Category Archives: Case Study

Sucess Story

Success Story: Newmont Mining Uses Influencer Training to Enhance Workplace Safety

The Challenge

Workplace safety has always been a value for global mining leader Newmont Mining Corporation. The company utilizes many proven safety practices such as investigating incidents and taking corrective actions, creating proactive safety standards for management, and providing standard safety and technical training. As a result, the company achieved an enviable Total Recordable Accident Frequency Rate (TRAFR), the industry measurement of safety incidents that occur on the job per number of hours worked.

Still, the company continued to experience fatalities and serious injuries and, in early 2010, Newmont’s board of directors requested that the executive leadership team develop a plan to work toward eliminating fatalities and serious injuries in the workplace.

This directive led to the creation of a Safety Task Force, which developed six recommendations. First among the recommendations was to focus on Safety Leadership Behaviors. This meant company leaders had to figure out how to change behaviors to ensure that choosing safer behaviors became part of the company’s culture.

The Solution

Read our case study to learn how Newmont Mining used Influencer Training to identify vital behaviors, improve safety, and get the right results.

Sucess Story

Success Story: Emory University Uses Crucial Conversations to Resolve a Culture of Conflict

The Challenge
Something was missing. That’s what Wanda Hayes determined when she sought input from the faculty and staff of Emory University after arriving as the university’s new director of learning and organizational development. She was looking to enhance the university’s training offerings, and one topic kept coming up.

“I talked with a lot of our key stakeholders and it was clear people wanted more around conflict management,” she says. A formal needs assessment survey yielded the same result. So did feedback about an existing leadership program run in partnership with the university’s highly ranked business school.

“At every level, people said conflict management is what we need,” Hayes remembers. So she and her team started looking for a training component to add to the management and leadership development programs and to anchor the new general education curriculum they would soon launch.

Human resource staffers had used VitalSmarts Crucial Conversations Training at a previous healthcare employer and Hayes was pleased to bring the course to Emory University. “There are a couple of things that make Crucial Conversations stand out more than others,” she says. “It’s very action-oriented, not just information about conflict. And there’s a lot of skill practice in a safe environment.”

She was also impressed that the content, while hitting conflict management head on, doesn’t stop there. It was a perfect companion to the university’s year-long training program for new and experienced managers and supervisors, which covers setting objectives, performance reviews, performance problems, collaborating, and holding others accountable.
“Crucial Conversations addresses all of those topics, teaching people how to have effective conversations, stay engaged, and get results,” she says.

Emory began including the course in the new Manager and Supervisor Development Programs, then proceeded to roll out additional programs that included Crucial Conversations for administrative professionals. Later, Crucial Conversations was added to the existing leadership program for high-potential, high-level administrative staff. Ultimately, it was also included in a new year-long leadership program for faculty leaders. The course has become a cornerstone for programs that are designed for intact teams, as well as for general enrollment.
To build excitement for the new offering, the university brought in Crucial Conversations coauthor Ron McMillan, who conducted separate sessions with senior leaders across campus, human resource leaders, and faculty leaders.

With the course embedded in the University’s learning offerings, three members of Hayes’ team were certified to deliver the training. They teach the two-day course with seven to ten days in between to practice and complete assignments. By the end of 2012, close to 1,000 Emory employees had completed Crucial Conversations.

The Results
Read our case study to learn how Wanda Hayes used Crucial Conversations Training to increase employees’ and managers’ ability to better manage conflict, hold the right conversations, and get the right results.

Sucess Story

Success Story: VitalSmarts Training Helps Canadian Hospital Transform Its Culture

The Challenge
The staff at St. Joseph’s Health Care London didn’t talk to each other. Yes, they exchanged words, but when problems were serious and emotions were involved, many side-stepped core issues. Not only was this behavior unproductive and disrespectful for employees, it was potentially dangerous for patients.

The organizational development staff identified a training course that might help, especially in the interests of their main concern, patient safety. They also knew they needed an executive champion who could persuade busy physicians and nurses to participate. So they approached Dr. Gillian Kernaghan, a veteran family practice physician who was then the hospital’s Chief Medical Officer. She agreed something needed to be done.

“Only 50 percent of meetings were productive,” remembers Kernaghan, who is now the hospital’s President and CEO. “We had a lot of ‘Groundhog Days,’ where we talked about the same thing and didn’t find common purpose or get to actions that were agreeable.”

Kernaghan describes an environment where people wouldn’t speak up and sabotaged decisions that were made in the real “meeting” that happened in the hallway after.

“People pushed through their agenda by using power words like ‘patient safety,’ ‘evidence-based,’ and ‘family-centered,'” she says. “The implication was, ‘If you disagree with me you’re obviously not patient centered.’ Essentially, others couldn’t speak up because they felt shutdown.”

