Productive Collaboration to Stop Losing Money and Make Profits
The CFO of a large paper industry company had identified serious conflicts in the organization that was affecting performance and morale. Business was down. Customers were upset and customer satisfaction was below acceptable standards. A customer audit revealed that customers not only had their own complaints but that the employees were complaining to the customers that other parts of the organization were to blame for the lack of service, poor quality and delays in product availability.
The Attempted Solutions before calling Steven Feinberg, Inc.: The CFO had worked with the CEO to give ‘teamwork and pep talks’ to improve morale, with the hope that it would translate into performance and profitability. His attempted solutions, while well-intended, simply maintained the problem. The CEO’s “play nice, work harder, do better” dictum didn’t help either. Both execs were results oriented, bottom-line, action- focused managers, even though their styles differed. The real issue was invisible to almost everyone in the organization.
Advantage-making brains can see what others don’t see, they are tuned in to spot novel solutions, to create breakthroughs. Advantage-Makers are curious and willing to experiment, always ready to find elegant solutions – something small with a big impact. Brains are energy misers they have only so much energy to do their work, and in this sense they are searching for efficiencies, for an economy of means. We found it.
Steven Feinberg worked with CFO (the actual Advantage-Maker in the room) to analyze and identify the underlying structure that was driving the counterproductive behavior and that resulted in dissension, conflict, and bad performance. Just as a river follows the underlying riverbed, organizational behavior acts like a river following the underlying structure. We don’t mean the reporting structure, although that may be a part of it, its more of the decisions, the ways problems are resolved, who gets to decide, whether people have both responsibility without authority and often competing goals between departments.
The real performance structure was invisible, and unexpected to the execs, as it is to many. Having identified counterproductive, competing objectives of different departments and the real driving forces, a specific, concrete recommendation was made to impact the results. While the CEO was calling for teamwork, he was rewarding individual competing objectives that caused dissension and complaining about each other and worse to the customers. That’s part of the fundamental reason the customers were leaving.
The solution was simple and elegant once the CFO recognized this didn’t have anything to do with personality traits. It included aligning the different departments on an agreed-upon target and agreed-upon objectives, shifting the incentive system to support the alignment and a communication and influence strategy to minimize future conflict of cross functional team members. Clear, specific leadership suggestions were made to leverage their talents and influence the organization’s behavior.
To be clear, the CEO wanted no part of this, while the CFO tendency to search for elegant solutions championed this project.
The results generated $4 million dollars in additional revenue over a period of a year, cross functional complaints and conflicts were dramatically reduced, and customers obviously voted with their pocketbooks.