By Mike Loughrin, CEO for Transformance Advisors
Your Dream Job
Imagine you have just started your dream job as an executive for an organization with a long history and a bright future.
For your orientation, you are meeting with each functional area.
Day 1 is going to be great! Your schedule includes New Product Development, Marketing, Sales, and Operations. You will finish the day talking with the CEO.
Time for your first stop of the day.
New Product Development
Engineering is a busy department. There are many engineers working with very cool-looking equipment.
The chief engineer tells you they are busy designing the next generation of your best-selling product. Everyone is expecting this next generation to turn around the persistent drop in market share the firm has been experiencing for the last couple of years.
Everything seems to be as it should and you congratulate yourself for joining this great organization.
Then, your enthusiasm takes a bruising when you discover that no other departments are engaged and customer input has not been incorporated into the new design. Something about customers not understanding the new technology. The chief engineer assures you: “This will be the best product ever developed for our industry.”
But time is running short, you need to leave for your second appointment.
As expected, the Marketing department is all abuzz with noise and excitement.
The entire team is debating the findings of a new study that they commissioned from a third-party research firm. The report declares your industry is on the verge of a break-through concept. This emerging concept will require your products to be re-designed for “mass customization” in a manner that will significantly increase the number of applications and thus the number of potential customers.
Your last job was at a company that benefited from a switch to mass customization and you are excited to see the opportunity here at your new company. You remember the challenges of working closely with customers to get them set up with the equipment, training, and processes for the new way of working.
You mention to the chief marketing officer that this new concept did not come up during your earlier meeting with engineering. He responds: “Yes, this is probably a change to the design specifications that we will talk about at our quarterly business review meeting. But, for now, we need to stay focused on meeting the goals and aspirations of our customers.”
Waiting for a quarterly meeting seems very sluggish. But time is up and you have your next appointment.
You are always excited with the action that takes place in production and logistics. The sights and sounds of your tour don’t let you down. This is a great place to work.
The operations manager shows you some very impressive charts on their cost-cutting program. And then you are shown an impressive large piece of equipment that is being installed. The operations manager explains: “This new megatronic convertor will lower our cost of production by 15%, assuming we can triple the volume on our current products to raise the overhead allocation.”
You make a mental note that nobody has talked about tripling volume, especially on current products.
Time to run; your next stop should clear some of the fog.
The sales department is small and quiet. Not unexpected, as the sales people should be out talking with customers and prospects.
The sales manager greets you and welcomes you to the organization. You are surprised during the overview presentation when the sales manager explains that most of the sales process is outsourced to industry representatives that are paid to close deals.
You ask about collecting insights from customers and the sales manager responds: “Our use of industry reps is a low cost approach that helps our margins, but also results in very limited information flows from our customers. The reps we use are very protective of their relationships and we don’t often talk with our customers.”
You now know why the engineers do not have customer inputs, why marketing pays for independent research, and why operations isn’t worried about new products.
Time for your last appointment of the day; a chat with the CEO.
The executive admin is very professional and you can feel it coming as he explains: “I’m very sorry, but the CEO is tied up in an meeting. I will compare calendars and get you rescheduled as soon as I can.”
While the executive admin gave away no clues, you overhear a conversation in the break room that the CFO and Corporate Council where seen running into the CEO’s office.
It’s not good, whatever it is.
Back In Your Office
It’s been your first day. Not a great day, but just a day.
You summarize your notes:
- Engineering is designing the “best product ever developed for our industry.”
- Marketing is “focused on meeting the goals and aspirations of our customers.”
- Operations has invested in equipment that “will lower our cost of production by 15%.”
- Sales is outsourced with a situation where “we don’t often talk with our customers.”
- The CEO, CFO, and Corporate Council are locked away in an emergency meeting.
The disconnects become obvious from your notes. As a brand-new employee, you realize that the lack of alignment is something that people are not seeing. It’s taken years for each functional area to drift into a comfort zone that does not align with the other areas.
No one functional area is wrong, it’s the lack of alignment that is the real challenge.
The question is how to get everyone on the same page and rowing in the same direction? How to gain “line of sight” to the what’s important?
While the thought of quitting is alluring, you decide to find a path forward and think back to the “Line of Sight” tool used at your last organization.
You recall how the assessment took about 9 minutes and there are three levels to choose from:
- Individual: an assessment you can take for your own personal benefit
- Team: a consolidated version of the assessment for your department of 8 to 19 people
- Enterprise: something for everyone in an organization that reports the results by categories you select
You decide it’s too risky to start at the enterprise level; much better to do an individual assessment as the first step.