After lunch, the group assembled back in the conference room. Most spent some time reading through the poster on the wall, looking for more clues to help them improve.
“Ready to get started,” I said, as the group grabbed their seats.
“On to people,” Tyler announced, with a tone indicating he could see the light at the end of the tunnel.
“Yes, on to the ‘People’ column in the mosaic. Just as we defined who your key customers are, we need to define the key positions and roles in your company.”
“How do we define key?” Cheryl asked.
“Great question,” I responded.
“While discussing purpose, we used the word ‘key’ to define customers who we needed to be successful, and we admitted not all customers were key. So, shouldn’t we view our key roles in the same manner? What roles are key to our success?” John asked.
“Key to meeting our customers’ needs,” Rick stated firmly.
“Makes sense,” Tyler said, and Cheryl nodded her agreement.
“Based on that, team members – our folks on the floor – perform our most key role,” John said, looking at the group.
“In that case, our team leaders and group leaders are the next most critical role?” Tyler asked with an inquisitive tone.
“Gee, I can’t believe the direction this conversation is going. Not to sound overly egotistical, but I would have initially said those of us in this office were key,” Cheryl exclaimed.
“Cheryl, we are important because we support those who do the work for our customers, but it is those on the floor who deliver on the needs of our customers,” Rick stated.
“I have a funny feeling we about to get three tons of brutal reality,” Tyler said.
“Why do you say that, Tyler?” I asked.
“Well, if team members, team leaders, and group leaders are key roles in this company, we are going to find out we don’t put enough effort into how we hire, promote, assess, or recognise them.”
“Like you said, Tyler, brutal reality,” Cheryl said.
The room went eerily quiet for a few moments as the group contemplated that idea.
The group refocused, and discussions began as everyone wrestled with the questions associated with aligning their key roles with their key customers.
- Do we have a selection target for each key position?
- Is our training aligned to meet the needs of our key positions?
- How do we assess our key positions?
- How do we recognise our key positions?
Unlike the morning, the afternoon was a much quieter conversation, not because there was little passion, but because the team realised they had missed the ball. All of their energies on the people front were placed on their management teams, and their management teams had been fighting an uphill battle due to misalignment of their team leaders and team members.
As the final few pieces of the mosaic were completed and the team realised how unbalanced their efforts had been, conversation moved to a discussion around their observations. After twenty minutes, the observations were boiled down to a critical few.
- We don’t pay any attention to those who do the work.
- Our lack of engagement by our teams is well deserved.
- We can fix this issue by adjusting our focus, and everyone will benefit.
- Everyone’s contributions must be recognised.
“Dean, the picture is very clear to me. As I stand back and look at all the pieces, I clearly see how we’ve not focused equally on purpose, process and people. We’ve focused selectively on fragments of one piece or another,” Rick said to me while looking at his team.
“Rick, I don’t think we’ve ever seen all the pieces in this light before.”
“I agree, John. The use of the large poster keeps the entire conversation in the forefront,” Cheryl pointed out.
“It sure does, and I’m looking forward to continuing to share this with my regionals and get their feedback,” Tyler said.
“Excellent idea, Tyler. I ask all of you to do the same. I’d also like for you as a group to spend some time with the mosaic and digest your observations. Our next meeting is two weeks today. At that time, we will take all of the observations and identify a minimum number of strategic operational initiatives designed to move you forward,” I said, bringing the meeting to a close.
Prior to our scheduled meeting, each member of the senior leadership team held meetings at the mosaic with their respective teams, explaining the mosaic, and monitoring reactions of the group to the very large poster. The team also took the opportunity to make note of any observations made by their teams. Observations were pencilled on to the mosaic.
As the follow-up meeting began, the mood was extremely upbeat.
“Good morning. Are we ready to get to work?” I asked.
“Good morning, Dean. Before we start, I’d like to share the comments from my team,” Cheryl stated.
“Ditto for me,” Tyler chimed in.
“I might as well make it unanimous,” added John.
“Perfect, as that’s actually the first thing on our agenda,” I said, taking a seat.
Starting with Cheryl, the group went around the table and shared experiences they’d witnessed with their respective teams. Several themes surfaced. Notably, the teams did not really understand the full depth and breadth of the business. The mosaic had opened many eyes and minds to how delicate the balance was between a business’s purpose, its processes, and its people. Second was the level of enthusiasm as their respective teams began to understand and internalise the direction their business needed to go. Third was a deep desire to be a part of the action to move Walker Ideas forward.
“This is truly amazing as well somewhat embarrassing,” Rick told the team.
“Embarrassing?” John asked.
“Truly we have stumbled onto corrective action that is very-low-hanging fruit that we’ve refused to harvest. Our people at all levels just want to know what is going on. By telling them what is happening in the business, they are engaging,” Rick continued.
“Even better, Bennie asked me to tear up his resignation!” Tyler exclaimed.
“Why?” Rick asked.
“For the reason you just stated, Rick. My team spent several meetings going over the mosaic, allowing me to gain feedback for today’s meeting. Bennie was initially skeptical, I might even say cynical, but when I began to write his observations on the mosaic, his demeanor shifted.
“Shifted?” I asked.
“Yes, he became noticeably engaged, and even helped to engage the other regional managers in how this direction could differentiate us in the market place,” Tyler informed the team.
“Bennie has always been the slowest to buy in to any of our initiatives, if he ever bought in at all,” Cheryl retorted.
“True, but this time he said he can actually see how we, the leadership team, have finally faced the reality of our situation and are planning to do something about it.”
“Very interesting, Tyler, and a great segue into the next phase: identification of Key Strategic Operational Initiatives,” I said to the group.
“We might be ahead of you on this one, Dean. We’ve been interacting all week, processing what critical few items will provide us the greatest pay out and will let the organisation know we are serious about our new direction,” Rick said, addressing the team as they all nodded.
For the next three hours, the group haggled through the wording and steps associated with four key strategic initiatives. The first one was easy and gained immediate support from the entire team: Walker Ideas must improve communication with their entire workforce to promote and keep further engagement. The second was similar, but Walker observed they needed to better understand and document their customers’ levels of satisfaction, and then communicate the results back to the entire workforce quarterly. The third was the most difficult and caused a tremendous amount of debate and defensiveness from Cheryl. Walker’s people systems needed an overhaul. The fourth came about with little fanfare. All agreed that several of their key critical processes were in dire need of upgrade.
For the balance of the day, the team worked on establishing timelines and recommending resources who could be assigned to each initiative. The day ended as it had started, in a very upbeat manner, and as the leadership team filed out of the room, several Walker Ideas team members filed in to view the additions to the mosaic.
“Such a simple tool and idea – a large piece of paper telling the entire big picture. Nothing fancy – just pencil, paper, and focus,” Rick stated as he watched those who had entered the room point to and discuss the findings written on the mosaic.
For the next twelve months, Rick and his team met in that same room. They continued to pencil onto and erase from the mosaic, continually discussing and fine-tuning the alignment between purpose, process, and people. That same year, Rick and the team did something they’d contemplated for years: they fired a customer who did not align, and who was eating up a vast amount of their resources. As the team had realised from working together on the mosaic, not all of Walker’s customers were part of their bigger picture.