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Case Study: The Case of the Stagnating Organization

“I feel like we’ve been stuck for the past year and a half,” the director said. 18 months prior, the startup company he founded was acquired by a large multinational firm. All twenty employees chose to carry on as members of the new corporate division, and the director went from being a controlling partner in his own business to being a middle manager. Since then, the director had overseen the integration of his product into the parent company’s offering. But the startup spirit had gone: his team could no longer deliver product improvements rapidly, nor could they delight customers with fast complaint turnaround time – and employees were increasingly frustrated at having their hands tied. Market share had fallen, and a new competitor had begun to make significant inroads. The director was concerned that his organization was losing its ability to innovate where it mattered most: for the customer.

Shlomo worked closely with the director to determine the underlying causes of his organization’s stagnation and to remedy them. Through a brief series of interviews with the staff, Shlomo quickly discovered that the organization was expending an inordinate amount of effort internally focused, at the expense of externally visible initiatives. In addition, the organization had become very inflexible, following rigid processes that were not suited to rapid turnaround. Shlomo coached the director and his team to restore a sense of engagement and excitement about their work. He helped the director “manage up,” explaining to his peers and management chain the harm that the current approach had done to the business, showing what they could do to support a turnaround, and gaining their commitment to help. Shlomo and the director jointly created specific initiatives to increase the organization’s customer involvement, restore employee empowerment, and realign their values toward flexibility and external focus.

After several weeks it was clear that a remarkable change in the organization was happening. Team members reported feeling more supported by other departments. The director gained the trust and influence among his managers and peers to elicit their support for his initiatives. The organization now resolved more customer-reported issues in a single week than they had previously closed in an entire quarter. New product updates were now delivered in under 24 hours. And within several more weeks, customers began noticing too: several customers expanded their use of the product specifically crediting the newly introduced improvements and the speed and stability with which they were delivered. Over the next few quarters the director recorded a marked increase in sales. “It’s a completely new organization now – a much better one!” he said.

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