A couple of months ago I came upon a client, who as far as I was concerned, was making great progress following my initial strategic alignment & planning workshop with them at the end of 2008. Together we had set their One-Page Strategic Plan and they seemed to be getting much better at focusing on the top one or two areas of their business that would turn out to be fundamental pillars of a great 2009 ahead. All was going according to plan, until I was asked to come back for their mid-year planning session.
This was the point in the year when we were to look back at the first half of 2009, evaluate the pro’s & con’s, and leverage the key learning’s toward making some adjustments in areas we hadn’t explored previously. You see, when you fix an organization that’s been struggling to accelerate growth, with the ensuing success that follows you quickly recognize other areas that have fallen short of effective planning. With this client there wasn’t any on-going coaching or mentoring, just the annual & now semi-annual alignment, planning & strategy workshop, so I only got brief “snap-shots” for me to formulate further recommendations from. This is a new world business, with some old world thinking, so some of the processes didn’t take-hold at first and needed more time to develop into familiar habits. This time I came upon a business that was growing at a pace of 50%, but didn’t have their logistics area in the necessary shape to support the growing revenue stream.
The summer holiday period was about to come up, and the Director of Operations was frightened by the current overload, as well as the thought of yet one more summer holiday interrupted be worries back home, or fires that would need to be put out. Fortunately the challenges weren’t as overwhelming once I started to delve into the root cause. An outsider’s perspective, emotion removed & a host of previous best practices from other organizations, quickly put things into manageable perspective. We found some immediate quick fixes, and the next day, with strategy in mind, as a team we brainstormed 7 hot issues and came up with more immediate actions to get things under control.
From afar, I could only monitor that the revenue numbers were growing & the profit margins were holding, so this was a good sign, but it wasn’t until the Director of Operations came back from holiday & gave me the exciting news that I could sit-back and celebrate one more empowering moment. She told me of her month long holiday through Europe on the back of a motorcycle, a month in which her phone didn’t ring, a month in which she didn’t have to reply to any urgent short messages (sms or text), and a month in which things worked like clock-work without her. She was all smiles, and had just enjoyed her first real vacation in 15 years.
What were the key things she had put into place weeks before going on holiday?
- Extended the One-Page Strategic Plan to another layer within her organization
- Initiated Periodic Performance Reviews highlighting the individual impact members had on results
- Leveraged unrecognized purchasing power with suppliers to negotiate automated out-of-stock alerts
- Improved communication through implementation of Daily Huddles & pulse checks
- Published the 3-4 key performance metrics that would have her staff keep focus
All of these things were implemented in less than 60 days & they resulted in the most relaxing holiday of her life. What can you learn from this experience? How much do you empower your team to be able to “lead in your absence”?