Astute Planning, Flawless Execution,
Delighted Customers

Issue #160

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

We are pleased to provide the latest installment of our newsletter which contains an article by Frank McComb covering a very timely subject: Are You Ready for the Recovery?

During the recent economic downturn, companies have had to reduce costs, often resulting in the loss of key resources (leadership). While this may have been necessary to meet the challenge at hand, some companies may have left themselves vulnerable to the competition and unprepared to take advantage of the upswing as the recovery unfolds.

For keen insight on addressing the issue of managing with depleted leadership resources to be positioned well for the recovery, read on!

Are You Ready for the Recovery?
by Frank McComb

It's a new year, full of promise and hope. But for many companies, the recovery will be tougher than the recession:

  • Markets have changed
  • Customers and suppliers have changed, if they still exist
  • There are new competitors, and old ones are gone; all customers are up for grabs
  • Credit is tight; cash is tighter.

Yet for many companies, depleted leadership resources will be the biggest challenge.

People? What People?
To survive, many companies have reduced management staff, left key positions unfilled, and asked inexperienced employees to take on added responsibilities. All these can leave a company ill-equipped to tackle the challenges and opportunities of the recovery and hoping that its competitors don't gobble up market share by reacting faster.

One solution is to help your current employees develop new skill-sets and improve existing ones. This not only avoids the costs of additional hires, but raises morale as employees are given opportunities to advance their careers. But how do you get from here to there?

A Tough Reality
At a recent client, I was engaged to coach a newly-promoted plant manager. The CEO, facing the realities of the recession and knowing he might have to consolidate plants, had promoted this young manager rather than hire a more experienced plant manager from outside. This new manager was inheriting a plant with declining performance and a staff that was struggling. On the same day he was promoted, he was also told that his plant might be closing in the next 18 months. Needless-to-say, the young man was emotionally conflicted. It was a great opportunity, but he faced learning a new position, and potentially having to do so in a very difficult environment.

The guidance I provided for this new manager was four-fold: (1) help him reorganize his staff to effectively manage the plant, (2) guide him to a better understanding of his new responsibilities, (3) enable him to see where he needed to grow in his own abilities and develop a plan to make that improvement, and (4) provide coaching and encouragement to support his performance and growth in this challenging situation.

Manage the Plant
The most immediate need was to help him rebuild an effective staff without hiring additional people. With guidance, he worked through the following process.

  1. He identified the supervisory and technical needs for managing the plant operations,
  2. evaluated the skill sets of the staff he inherited,
  3. sought input from the HR director and other senior staff members,
  4. met with each of his staff individually to gain his/her ideas and understand his/her career objectives, and then
  5. developed a staffing plan that made the best use of his people.

Clearly identifying the skill sets needed to manage the plant operations was important. But by asking the employees for their ideas and input, he helped them buy-in to the final organization and the challenges they faced as a team.

Learn to Be Customer-Focused
Once he had a basic team in place to operate the plant, I worked with him to understand his full responsibilities and how best to measure and improve in his performance. We started with the concept of being customer-oriented. I helped him think through:

  • who his customers were (not just end users, but internal as well)
  • what each group of customers needed from him, and
  • how to measure his performance in meeting those customer needs.

We documented all of this on a single chart, identifying his major customers and the metrics he would use to measure his performance. It was an eye-opening process for him, giving him a more comprehensive understanding of his position. He came to see that he needed to serve not just end-users as customers, but a variety of other important individuals and groups.


[click for larger view]

With his new understanding of customers and responsibilities, I worked with him to identify the skill-sets he would need to perform well. With the help of the HR director who had worked with him for several years, we helped him evaluate himself in each skill-set. If he identified the skill set as critically important, and rated his ability as less than adequate, we helped him develop a specific action plan for improvement. Then we helped him identify resources he could draw on to help in his development. The end result was that he knew where he needed to improve, had specific action plans, and knew where to get help when he needed it.

Sharing the Gains; Extending Customer-Focus
The plant manager had gained such insight into his new position through this effort, that he helped each of his direct reports work through the same process: identifying their customers, their customers' needs and the metrics to measure performance in meeting those needs.

Tough Reality; Good Results
The company did indeed decide to close his plant and consolidate production into two other facilities. With on-going coaching and encouragement, the plant manager was able to successfully guide his team and the plant personnel through the difficult period leading up to the plant closing. He maintained morale and team pride even as his staff transitioned production to other plants. Very few employees left before they were scheduled to be laid off, and operating performance actually improved during this time.

When the plant was successfully closed and his plant manager position finally eliminated, the young manager landed an even more responsible position with another local manufacturer.

Creative Use of Resources to Get It Done!
This company used the expertise of interim executive coaching to develop their people and to help them get through a difficult time that ultimately benefited the company and the individuals. The lesson here is that staying inside the box (of company people resources) may require going outside the box. Interim executive help can bring a wealth of experience and can be targeted to specific, limited-term needs without adding long term expenses. If you would like to learn more about how interim executive help and/or coaching could work for you, feel free to give us a call.

CCI Serving Those in Need...Again

Members of the Customer Centricity team and the First Baptist Church of Hudson, NH are again headed to the Gulf Coast of Mississippi during the week of March 1, 2010, to build and/or refurbish homes, with Habitat for Humanity.

Hurricane Katrina slammed into the Gulf Coast on August 29, 2005, destroying property and killing hundreds. Less than a month later, on September 24, 2005, Hurricane Rita also made landfall on the Gulf Coast, extending the devastation even further. All told, more than half a million homes were damaged or destroyed.

Four years later Habitat for Humanity still engages coastal Mississippi families struggling with run down temporary shelter and poor housing conditions.

If you are interested in supporting the cause or would like to learn more, visit We, and the people in need, thank you in advance for your support.



+ CCI Serving Those in Need...Again

+Are You Ready for the Recovery?


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Hologic Inc.


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