Kick Start Part 1


Objective: To give an overview of how a Kick Start session works and to be explicit about some of the core concepts behind the event so that you can feel comfortable that you understand how it all hangs together.

Aim of Kick Start

The aim of Kick Start is to provide you with all the materials and information you need to run a half day working session with your teams that will kick off your service improvement activity.

By the end of a Kick Start you will have taken a group of between 15 and 100 people through the first stages of a service improvement programme generating clear actionable prioritised and agreed initiatives.  This will give you the momentum you need to improve the service you offer and five specific outcomes:

  1. Excitement and enthusiasm amongst the group about the possibilities that exist to improve their daily work and deliver better service.
  2. A sound knowledge of the principles that make sure that all your service improvement projects give your customers better service and reduce cost.
  3. A clear understanding of your current business processes, their performance and the biggest opportunities for improvement.
  4. A list of quick win action plans which your teams can start to work on immediately within their own areas
  5. A signed “management contract” that will act as the agreement for the next steps

Once you have finished the session you will have the impetus you need to implement a successful service improvement programme.

How it works

Kick Start contains three core modules that provide the structure of your session:

Playing GamesStage one: the game

Stage one of the session engages all of your staff in a simple, lively process improvement game.  We use a game for three reasons:

  • To energise the group, ensuring that the session is not just another presentation
  • It is a simple metaphor to explain the rules of service improvement
  • It really demonstrates and emphasises the positive spiral that can be achieved by working on service improvement and the impact it has on employee engagement

Stage two: feedback on current performance

Stage two of the session starts the debate about your overall business purpose and how good you are at achieving it.  By the end of stage two you will have:

  • Articulated what your part of the organisation delivers to your customers
  • Provided invaluable feedback and insight to your sponsor about actual performance
  • Highlighted the greatest opportunities within your current working practices, providing you with a hit list of improvement activity
  • Gained a management commitment to action

Stage Three: generating improvement projects

The final stage of the session generates a list of employee lead improvement projects which they can start to run with instantly.  By the end of this stage you will have:

  • Determined what the key issues are that prevent each area from delivering great service.
  • Prioritised the issues and identified solutions.
  • Gained agreement from your sponsor to their implementation.

So, by the time you have finished the whole exercise you will have engaged your staff in the start of a service improvement journey, and have a raft of quick wins that they can implement to improve service and reduce cost, as well as creating a hit list of core business processes for improvement.

In addition to the three core modules Kick Start will give you some background information into the whys and wherefores of service improvement.  It will also give you clear guidance about how to set up the event, sponsorship, logistics and attendees.

Finally you will also be provided you with links to other resources that will help you continue your service improvement efforts.


All of the materials are provided in a combination of presentations, text documents and audio recordings so that you can learn how to run a Kick Start in the way that best suits you.

Action steps

  1. Take your time to read through, look and listen to the material
  2. Run a practice session so you are familiar with how it all hangs together
  3. Set up and run a Kick Start event

Some back-ground

The Kick Start approach revolves around six key points.  There is nothing new under the sun and these ideas are not revolutionary, but it is worth being explicit about them before you start because they will help put the event into context.

Rolls Royce1. Good service doesn’t cost money

The first and most important point is that good service doesn’t cost money; it is the cheapest place you can operate from.  We jump to the conclusion that good service is expensive and poor service is cheap.  This isn’t the case at all.  Whilst we will talk about Rolls Royce service, Rolls Royce don’t provide a service they provide a product.  Good service is about giving the customer exactly what they want exactly when they want it.  So service improvement isn’t about changing the specification of what you offer (the insurance product or the flight to Miami), your customers have already bought into that, it is about making sure that you get that right every time

This is important for two reasons:

  1. Getting it right is a simple matter of fixing things that don’t work rather than a long debate about what the service offering should be
  2. If you get it right first time every time you won’t have to do it twice, and doing it twice is expensive

So by definition providing good service is a cost saving and not an investment.

2. People who do the work know the work

If you are being really honest with yourself, you know what the issues are with the service you offer.  You and your colleagues have worked in the organisation long enough to know what customers think.  You have read enough complaints, seen enough QA reports and spoken to enough customers to know what their problems are

This point is important because the Kick Start isn’t reliant on customer feedback or surveys.  All the activity you start will be created by your staff’s view of the world not by asking customers.  There are a number of reasons why we take this approach:

  1. Waiting for customer surveys takes time.  It is better to start now.
  2. You will act on employee feedback.  Even if they are 100% wrong about the issues (which they categorically won’t be) acting on their issues is a good thing to do as it will increase their engagement

You may encounter resistance that you aren’t working on the “real” customer issues.  The Kick Start is all about creating momentum and moving in the right general direction rather than worrying about analysis and customer insight.  You can do that later once you are underway.

As my boss used to say to me:

“It’s far better to be moving than stopped.  If you are moving in in approximately the right direction, then that is a bonus”

Drowning in Rubbish3. We should all take out our own rubbish

In successful organisations everybody has two jobs, to do their job and to do their job better.  The Kick Start programme focuses on what individuals can do to improve the service they offer, rather than assuming that somebody is going to come and fix their issues for them

At the end of the event there will be a list of projects to be implemented.  Nobody is going to come along and magically make them happen.  It will come down to the team to run with whatever they come up with.  Nobody else is going to do it for them.  I’m sorry if I am repeating myself but it is worth being brutally honest about this up front.  Anybody who thinks that somebody else is going to solve all their problems is going to be sadly disappointed whatever their walk in life.

4. Fix what you can fix

We are going to worry about what we can fix not what we can’t.  As Steven Covey would say “worry about your circle of influence not your circle of concern”.  Kick Start will highlight and focus on a bunch of issues that are within your team’s gift to do something about.  It deliberately side steps the issues that they can’t do anything about.  If it isn’t within the team’s ability to change something they can’t change it.

Personally I am worried about global warming, I can’t do anything about the Kyoto protocol, but I can buy my electricity from sustainable sources.  Let’s worry about the things we can influence rather than the things we can’t.

This may sound like ducking the issue, but it isn’t.  The more action you create the more people will sit up and take notice, and the more they sit up and take notice the bigger your sphere of influence will become.  So in the long run you will tackle the big issues.  It just takes patience, perseverance and more importantly action.

5. Lots of small stuff makes a big difference

Your Kick Start will generate a number of small initiatives.  They will be small because they focus on what your staff can do themselves.  It is easy to decry small projects as not being strategic in nature, but it is far better to have 1 small thing implemented than 10 big things that you are still talking about.

There is another very important point here, which is that the more you can empower your staff to make their service better the more pride they will take in getting it right.  Whilst that is an intangible benefit, it is worth its weight in gold

6. Managers should manage

Many managers surround themselves in analysis, they are scared of getting things wrong, they always seek a second opinion, and they refer decisions up the tree to get ratification.  The problem with this is that all the cost, delay and lost opportunity can well mean that you are worse off than then you would be if you had just made the wrong decision in the first place and got on with it.

Central to the Kick Start event is presentation to a sponsor who makes a decision, there and then, on whether to proceed with an activity, or not as the case may be.

Delaying decisions kills momentum and enthusiasm.

Managers are paid to manage, and that includes decision-making.