EFESO Consulting was founded in 1980 and focuses on strategy and operational excellence services. ALM Intelligence’s Nathan Simon recently sat down with EFESO’s Neil Webers, Managing Director of the firm’s offices in the Americas, to discuss the firm’s “performance behavior” approach. Neil is founder of the Performance Behavior approach and author of the book Performance Behaviour, published in 2010. He has also published his second book ‘The improvement resource’ (2012). Before joining EFESO Consulting in 2012, he founded Flecto BV and  Rightselect.com BV, which were both acquired by EFESO Consulting. Neil is an expert in World Class Operations Management, with specialties in change management, leadership and behaviour processes. During his experience with Flecto and subsequently EFESO Consulting he has delivered many improvement projects at global companies to embed Performance behaviour in World Class Excellence programs. He has developed his expertise mainly in the Food & Beverages, Packaging, Logistics and Retail sectors. Neil is also member of EFESO’s executive board. 

ALM Intelligence: What is your background and role at EFESO?

Webers: I joined EFESO Consulting in 2012 through the acquisition of two companies I founded: Flecto BV and  Rightselect.com BV. I specialize in change management, leadership, and behavior processes, and authored two books in these areas: “Performance behavior” (2010) and “The improvement resource” (2012). At EFESO, I’ve been focused on embedding performance behavior in World Class Excellence programs mainly in the food & beverages, packaging, logistics, and retail sectors.

ALM Intelligence:  Companies have been working with lean and quality methodologies to improve performance for more than a quarter century. What’s left to do?

Webers: There’s a tendency to over focus on implementing a system, but the missing link is the behavioral change that can bring a new system to life. Rather than looking at behaviors, the answer to poor performance is more engineering that adds new protocols and expands operating manuals. Part of the reason companies overlook behaviors is they don’t measure them. There are actually eight different types of waste that result from sub-optimal behaviors:⊇

Leadership: control-focused push management rather than creative problem solving Comfort: insufficiently challenging targets to motivate behaviors Communication: misunderstandings that set people at cross-purposes

Discipline: failure to hold people accountable for targets

Goal: lack of clear objectives to guide behaviors

Engagement: charging people with responsibility for things outside their control

Solving: resolving symptoms rather than causes

Tuning: spending time discussing rather than solving problems

ALM Intelligence: How can companies eliminate behavioral waste?

Webers: Applied behavior analysis techniques are relatively well known. The challenge is more about relative emphasis. The ABC model, for example, is a tool for evaluating behavioral outcomes in terms of antecedents, behaviors, and consequences. People tend, however, to focus exclusively on the antecedents by adapting the processes and structures that activate behaviors. But they spend very little time actually observing behaviors, which means they miss many hidden activators. And they either ignore consequences altogether or focus on control mechanisms that don’t instill ownership.

I liken the distinction to a traffic analogy. Traffic lights with cameras are a pure control mechanism. They are one-size-fits-all, not tuned to actual traffic conditions, so they don’t resolve the root causes of bad behaviors. And the consequences of bad behavior aren’t felt until long afterwards, so they have minimal motivational impact. Roundabouts, on the other hand, are a dynamic solution that can adapt to changing conditions. When traffic volume is light, cars can flow unencumbered. When heavy, drivers experience immediate consequences to unsafe conduct that cause them to slow down. Translated into a consulting context, the analogy of a roundabout is what I call a “steering structure.” The idea is to construct a system of targets and monitoring mechanisms that starts at the behavioral level of individual workers and builds into overall KPIs. We want to provide immediate feedback tied to real behavioral root causes and ensure problems are systematically escalated so they can be resolved by the management level nearest the source of the problem.

 

ALM Intelligence: How has the application of performance behavior changed your consulting service delivery?

Webers: We’ve learned through our project work that there are two critical aspects to implementing performance behavior. One is that the foundation of an effective steering structure is a fundamental understanding of how behaviors drive performance outcomes. Any outcome is the product of many behaviors, but only a few of them really matter. Companies need to identify what I call “high impact moments”—the specific time, place, and conditions at which adverse behaviors disrupt performance.

The trouble is that most companies think about performance improvement as an engineering discipline, and engineers don’t like to spend time observing behaviors. As a consequence, we spend a lot more time on the shop floor with the client management observing behaviors and measuring their impacts. The other critical need is to change the mindset of leadership. Leaders typically grow up in a control environment, and this is their default management style.

Transforming leaders to spend time observing behaviors, supporting workers, and reinforcing good behaviors takes time. We’re consequently deploying smaller teams of consultants for much longer durations who can provide the ongoing coaching clients need.

ALM Intelligence: What’s next for EFESO and performance behavior?

Webers: The biggest change on the horizon is what’s going to happen to workers. We’ve gone through the automation phase; the next step will be “autonomization” as companies develop virtual processes without human intervention. There will still be high impact moments, but they’ll be at different points along the value chain. As consultants, we need to challenge our clients every day in their progression journey; the way we achieve results today will not be the same as the way we will tomorrow.

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