Oct 132014

Dr. Earl R. Smith II


Sometimes management teams lose focus on the fact that the principal goal of business involves producing increasing revenues. Sometimes they get caught in the trap of incessantly talking about increasing revenue.


I recently facilitated an all-hands session for a company. We were focusing on the results of an extended process of reorganization and re-resourcing. Both of the efforts had been very successful and the company was poised to move forward. However, as the meeting got under way, I sensed a general reluctance to moving on to the next phase – implementation.

I had seen this syndrome before and knew how to manage it. The process of organizing change can be addictive. People can come to believe that change is the real issue and that their authority derives from driving it.

The company in question had come back from the very brink of bankruptcy. When I first engaged, the creditors were literally at the front door with papers that would put it out of business. That meant that the first several weeks were spent in survival mode – fending off attempts to force the company into receivership.

Once the pressure was eased, we began organizing and implementing the changes that would give the company a chance to succeed. That involved a major restructure, complete overhaul of the senior team, refocusing of the value propositions, improvement of the quality control process and finding the financial resources that would allow all the changes to be put into practice.

There is always that point where the ‘getting ready’ needs to come to an end and implementation means getting back to work – driving the run-rate, selling, business development, reliable delivery and all the things that make a business more than just an idea. That point is sometimes a sticking point – as it clearly was in this case. Moving the flatware around on the table can get addictive. It is heady stuff – particularly when compared with the daily grind of driving a business – and some people find it hard to get back into that grind. I always see it as a post-vacation syndrome. Maybe an example will help.

For a decade and a half, I have been organizing an annual Friends and Family cruise. As you might expect, many fond memories and strong friendships have come from those trips. However, one post-vacation shock is always present. Those of you who have been on cruises will relate. For days you have had the pick of the menu – heaps of good food. And there has never been a price next to any of them. Now – when we get back to the ‘real world’, there are those pesky prices again.

My role, as facilitator, was to help the team make the journey back to the ‘real world’ of prices on the menu. It wasn’t easy and they did not much like the trip. We started with a focus on the first small steps necessary to shift the ‘transmission into forward’ – idling in neutral had been so comforting. I broke the group into sub-groups and gave them specific assignments along with deadlines and performance metrics. There was a bit of grumbling and grousing as they left the common room.

When the group regathered to hear the results of the breakout groups work, I could see that a sea change had begun. The focus was less on the rearrangements of the parts and more on the value that could be derived from the current arrangements of those parts. By the end of the session, almost all of the participants were in the new mode – implementation. Of course, that did not keep more than one of them from coming up to me at the end of the session and wistfully mentioning that life sure was pleasanter without all those pesky prices.

© Dr. Earl R. Smith II



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