The soft light from the cluster of tiny LED lamps in the roof was the only thing that was cool at that moment when a pregnant pause fell in the small meeting room. The frustration in the air was almost palpable. The company had experienced a double-digit growth year after year, in spite of a sluggish economy. It was now a proper-mid-sized organization, poised to move into a different league. But the simmering doubts had begun to surface openly. People at the company began to wonder if the days of easy sailing are over. Customer dissatisfaction was rising, and some customers had already migrated to competition.
‘We all need to realise,’ said the Vice-President, clearing his throat to bring in extra seriousness into his soft and almost feminine voice, ‘that we are losing exisiting business faster than we are gaining new business.’
People were tired of hearing these sermons. A year of blame-games had already passed. They had been going round in circles with no solutions in sight for the recurring issues. The morale was down. They had been working extra hard to fend off the criticism. In spite of it, the problems were mounting. No one seemed to understand the others’ pain.
‘Try something different,’ said the CEO to the VP, as they sat late evening in the corner office. The CEO’s eyes were wistful as he looked out through the large, clear glass. The greenery was always soothing when the soul ached with the growth pains of the company.
‘This is our story,’ said the VP, summarizing the state of affairs to the executive coach, who sat across the desk. ‘I personally feel my people are incompetent. We need to replace a few of our key people.’
The coach set about his task with clinical detachment. He was unfazed by the pessimism that permeated the company air. He knew that with his skillful questions the team would be able to nail down the process that was not working.
A year later, the VP was looking into the cocktail glass as the stem rolled slowly in his fingers. The coach was sitting beside him. The clinking of glasses added to the bonhomie in the ballroom of the swanky hotel, as the team celebrated another year of high growth. The doubts were now gone and a quiet confidence was evident in the air.
‘How did you pull it off?’ asked the VP, trying to keep his face straight lest the coach should discern his concealed anxiety to learn the ropes. Who knows—a few years down the line he might it call it time and become a consultant or a coach himself.
The coach checked himself as his mind tended to gloat on the recent victories. As a coach, a sense of detachment to both success and failure was very important. And he must practise what he preached.
‘Elementary, my dear Vice-President. I did virtually nothing. I just helped your team to see that the people were organized around tasks and not around outcomes. Many people were responsible for the same outcome with the result that the issues were nobody’s babies. The buck did not stop. People were dependent on others for certain processes. Due to this, they couldn’t schedule their tasks. And people lose focus when they can’t plan. This is the key. By reorganizing, we made specific people accountable for specific results. By enabling them to draw up their schedules, we made our processes efficient.’