Being part of a high performing team feels good: you know the expectations; you know the status and you know that you are growing. Results flow.

All of the 12 steps described over the past blog posts are not revolutionary. In fact, much of what I have described is well known, so why don’t more businesses do it? Often because they are investing so much time and money in the next great technological leap that will leave their competitors in the dust….

Sustainable Operational Excellence is not a bet on technology, it is complimentary to any technology, and you may even find that the technology being considered is not necessary. You may find that the leap forward is delivered by the team you have right in front of you.

If you want to truly engage your team and begin reaping the benefits of increased productivity, give me a call today, what have you got to lose?

“Unleash & Engage really helped us to unleash the potential in our great team.  The approach taken has received fantastic feedback, the teachers feel it’s theirs because it is.  This approach is different to how the archdiocese has previously worked with other consultancies and shall be the approach taken for all future work.

The time we had with Unleash & Engage was highly productive and most importantly we’re confident that the work we did together will be sustained by the considerable number of stakeholders we developed during the process and their belief and trust in the new framework. I would highly recommend Unleash & Engage.”

Tim Warren, Director of Education, Archdiocese of Liverpool Primary School Improvement Trust (ALPSIT).


The brief

The Archdiocese of Liverpool Primary School Improvement Trust (ALPSIT) wanted to support the development of teaching talent throughout their 185 primary schools, to increase teacher retention levels and develop more Head Teachers from within.


The starting point

Every Head Teacher and school worked in isolation, so teachers were being measured & developed very differently across the Archdiocese.

Identifying aspiring Head Teacher’s to take on new positions was difficult across the region with very few applications from within.


What we did

Inspired Head Teachers to join a working group to create a systematic, transparent framework to help develop employees at all levels.

Facilitated the working group to undertake a peer review to refine the framework and encourage contribution.

Supported Head Teachers to launch new Talent Development Framework to 185 primary schools and provide coaching support as the framework is implemented in schools.


The results

The Talent Development Framework is now in place for all Primary Schools in the Archdiocese and the working group are providing support and coaching to other Head Teachers to help them use it well.


The legacy

A way of nurturing talent at all levels is now available across the archdiocese providing a transparent path for all teachers to develop their careers both within a school and across the archdiocese.

Support, performance feedback and coaching are in place through the framework for those aspiring to become Head Teachers within the archdiocese.

Founder of Unleash & Engage, Mark Gregory, is a leading thinker and practitioner of Employee Engagement, so it was a natural fit when Kent County Council approached him to speak at their Employee Engagement Conference.

Mark’s keynote presentation titled the ‘Employee Engagement Conundrum’ gave practical insights into the key enablers of employee engagement.

Mark is a regular keynote speaker on the topics of Lean, Leadership, Employee Engagement, Business Transformation and Sustainable Operational Excellence.

When Mark talks about achieving any kind of transformational change he doesn’t follow the usual ‘textbook approach’ but instead the Unleash & Engage way to achieving real sustainable change and operational excellence and how this can be applied in your work and personal life.  To find out more contact Mark Gregory.



“Effective communication is 20% what you know and 80% how you feel about what you know” Jim Rohn.

Communicate and Engage to Infinity and Beyond!

Article by Mark Gregory:

I have never come across a single person who has been associated with change, in one form or another, that has not articulated the power of effective communication as an imperative for success. John Kotter, probably one of the single most influential people on the subject of change and change management in the last two decades, describes communication as; “one of the eight most critical steps within any business transformation”, and he talks about “communicating your vision and direction to the power of 1000”.

From my own experience, if I had received £1 every time I thought I had clearly communicated and then found myself having the same conversation (just like in the film Groundhog Day), or when the person had told me they had understood me, only to find out later that they hadn’t, I would be a very wealthy man. My experience of communication within change is that the breakdown is even more apparent, as change also invokes lots of other emotions that restrict us from receiving the correct messages.

It is my view, formed from experience, that the subject of communication is the most untapped and misunderstood element of change. If we want to effect true and sustained change, we require a bit of what Buzz has going on. We need to communicate and engage to ‘infinity and beyond’.   


