Turnaround specialist Glen Blickenstaff, in the third of five articles, explains how to turn a failing company into a breakout success. This week he explains that too much praise and back-patting can slow progress.
As objectives are met watch for a change in pace; just like an out of shape runner, the tendency for many will be to stop part way up the hill to pat themselves on the back.
Your company might be failing now but you’re well on your way to turning things around if you’ve been following this five-part series of articles that outline how to execute a successful turnaround. To illustrate, I’m using a hypothetical company with no specific product or service. The first step is providing your employees with a 24-hour deadline to return a view of their job and the organizations top three objectives from their perspective. Employees that fail to complete the survey after 24 hours for no good reason should be fired. This exercise was meant to help you root out dead-weight employees.
On day two, I advised that you conduct the same exercise—allow employees 24 hours to complete a survey—however this survey will ask employees to describe what they think their job and the company’s goals should be. During a meeting to discuss everyone’s ideas, it’s important to stem negative and unhelpful commentary.
The Next 96 Hours
On day three take your list of objectives and sort them into groups that are related. See if some are actually sub sets of other farther reaching goals. Hold a meeting with key staff. Assign the objectives based on discipline. Support inclusiveness by asking that each team to include the original idea makers as well as those that work in the department that can execute the objective.
Give them each 24 hours to return with a plan that begins with the first 96 hours of the objective and include what measurable objectives can be met during those 96 hours.
During this time you will be helping the company to manage the objectives by holding people accountable, while leading the organization through a change in culture that can sustain a turnaround. You are a manager and a leader. Based on the plans that are presented and how many modifications you have to make you will learn who gets it and who needs close supervision. Adapt your style to participate with those that get it and continue a directive approach with those that don’t.
As the momentum starts and objectives are met watch for a change in pace; just like an out-of-shape runner, the tendency for many will be to stop part way up the hill to pat themselves on the back and look at how much distance they’ve covered. Don’t let them stop! You are pushing a rock uphill, as the momentum starts and everyone sees progress you need to double your efforts to keep it moving. If you stop you will lose precious time and momentum. You definitely need to celebrate, but do it with the individuals and teams and keep them focused; a brief pat on the back to encourage everyone to keep moving.
On day seven shift the teams focus on their objectives to weekly and monthly targets. Then have them back those targets down to daily targets and where possible assign daily goals. Now you have moved the “management” of the turnaround to your team, while maintaining the “leadership” role. Check in with the key members of your team daily to see where they are with their objectives. If they aren’t meeting the daily objectives, are they analyzing why and adapting in order to meet their weekly objectives.
Example: While working with a multi-branch financial institution, I had all the managers in for a meeting where we determined as a group a loan objective for the next month. Then based on accounts and prior loan history we divided the objective up by branch. Some of the branch managers were convinced they could never meet these targets. So I did a little exercise. I had them break out the number of hours that the business is open in a month and divided their loan objective by that number. Then we took the number of loan officers and CSCR’s and further divided by those numbers. The result was everyone recognized the practical example of “time is money.” That month every branch made its goal and we exceeded the overall target by 25 percent.
GLEN BLICKENSTAFF is the CEO of The Iron Door company, which makes high-end doors and windows. Glen has a track record of turning around and managing retail, building and financial companies. @glenblickenstaf