I was thrilled. As manager of the customer satisfaction programme, I was always looking for solutions to problems that customers hated, and our teams struggled to manage. Our Italian engineers had figured out how to increase the reliability of a seal using the materials and know-how our whole company had in-house.
Flush with pride they wrote it up, I posted it on our knowledge management forum, we sent out an e-mail highlighting this excellent discovery, and I waited expectantly to see the problem resolved more broadly - and our customer satisfaction scores go up as a consequence.
The scores didn't budge.
We expected the take up on this great discover to be so fast it would be audible - a great revving of our technical engines as this thorny problem got licked, country by country.
But nothing happened.
How could this be? This was a really critical problem, expensive for our customers, and the source of untold headaches in the company. We were having countless meetings about this in the devleopment group, the customer satisfaction team, the operations and technical service teams. Frankly, this issue was costing us a lot of money and a lot of time.
I had hit "Not Invented Here Syndrome" head on.
"You don't understand", our colleagues around the world said. "Our customers / machines / products / .... are different, unique and not at all like the ones in Italy."
Actually, that wasn't true. The customers (mostly multinational), machines (uniform), and packaged products (dairy) were largely the same. I was frustrated, and went to a senior manager.
The Kiss of Death
He sent out memo saying "Nobody is adopting the excellent technique developed in italy to resolve the sealing problem. Please ensure that where applicable, this technique is adopted."
Is there less than nothing?
All the air that might have existed for this programme was sucked out at once. Because everybody who was necessary to implement the changes knew that doing nothing was safe: they had now been informed that nobody was using this technique! All the social proof you could need that doing nothing was normal.
The Ninja response
The Ninja's were covert agents who specialised in unorthodox arts of war. It was time for a Ninja approach since the traditional ways weren't working.
While most technical service engineers had not adopted the new technique, a few had. I interviewed them about their experience - and interviewed the customers too. A new memo went out from the same manager who had sent the original "Nobody's using this technique..." memo- but now quite different: "Customers X&Y thrilled with sealing improvements." He congratulated the engineers and managers involved.
We sent out a video team to interview customers who were unhappy with the existing sealing system. And, we filmed the new process - and the customer reactions.
Building consensus for change
We posted these on the Knowledge Management website. I called up a few people who I knew around the company, and I asked them to comment a) on the film; b) on somebody else's comment.
Now I could send around an interesting note to the customer satisfaction network: Have you seen the debate between Carlos and Fritz? Who do youthink is right?
They discussed - and they got some of the engineers involved to take sides too. Not only did discussion increase - so did take-up. Now we had more stories, and more results to report on.
Which led to more discussion. And greater take-up.
It's how our brains are wired.
We're social animals, wired to want and need to work together. When something feel foreign and unusual, we're likely to reject it. We're most likely to accept it when we feel it secures our place in our team / company / society. So everything you can do to make new feel normal will get your colleagues to implement the changes you would like to see - faster.
So to "Diss NIHS" you have to make new feel more "in" than old:
* Manufacture the discussion
* Feed it with controversy
* Highlight and reward all the behaviours you're looking for
* Invite more people in to the discussion