Shanghai H&H Marketing Consulting Co., Ltd focuses on providing consulting service on strategy, marketing and branding for the clients. Because of its fast growth, the organizational structure and talent system had become the constraints of H&H’s future development, so the need for organizational change emerged. In 2014, H&H requested Open Quest to facilitate a workshop for the company members to develop their vision, strategies and actions for 2017. The vision which had been proposed in the workshop was later realized in 2017, including the substantial growth in performance and the internal transformation of the organization.
This case was submitted to International Association of Facilitators for the application of Facilitation Impact Award and received Gold award, which is the only awarded case in Asia in 2018.
About H&H Marketing Consulting Co., Ltd
Shanghai H&H Marketing Consulting Co., Ltd. was established in Shanghai in 2002. The two founders, Hua Shan and Hua Nan, develop the famous “H&H Methodology”, which uses powerful symbols as the source of big ideas (超級符號就是超級創意), provide consulting service on branding and strategy for many companies in China, and create many famous cases. Afterward, they established a publishing firm Dook Book. Due to the achievement, they are recognized as the most creative two brothers in China in recent years.
H&H has grown to more than 40 people in 2014. During that time, one of the key challenges about the development of the organization is how to further grow and transform based on the business model built around the two brothers. To be specific, there are two challenges:
- How to retain talents? There are “4A Companies” in the field of branding and marketing. Taking career development into consideration, many talents in the field prefer entering 4A or other global companies. According, the loss of talents has always been an issue for H&H.
- How to support people to change from “the assistants of the founders” into “the partners of the company” so as to create greater momentum for future growth?
How H&H Encountered Facilitation
In 2013, the deputy general manager of H&H, Yan Yan, participated in the public program of Open Quest and experienced the power of facilitation, although she was not clear how facilitation could be applied in the organization until 2014. When she discovered the issues of H&H’s organizational development, she though facilitation might be helpful, so she proposed to Hua Shan that they approach Laura and Shawn, the facilitators of Open Quest, for support.
What Did Open Quest Do?
After the preparation interviews and the discussion with Hua Shan and Yan Yan, the facilitators, Laura and Shawn, identified a key question for the workshop: How to support the growth and transformation of H&H under the shared vision? As for the methods used in the workshop, Laura and Shawn chose the Participatory Strategic Planning (PSP) method from the Institute of Cultural Affairs as the framework to design the process of the workshop. The five major stages in PSP are:
- Reviewing the past: identify the strengths of H&H since its establishment;
- Creating a shared vision: collectively envision the image of success 3 years from now;
- Exploring underlying contradiction: identify what need to be changed so as to move toward the vision.
- Strategic action: Come up with creative actions to address the contradictions and realize the vision.
- Implementation: Design plan for functional system and personal development.
According to Yan Yan’s
observation, during the workshop all the participants were highly engaged and generated lots of ideas, which collectively paved the road to the future success of H&H. When the idea of the new incentive mechanism, the Million Dollar Innovation Award, was suggested and approved by Hua Shan on site, the workshop was brought to its climax.
Outcome of the Workshop
From 2014 to 2017, the revenue of H&H increased by 245%, the number of employees increased by 233%; in addition, the case number of “super innovation” increased by 300%. Internally, the establishment of the partner system has made the company more active and attract more talented employees. The H&H values are more effectively practiced, particularly in team communication and collaboration. Externally, H&H has become a premium brand in the market place.
In 2017, the company requested Open Quest to facilitate workshop for 30+ core leaders on organizational culture and the design of management system, resulting in action plans to cascade the impact and engage the whole company. In the same year, fifteen participants were designated to learn facilitation skills so meetings in the company and collaboration with clients could be done in a more facilitative way.
“The change and impact was transformative and strategic, throughout the organization,” mentioned by an executive of H&H during the interview.
How Did the Workshop Participants Describe the Impact of Facilitation
In 2017, Open Quest interviewed the participants of the 2014 workshop, discovering that a series of changes were induced by the workshop. The changes mentioned by the interviewees were divided into three categories: changes in organizational awareness and culture, change in systems, and changes in performance.
- Changes in Organizational Awareness and Culture: Closer Relationship, Improved Communication, and Full Dedication to the Goal
- The program induced changes in the members’ awareness; specifically, a common goal was set, and all the members worked together and did their best to achieve the goals.
- The Boss (Hua Shan) focus more on the employees, and this distance between the leaders and the employees become closer. In the past people are afraid of interacting with the Boss, and their image about the Boss was shifted due to the interaction in the workshop. Many young employees get a sense of belonging, and feel that H&H is a place for their development.
- The values of H&H give people reasons to stay in the company, and the values include “no lying” and “no bragging”. The cascading of the values fosters a healthy culture in the company.
- After the workshop, the Boss and the leadership team dedicated themselves to the goal set in the workshop.
2. Changes in Systems: Talent Development, Award for Creativity, Greater Efficiency, and Creation of Partner System
- Talent Development
- In recent three years, the business of the company was scaled by project team-based management, and the company has been dedicated to talent development.
