Change inevitably comes from the inside out, of course, but to effectively spark behavior change, sometimes the best move you can make is to enlist a surrogate who can say what you can’t, and deliver intelligence from the broader marketplace. To crack open a conversation around the kinds of continuous improvement the company required, Buhl called an outside consultancy he trusted.
“First there was a branch managers meeting — these were the key business leaders we needed on our side if we were going to get anything done. Then soon after there was a regional HR summit — leaders who had their ears to the ground every day, but also knew the big picture. For both events, to get traction early around the ideas I had for change, the first call I made was to Frontier. I wanted them in front of the room."
By Frontier, Buhl means The Frontier Project, a global consulting firm that focuses on driving behavior change via a variety of unique training and communications approaches. Katie Lackey, a partner at Frontier Academy (the learning and development practice of Frontier), picked up the phone, lit up at Buhl’s vision, and shared it with Frontier colleagues. Three of the firm’s partners agreed to show up to support Buhl’s efforts. As a demonstration of their commitment to the partnership, Frontier offered support to the first two meetings free of charge.
“That was huge,” says Marcus Reimann, North American head of Seafreight, Kuehne + Nagel’s largest business unit. “When Katie and her team showed up in Miami for the branch managers meeting, we could immediately tell this firm was different. The keynote on storytelling was out-of-the-box creative, the workshop on team dynamics was fun and interactive, and the research and models discussed were really provocative. Everybody left buzzing about what was going on. We’re a traditional company, and for good reason; we know what we’re doing. But after that meeting, we were ready for something new.”
That alliance would eventually provide Buhl and his team everything they needed to execute their change strategy: a broad raft of resources, targeted expertise, and tactical support. (Stay tuned: More on that later.)