Communication vs Engagement

Often when people start a conversation with me about communication, they are actually, without realising, really referring to engagement. I use a simple maturity continuum to describe communication versus engagement with respect to change.

Level 1 – Awareness:

You meet someone you know and ask them, “Have you heard about the change that is going on?” They haven’t, so you make them aware by explaining it to them.

Level 2 – Understanding:

You meet someone you know and ask them, “Have you heard about the change that is going on?” They have heard of it but don’t know the detail, so you explore it with them and help them understand.

Level 3 – Advocacy:

You meet someone you know and before you can speak they say to you, “Hey, have you heard about the change that is going on?” They then proceed to tell you all about it, becoming an advocate for the change.

‘Awareness’ is communication, ‘Understanding’ is the tipping point between communication and engagement and ‘Advocacy’ is engagement. It is important that we understand where the audience is on the continuum and recognise what it may, therefore, need to move to the next stage. All too often, we assume the audience is at a more mature stage than it actually is, that all the members of the audience are at the same stage, or, worst of all, we simply do not think about it!

Communication is a process where people are aware and understand. Engagement is a process whereby people become personally implicated in the success of the change.

Organise to Communicate and Engage

Quite simply, if you want to create engagement, you have to organise to provide it and, in my experience, organisations do not. They continue to believe they can invoke change by connecting with people in the same way they have always done, using the same methods, in the same format, with the same output. Remember Approaches to Change – 1? What did we say? Without a doubt, you need to do something different here if you want a different result. Let me give you an example: when once leading a change programme within a large organisation, I actually created an engagement steering group that met at least weekly and, at times, daily over a twelve-month period. We focused on using every avenue possible, even inventing a few new avenues along the way, to connect with our change audience. We quite simply took the audience along the engagement continuum, always looking at different approaches.

Time and Energy

The success one has in this area of change is a pure function of time and energy. My experience shows that organisations and leaders generally do not apply enough time and energy in this area, preferring to work on the detail of the change rather than engaging the audience in it. Remember Approaches to Change – 3?  No involvement generally means no commitment. How much time do you spend focusing on the change engagement proposition?


Change sustainment is about engagement; engagement means advocacy, and advocacy means focused time, energy and organisation. Underestimate it at your peril!


Always remember the Buzz Light-year effect – ‘Communicate and Engage to Infinity and Beyond!’

If you have any thoughts or questions regarding this article or any of our services, please do not hesitate to get in touch – click here to contact us today.

Read more…. click to see the series 1, 2, 3


Without involvement, there is no commitment. Mark it down, asterisk it, circle it, underline it. No involvement, no commitment.” Dr Stephen Covey.

Article by Mark Gregory:

Over the years I have been involved in many change programmes both on the receiving end of the change and leading it. When on the receiving end, more often than not, these programmes never quite felt right to me. When leading them I often found it difficult, initially, to convince others of the need for change and the benefits of the change. I also found whilst the change was often understood at an intellectual level, it wasn’t always carried out as intended.

In Approaches to Change – 2, I explored the logic of change versus the emotion of change. I also spoke about the data and the imagery used in change, and the need for the emotional connection. While in my experience these elements all play a key role, they are not the whole answer to the ‘hearts and minds conundrum’. Another major element is the idea you have to be involved in the development of change to emotionally connect.

What Your Reaction Means

As Covey says, ‘no involvement means no commitment’. Have you presented something that you have put time, energy and effort into, which you felt was a solution to a problem, but the audience disagreed? How did you feel when it was challenged? What were your reactions? Were they ones of logic or emotion? My guess is, you had a desire to protect your ideas, quite simply because you built them. In my experience, people protect what they build. Or, put another way, the more involvement the more commitment we find we have (that is of course on the basic assumption the output is aligned with our way of thinking in the first place).

So if we buy into the principle, no involvement, generally means no commitment and people protect what they build, the question is not one of ‘should or should I not involve people?’ but ‘how do I involve people?’