- A weekly project meeting is held by Hua Shan and attended by all the employees. It is a learning opportunity for all of us.
- The company invests more on training, such as inviting trainers from China Europe International Business School to deliver training and organizing study tour to Japan.
- Incentive System: Million Dollar Innovation Award
- The Million Dollar Innovation Award was originated from the 2014 workshop, and the purpose of the award is to encourage people to deliver high-quality projects through competition.
- People care a lot about whether they could deliver quality outcome in the year-end review. The competition among the project teams is exciting.
- We invest a lot on the incentive system.
- We have a strong incentive system, such as the annual Million Dollar Innovation Award, which is a strong incentive for everyone.
- Everyone works really hard to get the bonus.
- Our incentive system becomes stronger as the business grows.
- Efficiency and business operation
- We adopt Toyota Production System. We first review and visualize our business operation process, and then improve it afterward.
- As our efficiency increases, the need for overtime decreases.
- The Toyota Production System was introduced and the management of the company was improved. All the project teams are responsible for their own profit and loss.
- Our office was designed based on the ideas of Toyota Production System, which improved our process efficiency a lot.
- Establishment of Partner System
- There are several project teams managed by one partner. The collaboration and communication within and between each team are quite effective.
- The establishment of partner system is a significant progress of the company, attracting more talents to join H&H. The core team of the company is stable. People have clear paths of career development.
- The establishment of partner system is an important milestone. Hua Shan transformed from an expert in creativity and innovation to an entrepreneur. In the past, our working model was like “a team composed of a single leader (Hua Shan) with many assistants.” The new system generates more leaders and teams, and the whole company is activated.
- The efficiency is improved under the new organizational structure. Basically, there are two people, one designer and one planner, working on a project, so the communication improves a lot.
3. Change in Performance
- Improvement in talent pipeline
- Our business operation has improved a lot in these two years. A batch of high potential talents emerged. And there are multiple team leaders under one partner. All of them are dedicated to the work.
- In the past we only had a few team leasers, now we have more than 20. All of them are able to lead projects independently, which is a significant improvement.
- Growing scale of the company: 100 Plus employees and more than 100 million revenue
- The number of employees changed from 30-40 people to more than 120.
- The revenue increased by 3 to 4 times.
- Spacious and attractive office for creativity and innovation
- The size of the office increased from 400+ to 2,300 square meters.
- The Toyota Production System makes the office cleaner and brighter, which is a significant change.
- Reputation and ranking in the industry:
- H&H has better reputation compared with three years ago. There are more talents willing to join us.
- Hua Shan keeps investing in advertisement. We deliver quality projects every year, and the clients consider us an outstanding company.
- After our investment in advertisement in 2016 and our fast growth in 2017, we draw lots of attention in the industry.
- H&H has more voice in the industry, because Hua Shan keeps publishing books, which lay the theoretical foundation of our methodology. This foundation makes us stand out from our competitors, and the clients consider us well-trained and professional.
- The company’s reputation has improved a lot in recent two years. We deliver quality projects every year. This upward trends becomes stronger and stronger.
- The core values and the company direction announced by Hua Shan make me feel that the company is on the right track.
- The development of the company has become faster in these two years. More and more clients are requesting for our service, and we invest a lot in advertisement, bringing great impact.
- H&H builds a stronger image of authoritative expertise in the client’s eye.
- Our ranking in the industry improves a lot. Three years ago, no one knows who we are, but now we don’t need to introduce ourselves to others.
- We have greater influence in the market, and there are more and more clients requesting for our service. Two years ago, we received about 30 client inquiries everyday, and now we have about 100 daily.
- We establish the H&H Commercial School to promote H&H methodology and our successful cases, which increases H&H’s reputation and attracts more clients.
2018 Facilitation Impact Award
The case was submitted by H&H and Open Quest to the International Association of Facilitators for the application for 2018 Facilitation Impact Award. Afterward, the case was issued Gold award, which was the only awarded case in Asia in the year. The award was announced by Trevor Durnford, the IAF Global President, in the Asia IAF Conference in Osaka, Japan.
The idea of writing this case as an article first came to my mind when I visit H&H’s new office in 2017. It was Yan Yan who shared with me in excitement that H&H moved to a new office and would like us to visit them. Arriving at the new office, I saw a history wall, where H&H post the 2-3 most representative cases of each year, and I was impressed a lot. In the slot for 2014, I noticed the first workshop we facilitated for H&H was also post on the wall in addition to the cases of the year. A heart-touching feeling came to me when I seeing that the workshop was considered a milestone of H&H’s development and that Open Quest was put onto the H&H history wall.
Facilitators often consider themselves hidden helpers supporting the development of organizations, as it is not easy for the impact of facilitation to be noticed by others, although facilitation does help. The H&H case shows that facilitation could bring great and profound impact on the long-term development of an organization, including the growth in performance and the internal transformation of the organization.
Looking back, I consider the heart-touching feeling originated from my mission for facilitation — to induce positive changes that people desire. In the future I will keep working with my team, supporting client organizations to realize their dream with the power of facilitation.