Years ago I worked in a small management group that was faced with the resurrection of a failed business. Problem was, the parent company was blissfully unaware, as the poor performance was hidden inside the operations and overhead recovery of the much larger parent entity.
When it was broken out as a separate division, I did the first P&L, in those days by hand on a 25 column ledger sheet, (any readers remember those?) and wondered what the hell I had done leaving my comfy corporate marketing job for this pile of smelly, baked-on crap.
Over a period of 6 years, this small group turned the business around. It was profitable, 5 times the size, and strategically well positioned. Then the MD of the parent woke up with a good idea in his hand and re-merged the division back into the larger business in an effort to capture some of the successful competitive DNA we had grown. You know what happened then.
Upon reflection, the core of our success was two things:
- Relentless focus on the things that mattered. We relentlessly identified problems and their root causes, and attacked them as a group, disregarding the superfluous, distracting, and often attractive alternative opportunities to spend our time.
- We worked together. The management group, a pretty standard functional arrangement argued, experimented, and engaged as many people as we could who may have something to contribute. People on the operational floor often had the solutions to problems before we had identified the problem adequately, no information was privileged, apart from salary levels, and every pair of eyeballs, and voice listened to, and encouraged. We just had to trust everyone, and it worked. By having many eyeballs on everything, we always had better outcomes.
I am reminded of all this, some 25 years later, with pride, some nostalgia, and sadness. One of that small group died last week, and many of those involved attended his funeral yesterday, it was a sad but joyful day.
Vale my friend and colleague George McDonald, St Peter better have a solid lock on the VB fridge.