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How to Fix a Struggling Department

Get involved. Get people communicating. Your goal is to unlock the talent in your people.
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Any business has parts that are in really good shape, where a manager only needs to do flybys. Then there may be other parts that are in trouble, where you need a deep dive.

To fix a troubled department, I first hold one-on-one meetings with the people on the ground. I ask, "How do you think we're doing as a team? What can we do better? How can I make you more successful?" We want to develop a baseline of what we're doing well and where there are gaps.

Then I pull together the department's leaders and share the conclusions. I empower them to fix the problem. We develop a clear agenda--here are the things we are going to deliver and the processes we're going to fix.

Any department that's struggling has a communication issue. So we create forums for better communication. On our tech team, one of the biggest pieces of feedback was that people didn't know what the company's priorities were or what their colleagues were working on. We created what we call the MACK-1, a superfast 15- to 30-minute meeting we hold two to three times a week for everyone to stand up to the mike. They announce if they've hired a new person, shipped code, or anything else. It's an awesome way to make everyone aware of what's going on but also to make success about the collective strength of the team and not just the person leading it.

If there's a governing idea here, it is that 100 percent of the answer lies in unlocking the talent of the team. If you've done a good job bringing people in, the vast majority of answers on how to make them more productive, more successful, and more happy are sitting right in front of you.

As told to Inc. senior writer Burt Helm. 

IMAGE: Bruce Peterson/Gallery Stock
From the November issue of Inc. magazine




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