Involving The Right People

Ask yourself the question, ‘why do you not involve people today?’ The answers, I am sure, are many and varied, ranging from, ‘this is not a democracy, we can’t all have a vote on everything’ to ‘we all have a job to do and we are experts, so we decide’. The reality of it is, the level of involvement from other people probably all comes down to time and effort. Does the scale of the change justify the time and effort required to generate the involvement and commitment? Remember the question here is not ‘is the solution or the change the right one?’ but ‘will those responsible for the sustainment of the new order live it as if it were their own?’

Only those charged with the change responsibility will be able to understand the full extent of the involvement opportunities and how they could possibly be weaved into the change journey. There are a few stages to consider:

  • Concept stage: How can I involve people in the conceptual thinking? Top tip, resist the urge to only present the finished ideas, that’s the point!
  • Design stage: How can I involve people in designing the solution? Top tip, involve those most affected by the change.
  • Implementation stage: How can I involve the change receivers? Top tip, the more the merrier, wildfire spreads quicker than an inferno. Leave room for improvement.
  • Sustainment stage: How can I involve people in the refinement of sustainment? Top tip, As exponents of the virtues of a lean philosophy we could not pass the opportunity for a bit of Plan, Do, Check, Act.

The Real Question

Having said all this, it only really comes down to one question – ‘How much effort am I prepared to put into the involvement for the commitment proposition?’ That depends on how much you want the change to be sustained. My experience dictates that – sustainment is a function of involvement.

If you have any thoughts or questions regarding this article or any of our services, please don’t hesitate to get in touch – click here to contact us today.

Read more…. click to see the series 1, 2,

Article by Mark Gregory:

So engage the employee and it makes a difference to your customer which makes a difference to your profit. Not rocket science I hear you say! Agreed. So why don’t you do it then or worse why do you pretend you do it?

A service culture at its heart must be an engaging culture; a culture whereby every internal customer must be engaged as a whole person. This means equipping our people managers and leaders to think and behave differently and use the lean tools as customer service tools. When I help organisations embed a lean philosophy my advice is generally to think of the lean tools as an engagement vehicle and the improvement interventions as an opportunity to engender greater levels of employee engagement first and improve the business secondly. When we do this we obtain more of the whole person. The more we tap the whole person, the individual, the more engagement we obtain. Back to the Sears proposition.

So what about employee engagement mapping instead of value stream mapping or visual engagement instead of visual factory or leader prevention training instead of accident prevention training. I also often hear those who work in the field of lean philosophy talk about empowering the staff. Just imagine how easy that would be if we focus on the person before the process.

For those of you that are still not quite there and are thinking, “that’s not the real world the answer is simple, if you are not careful the internal customer is only doing what you want on the outside and my experience suggests what’s on the inside eventually appears on the outside. I am not saying this is easy as those who have tried leadership and engagement will tell you it is relentless and unforgiving, but we should be familiar with this as that’s what customer loyalty is like.

As Alan Jones, Chairman Emeritus of Toyota UK said, “Wherever you work, your job as a manager is to make your people the very best they can be – and usually they don’t know just how good they could be. It’s individuals that make the difference. For Toyota, this approach is not based on altruism – though it is based on a profound respect for its members. It is predicated on the firm belief that the most valuable asset the company has is its people, and that enabling them to have an intellectual and emotional relationship with their work, as well as a financial stake in the success of the company, is the key to continuous product and productivity improvement from the shop floor to the boardroom. Toyota’s people are their competitive advantage.”

So who is the real customer really?

Click here to read part 1..

By why, I don’t mean profit, that’s the result. By why, I mean what’s your purpose why are you doing what you do?” Simon Sinek

Article by Mark Gregory:

Over the years I have been involved in many change programmes both on the receiving end of the change or leading it. When on the receiving end more often than not these programmes never quite felt right to me.

