A large industrial plant is no longer running like clockwork. The quality of the products is declining and no one knows exactly why production cycles cannot be maintained or why the data no longer tallies with the actual output. The workload is steadily increasing and even the best improvisation is no longer enough. Revenue has fallen through the floor. And now customer complaints are beginning to mount up.
What happened next?
The managing director calls us and cries for help. ‘We have tried everything; consultants have come and gone.’ We start looking at things differently, at the patterns and forms of the organisation. We look at what the people do there, how they talk about their work and how they talk about leadership.
Our deep structural analysis helps because it doesn’t stop at the obvious: it delves deep into the heart of the matter. How do we explain why these problems occur? Which of the recurring patterns of behaviour are preventing an overview from being formed, and which explain why many things are still working well? Astonishing results for the management team – but also for us. Management creates hope again. Deep insights emerge and we set to work defining a shared vision and principles that build on this vision. Using these as guidelines, we change the communication formats, the organisation structures and much more. Reducing the size of the management team, changing the division of work and establishing clear lines of responsibility alone ensure significantly better communication.
After some major initial doubts, more and more team members and employees get on board, working on the tasks and roles in the individual divisions. Who are we and what can we do for others? With these questions, clear pictures emerge that are shared, discussed and negotiated live in a large conference with the leadership community. Strong agreements emerge, one of the most important pillars for the next stage of the process. Not everyone agrees, but a new culture is created for dealing with differences. New patterns in communication and decision-making are practised. One of the most important is that more and more challenges are discussed immediately at the same level and not escalated up to the boss.
What impact did all this have?
Personal responsibility and trust are created; one could say that the company has (re-)learned that it is capable of doing things for itself. Management became a partner rather than a hero or an opponent. And, above all: output became predictable again, production and supply chains have since been reliable, the workforce had regained its self-confidence and believed it could steer its own ship again. But the most important thing is that the company is once again making world-beating products and keeping its promises to its customers.
And it all began with us looking behind the scenes – in a caring way but with no holds barred. Then we were able to build a persuasive story of the future and create spaces from it that last.