Listen, Learn And ACT: Overcoming Company Paralysis To Make Productive Moves
“Whoever wants to reach a distant goal must take many small steps..”
- Helmut Schmidt
What happens when everything goes wrong?
Often when my company gets called in to help a struggling business, there’s only one problem to tackle. But sometimes…well, it seems like there’s nothing but problems
That was the case with one of our clients. I started a series of meetings to determine what needed to be fixed. From what they told me, the answer was just about everything. There were issues with tech platforms, HR, clients…everybody was complaining about everything! Their perspective went far beyond whether the glass was half full or half empty. To listen to these guys, the glass had fallen to the floor and broken into about a million little pieces.
They had an advanced case of company paralysis.
I took notes from the first meeting on and soon began to agree with management — this place was essentially on fire wherever you looked. The scope of what needed to be addressed was overwhelming. When faced with that kind of situation, it becomes difficult to know what to do. Where do you even start?
As I began listening to my client’s endless litany of grievances about their own company, I homed in on what I thought was the most salient fact — they had one hugely important customer who provided the majority of their revenue all by themselves. That’s a dangerous position for any company to be in. And, in this particular case, they were at DEFCON 1, since this customer wasn’t happy with them and hadn’t been for a very long time. It was critical to restore that customer’s faith in the company as well as all the other customers.
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Solving Company Paralysis One Step at a Time
How to restore that faith? Anytime you’re faced with overwhelming company paralysis, you should narrow your focus in a targeted way and that’s just what I did. I sifted through all the complaints that were circulating within the company and threw most of them to the side. If it had something to do with HR, tech or something else that wasn’t directly related to customer dissatisfaction, I ignored it for the time being. When I had all the customer complaints isolated, I looked at the most serious ones — the complaints that were directly affecting their customer relationships, particularly that all-important one who provided the bulk of their revenue. Because if we didn’t build back a bridge to that customer ASAP, nothing else would matter.
You might be asking yourself, “Did they have to bring in this guy to do that? Couldn’t they have done this on their own? Isn’t it just common sense?”
The answers are no, no, and yes. The client was in the kind of toxic bubble — they had no way to objectively prioritize the problems within their own organization, because they had completely lost the perspective they needed. As for me, I was just gaining that perspective. I slowly saw that, under the mountain of customer complaints, there were some feature development issues and performance enhancements that my client had ignored because there were so many other seemingly bigger bombs to defuse first. But my feeling was that performing these small fixes would actually have a big impact on the customer’s confidence in my client.That’s what I recommended as a first step. The client made the fixes. And the dialogue between client and customer slowly turned more positive. The customer saw action had finally been taken and felt like they were being heard. Yes, there was still a lot more to do…but the fact that they had done something restored some faith both internally and externally. It brought real recognizable results that revealed a path forward.
Sometimes massive change is necessary to address company paralysis. But when a company faces that prospect, they can feel too intimidated to make any changes, because they’re afraid the whole house of cards is going to tumble down around their heads. But there is a way to determine the best course of action and make a good beginning toward a profound and positive change. It comes down to these three words: Listen, Learn and Act. When you take informed and positive action, it often is the first step to making a company whole again.