Feedback on the FISH! philosophy

Feedback on the FISH philosophy

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I would welcome any feedback from colleagues regarding the FISH! philosophy. Where people have found it has worked well and what issues if any they have come across in using it as part of a wider change initiative. We are thinking of using it as part of a drive to improve our customer services environment and responsiveness, energy etc.

All thoughts welcome.

Thanks - Keith

Keith Luxon

Replies (8)

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15th Nov 2005 10:25


I have taken part in the FISH philosophy workshop in a previous company, although the workshop itself was fun, I found it was difficult to use it once back in the office.

There are not many similarities between a fish market (where it was developed) and a standard office environment which I think makes it difficult to take back to the office and use successfully.

Fun distraction for a day, some colourful freebies but other than that I'm not convinced. I think like the previous contributor you could come up with something just as good but with more relevance to your business.

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By Peter A Hunter
15th Nov 2005 11:00

I have never heard of anyone who has made any significant change as a result of using FISH.

It is marketed as a philosophy which if we adopt it can significantly change our performance, that is good marketing if the core philosophy was not flawed.

The concept of FISH came from a video taken of people working in a fish market in Seattle.

The premise was that if you adopt the five principles that came from the video your organisation would work as well as the fish market.

Where it seems to fail is that the fish market itself did not work on those five principles.

The fishmarket was worked by a bunch of people who enjoyed working together and a manager who allowed them to enjoy themselves.

The five principles were the invention of the film makers and had nothing to do with why the workers performed the way they did.

No wonder it does not appear to work when people try to apply it to their own organisations.

One of the five principles is "Choose Your Own Attitude".

This infers that you are responsible for your own performance and that it is your fault if you do not perform well.

What this principle ignores is that most of the time we are not in control of our working environment.

No matter how positive the attitude we choose it can be destroyed by a manager who abuses us and belittles our efforts or refuses to supply the equipment we need to do our job.

We can choose our attitude when we wake up but that is worth nothing if the environment the manager creates when we get to work undermines the attitude we have chosen.

In order to make a sustainable change we may be better advised to find out what is stopping the workforce from performing now, then concentrate on getting rid of that, instead of trying to force them to do something that they for the most part will understand does not make too much sense.


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By qwqwqw
15th Nov 2005 15:21

It obviously didn't work for Peter H (by the way, Peter, there are 4 principles, not 5) but I have seen it work very successfully in a call-centre environment.

I think it is important to treat it as a means, and not an end (or a beginning - a video will not change a thing). It is important also to believe that everyone influences their work environment, even by whether or not they walk in with a smile on their face. Most crucially, it works where senior managers want to make a cultural change and Fish just exemplifies it. They must walk the talk, ALL the time, for at least a year before all the cynics and fence-sitters take notice.

In the call centre I looked at, they were 2 years down the line and going beyond Fish to really examine the links between attitude and behaviour. It has worked for them.

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By Nkellingley
14th Nov 2005 19:47

Hi Keith,

We trialled this programme at a call centre to try and drive improved customer focus and satisfaction and we as a management team liked the idea and philosophy.

But we found that participants were unimpressed, didn't buy in to the message and didn't want to use the approach.

So it wasn't good for our organisation at that time, in the end we wrote our own programme and while we borrowed slightly from the FISH! concept it didn't look much like it by the time we'd finished.

However I know many organisations swear by it and it may be it just wasn't suited to us.

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By LiamD
17th Nov 2005 09:59

I have used FISH both as a training manager and latterly as an independent consultant with UK based clients.
The success of the programme absolutely depends on the manner in which it is used both in the training and then "in the field".
Too many times, trainers opt for the easy route of slapping on the DVD and then saying "right, how do we do that then?".
As the first minutes of the film show, this is not about copying what they do. If you try to copy it, you will fail fantastically. Indeed, do not use the trainer's guide either- unless you are able to "translate it" in to your organisational speak. You MUST understand your organisation's DNA before introducing a foreign body!!
FISH is a PHILOSOPHY. It is about enabling your people to enjoy work more but with a focus on service. It is about understanding the principles of how human beings like to interact and how we (especially in the UK) prevent people from doing so with policies and procedures.

Use FISH to inspire you and to challenge how your business approaches "work". Don't use FISH as a template for a culture change or service standard as it will not work in the longer term.

Understand the philosophy and it pays dividends.

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By kluxon
22nd Nov 2005 15:31


Thanks for all your comments - very helpful. I appreciate the time you have taken.



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By User deleted
13th Dec 2005 07:53

I have used the Fish! DVD to promote discussion on performance expectations - or 'what a good job looks like'. The management of the Fish retailer have created an environment in which teamwork and good customer service are non negotiable. If you work there, you have to be a team player and you have to interact with customers in a positive and enthusiastic manner. Too many staff in customer facing roles are negative, indifferent and sometimes just rude. Too many bring their personal miseries and dogmatic attitudes towards colleagues to work believing consciously or subconsciously that they have a right to behave badly. Too many managers fail to define expecations, and many others fail to deal with negative behaviour. The Fish story is, in my opionion, about a successful management strategy.

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By JField
12th Apr 2007 17:16

Can anyone tell me where they got hold of their Fish! DVD's etc from - does anywhere offer any discounts?

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