Whilst I often understood the change at an intellectual level, the logic, often presented as some output or result benefit, cost, safety, quality, delivery etc. I found the organisations involved would fire immense amounts of detail at me; facts, figures, numbers and the customer feedback all offering me the compelling case for change. I would attend briefing after briefing were these figures would be explained and justified and re-justified. I would listen to other members of staff’s frustrations overflow in the form of some debate around what was being presented which would send the leaders into a further spiral of data and number justification. Which in turn would leave the majority of the audience talking about why this would never work.

What I observed through these experiences was that on the whole people got the numbers, they got the logic and they understood the business or economic reasons, but inside they held some emotion about the presented change that they could not quite release.

My conclusion was organisations spent a disproportionate amount of time explaining the logic and relatively no time on managing the emotion around the presentation of the logic. In the worst of these experiences they completely ignored it! Leadership just closed down and any dialogue became a one-way communication channel justified by some floored logic around consultation rules. Trust me, never a good place to be.

So when leading such activities I worked really hard to allow people to feel the change as well as intellectualise it. In my view there is never one solution to this issue but you have to focus on holding the balance of logic v emotion. A few useful principles I hold dear to help in this conundrum:

  • Take time to Understand: It is not about you or your organisation but the people within it. More often and not such programmes become about the organisational needs and the people just simply get lost. Stephen R. Covey said “Seek to understand before being understood.” This is definitely the case hear, organisations just don’t spend time seeking to understand. So think hard about this principle and how to do.
  • Leaders get lost too: Not sure about anyone else but for me to engage others I have to be engaged myself. This becomes even more critical in times of change. Leaders have emotion too and very often their emotion around change is just ignored as they stop becoming real people in the eyes of an organisation and become the logic communication vehicle. So think hard about how to manage the leader’s emotion.
  • Emotion is from a different place to logic: Emotion is about that part of our brain that visualises, it is about present and future, where imagination rules. Look at the mechanisms that connect with us here. Pictures of the future, feeling based forums and discussions, consider alternative conversational methodologies application based technologies. The focus here, think hard about creating powerful images of the future, so people can see the change.

In part one I spoke about if you want a different result then do some different stuff. My experience tells me organisations who focus on both logic and emotion are doing some different stuff.

Read more…. click to see the series 1, 3, 4

Article by Mark Gregory:

As I go about my daily business, like most people, I am continually exposed to varying levels of customer service from fantastic to (as Buzz would say) awful and beyond! Unlike most of the people around me though, I wonder whether the proprietors of this service really think and/or attempt to understand who the real customer is and what are their needs?

There are a couple of key enablers we talk a lot about in the lean philosophy: firstly, the value chain – the chain of activities and interactions that produces the output, be it a product or a service; secondly, the customers within the value chain – which is simply the next person in the chain or the receiver of the output of the previous activity. As those more conversant with lean philosophy will know, there are then a whole host of tools one can use to optimise this value chain and what the customer receives. There is of course as with all good philosophies, a higher purpose at play here as well, a why are we doing this at all question to be answered and principles to guide us to that higher purpose, but on the whole, in its simplest terms, it is about optimising customer value and experience.

So when I consider this service excellence, customer experience, customer loyalty or whichever other term you prefer conundrum, I just see the external customer as the end of a long value chain. While it is important to expend concerted effort to recognise all of my needs, wants and desires in an attempt to satisfy them and get me to buy, it strikes me that this is often out of balance with the effort put into satisfying the only customer truly in our circle of control the internal one, our employees.

It strikes me that the poor service I often receive is just the outward manifestation of the lack of engagement effort the employer has expended on the internal customer (the employee). In other words, the service outcome is merely a by-product of the engagement proposition, just as high levels of quality and productivity are, within the lean philosophy.

The evidence is there but we may just be looking in the wrong place. For example, in 1998 the Harvard Business Review published an article entitled “The Employee – Customer Profit Chain at Sears.” This article (worth a read by the way) talks about the turnaround and transformation undertaken over a three year period at Sears Roebuck Company, an American Department store chain. As with all good turnaround stories, it has the CEO and the senior leadership team climbing the torturous mountain of culture change to place the flag of victory at the peak. What however is more interesting, is the approach they took in climbing the mountain. They started with creating a compelling place to work or employee engagement. The second interesting point here is that they put just as much, if not more energy into this, as they did into the other key area of focus, the external customer. The result was that they found a direct correlation: a 5 unit increase in employee attitude drove a 1.3 unit increase in customer impression, which in turn drove a 0.5% increase in revenue growth.