She also observed the initiatives that grew out of those limited discussions were less effective, leading to “rework” and “I told you so” comments even though people hadn’t spoken up in the first place.

“We needed to not only teach people to be nice to each other, but we also needed to get results by teaching them how to follow up and follow through,” she says. “We knew that if we could transform the way we communicated, our staff would be happier and more productive, and ultimately, our patients would be safer.”

So when she was asked to champion physician training that purported to address those needs, she agreed, knowing that in order to be an effective voice, she had to be “integrally involved.” So she registered to become a certified trainer of Crucial Conversations.

The Results: Read our case study to learn how Dr. Gillian Kernaghan used Crucial Conversations and Crucial Accountability Training to earn accreditation with exemplary standing, improve employee satisfaction scores, and see a significant improvement in holding others accountable.

What St. Joseph’s employees have to say: Read this guest post to see other ways employees at St. Joseph’s Health Care London have used Crucial Conversations and Crucial Accountability Training to change their culture.

Sucess Story

Case Study: Influencer Training Helps Retailer Save Millions and Prosper in Economic Recession


The Challenge
As the housing market flourished over the last thirty years, Gallery Furniture enjoyed years of profitable sales and growth. But with the burst of the housing bubble in late 2007, the furniture retailer took a hard hit.

“When the housing business fell through the roof, we saw a huge decrease in our customer base,” says Jim “Mattress Mack” McIngvale, owner of Gallery Furniture. “In order to grow during the recession, we had to innovate or else we were going to evaporate.”

It was that need to innovate and take a larger share of the dwindling furniture market that caused McIngvale to go looking for a model to change behavior within his 150-person company.

“I could do as much blubbering, cajoling, screaming, and hollering as I wanted to try to get my team to change behavior, but I knew it wouldn’t get us where we needed to go,” says McIngvale. “I was looking for a process that would get my people to want to change their behavior and act in ways that give the customers what they’re looking for.”

The Training
A voracious reader, McIngvale skimmed a review of Influencer in the newspaper and was interested enough to pick up the book. After reading it, he thought, “These guys really get it.” It wasn’t long before he asked the experts at VitalSmarts to train his leadership team in Influencer Training. The group of twenty leaders spent the entire session focused on the challenges facing their business and implementing the Influencer principles into their goals.

After his management team was trained, McIngvale ensured that everyone in his company—from the furniture loaders to the truck drivers to the sales team—also got trained. Over the next year, 150 employees went through Influencer Training, and McIngvale occasionally invited outside vendors and key customers to attend sessions.

“We now use Influencer Training and the other VitalSmarts training courses as the main management tool for the whole business,” McIngvale reflects.

The Solution: Read our case study to learn how Gallery Furniture used the Influencer model to innovate the way they do business.

Influencer QA

Case Study: Influencer Training Drives Rapid Adoption of Improvement Tool at Xerox

Frustrated, Joyce Geier and her team in Xerox’s Corporate Lean Six Sigma Office had just developed an implementation plan they knew to be flawed. Yet how were they supposed to disseminate a new process improvement tool—called QwikSolver—to a corporation of 50,000 employees?

Months later, reflecting on what was ultimately a successful deployment, Geier, a Master Black Belt and QwikSolver Program Manager, concludes: “QwikSolver is a good product, but we could have killed it by rolling it out wrong. The Influencer Model from Influencer Training is what gave this thing legs to run—and, by golly, it is running.”

The Context
Nearly a decade after implementing Lean Six Sigma, Xerox Corporation not only achieved widespread adoption of the new framework, but also discovered some of its limitations. Culturally, employees regarded Lean Six Sigma as a program “for the privileged few” and aimed only at massive problems rather than day-to-day issues. Ms. Geier explains, “That’s not the kind of culture we wanted at Xerox, and so we said ‘we have to do something about it.'”

Based on extensive internal research, Geier and her Lean Six Sigma team developed QwikSolver—a simple decision-making rubric that any team, division, or department could use and was free of cumbersome requirements. Geier’s team believed that if they could train and motivate Xerox employees to use QwikSolver, the entire organization could benefit from the kind of results traditionally experienced by Lean Six Sigma.

Although convinced of QwikSolver’s merits, the team was challenged by the implementation. If only influencing the behavior of 50,000 people were as easy as making photocopies!

The Problem
Ms. Geier’s team knew from experience—and from the earlier research—that a traditional, management-directed approach would likely backfire. Yet, their best attempts at creating a deployment plan that didn’t rely strongly on management direction felt flat. “I couldn’t put my finger on it, but it just didn’t feel like our rollout plan would meet what our people told us they wanted—a process supported by employee pull, not management push.”

Ultimately, a colleague recommended the book Influencer to Ms. Geier, and her thinking about designing an influence strategy changed.

The Solution: Read our case study to learn how Xerox used the Influencer model to drive rapid adoption of QwikSolver.