A former client had recently taken over as CEO of a global manufacturing business. The strategy was clear, but executing it was proving a problem. New products were taking too long to launch. Clients were having to wait too long for their orders. Communication channels between divisions were broken, and issues were being escalated up to the executive committee rather than resolved by local colleagues. Our former client asked if we could help him improve execution.
Getting to the root cause of the issues
We started by talking to all of the executive team to understand what the issues were. They were a bit sceptical initially that we would be able to help, but shared with us all their (many!) frustrations anyway. We then worked with the executive team over several months to tease out the blockages and come up with a plan of action. We helped them prioritise a few areas that would make the biggest difference. For each of these, we got really specific about what they were going to tackle, to force them to debate the real root causes and get aligned on how to tackle them.
Changing working practices and behaviours
Some of the issues were quite practical, such as fixing operations, so we helped the operations director kick off a series of task forces to address these areas. Some of issues were behavioural, so we worked with the executive team to define and role-model the behaviours they wanted to see. It was amazing to see how, through this intense process, we built a tight executive team in a short space of time.
Improving pace and quality of innovation
The company had brilliant R&D minds and a loyal customer base, but it was taking too long to get new products to market and there were often many teething problems. We facilitated honest post-mortems of several recent new product developments. Through this, the teams quickly came up with process improvement ideas, which they transferred into other new product developments. Over time, the innovation teams got comfortable with having open dialogues about ways of working, so that they could keep improving throughout their projects. We also developed some of their leaders to facilitate these post-mortem processes for each other’s areas, so that they could keep the learning culture alive and speed up the transfer of learnings between projects.
A clear action plan for the company
The process culminated in the company’s annual conference, where the executive team enrolled their top 100 leaders in the plan of action. The top 100 felt like the executive team had put the real issues on the table and proposed clear direction, they felt included and gave input, and left feeling extremely inspired. In a short period of a few months, the company had a clear action plan, owned by the whole top 100, a cohesive executive team ready to lead it, and plenty of momentum for change.