The Turnaround. Part 3 of 3

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This post is the third in a three part series.  Click to view Part 1 and Part 2.

In one turnaround I was leading, a member of the senior leadership team was always in agreement with everything we discussed and pleasant to be around, but was quietly and effectively undermining my efforts to discover variances that were causing waste numbers to be excessively high. His department was causing the problem by using materials that were over specification because the correct inventory was not available when needed to meet order lead times.  This senior manager didn’t want to spend the time or energy to solve it. Instead he tried to bury the data with evasive maneuvers.  His passive/aggressive behavior proved not only costly to the company, but fatal to his career.

Building trust with team members takes time and effort, and should be part of your everyday activities. This needs to be managed proactively. Your people need to trust that you are there to help them succeed, and that you are with them in this effort. The short term theory X command and control dictatorship style may get some short term results, but is generally not a very effective long term style of leadership.

Symptoms of a healthy or broken culture emerge from wandering around the shop floor or office. Tom Peters and Robert H. Waterman Jr. explained this behavior in their watershed book “In Search of Excellence”, first published in 1982.  In it they explained the concept of Management By Wandering Around (MBWA).  They discovered the concept after interviewing John Young, then CEO of Palo Alto Ca. based Hewlett Packard.  It is a simple and very effective way to engage with your troops.

It never ceases to amaze me to see CEO’s who don’t leave their offices, but send long email missives to their reports, who are expected to execute them without question.  Email and other electronic forms of communication are very impersonal, and often stand in the way of truly effective communication.  By practicing MBWA, you walk the shop floor and visit in the hallways of the offices, and you get a feel for the real culture of your organization, not the one that is written on the board room wall.  You will see it in the faces of the employees, by observing their body language. Are people making eye contact with you; do they seem happy or sad, or angry? Are they talking about solving customer problems, or are they gossiping about the latest ‘flavor of the month management fix all?

As CEO, the organization is looking to you to identify and teach the core values, living them out day by day without fault or failure. Your stakeholders will be watching you very carefully to see if you are consistent with your practices in this critical area of leadership. Be very careful of protecting the core values once you have them set in place, and your organization will follow you because you are true to your beliefs.  The culture is evident by reviewing alignment of mission and vision with the core values. If these are not aligned and practiced each day, then people will lose respect for the process. This can be detected by performing employee surveys.

A recent example in a company I work with illustrated this point.  An employee survey indicated that methods used to turn the company from a loss to a profitable enterprise had some negative consequences.  The CEO had used some rather drastic command and control techniques to reach desired results, but his methods created an rather toxic environment.  In his desire to gain quick results, the CEO had unintentionally created a problem that was bigger than the poor performance issues he was initially hired to improve.

It’s important to make sure the core values are lived out in the activities of the CEO, with no variation.  If the values are not lived out through CEO practices in the day to day experience, people in the organization will lose trust, and as a result, turnover will increase, quality will decline, and customer relationships will suffer.

If you can stay focused on the three legged stool of Strategy, Structure, and Culture when attempting to fix a broken company, you will find success and a meaningful exciting challenge that all stakeholders in the process can get behind and support.