So if the internal customer is the key to service excellence and customer loyalty how does lean help?

To be continued…. Click here for part 2

Article by Mark Gregory:

Webinar’s have become increasingly popular mediums for training but whenever I have attended a webinar I have left disappointed. I don’t seem to find it as easy to connect to the presenter (or perhaps their style does not suit) and the material never leaves a lasting impression. This is why when looking at online training we wanted to do something a bit different.

Unleash & Engage have teamed up with GLOE (Great Live Online Events) to create the Unleash & Engage Academy. The academy is part of the Unleash & Engage Technologies portfolio and will provide an online training platform for organizations and individuals to learn about employee engagement, lean and leadership techniques the Unleash & Engage way.

But how do our sessions differ from standard webinars?

  • Engagement – As you would expect from us, engagement is at the forefront of training. We ensure there is as much interaction and engagement as much as possible through the live online events. We have breakout rooms, polls, debates, all geared towards
  • Teamwork – Our online events always involve you, a host and a presenter so there are a number of people bouncing off each other with loads of interesting content shared.
  • Focus – All our programs are geared to achieve results and in that we know that watching the program is not enough. As well as participating in the modules, you will also be given activities and homework mid and post program to ensure you keep what you have learnt at the forefront.
  • Review – Once you have completed a session of your program you will have unlimited access to the recording and support material at our academy so you always have a reference point.

So why not join our webinar revolution! You can find out more about the Unleash & Engage Academy here.

Our next open program is ‘The Power of the A3’, watch this space for more details!

It is perhaps not the context that inspired the Beatles classic but in employee engagement, it really is all you need (well sort of)…

Article by Mark Gregory:

I was reading a really interesting and fantastically challenging article on the Forbes website recently. The article was written by a business transformation expert called Ann Latham and was entitled ’10 Reasons Your Employee Engagement Program is Hurting Your Company’. Ann goes on to explain within the article her belief that employee engagement programs are bad for business, a waste of time and drain on money. She makes some interesting and very valid points about employee engagement surveys not delivering success, however, I have to disagree with the principle argument of her article. It is not employee engagement programs that are hurting business as businesses need a framework to move their levels of maturity around this topic, it is BAD employee engagement programs. We would say that, having delivered hugely successful programs.

This is where Lennon and McCartney come in (well sort of)…

As you may or may not know, we have worked with a range of companies over a number of years, from global super brands such as Toyota to incredible medium-sized business like Datum Monitoring. Using our training and wealth of experience, we have been able to develop our own employee engagement process – the LOVE Model. We want people to say I love my job, my work, my company, my boss and I LOVE ME…

We work with the companies to look at each element of the model:

L is for Leadership – We work with you to gain a thorough understanding of the leadership and how it can be engaging. People leave bosses first and organisations second.

O is for Opinion – We look at how valued peoples opinions are and how the organisation effectively hears them. We all have an innate desire to be heard.

V is for Vision – We look at what the journey so far and what future has in store for the company and how involved team members feel in shaping that future. People protect what they build.

E is for Environment – We look at the living values and internal factors that shape engagement. Are we who we say we are?

Our understanding of each individual element comes from a number of areas, including employee engagement survey techniques. However, as Ann Latham points out, this on its own will not power change. The right questions need to be asked to the right people to ensure that we can gain enough true statistical analysis to make key recommendations. We learn and value everyone’s opinion, then use the information to help create a strategy that will shape the cultural foundation of the business.

Employee engagement is an all-inclusive process it has to be and if you want real, lasting results, it has to be done with love in mind.

If you want to know more about our LOVE Model you can contact us here for an informal chat.

Have a comment to make on this article? We would love to hear your views, get in touch via email –