HBR CASE STUDY Welcome Aboard (But Dont Change a Thing) by Eric McNulty The folks at Lakeland Wonders were thrilled when they got a new CEO with fresh, bold ideas- until she started to act on them. Cwristwatc towar HERYLd th HAILSTRO he aoffic s shee omad Mf checke Mar e he k Daw rdwa hey-r son, her senior vice president of operations, it was only 6:30 PM, but the building seemed deserted. Thats another thing thats going to have to change if were going to make it in the twentyfirst century she muttered to herself. The thick report she carried-the one on manufacturing strategy that Mark had prepared-weighed heavily on her mind. It was clear that Mark had no intention of moving quickly to make her vision of the company a reality. He didnt even seem to understand that vision, much less buy in to it. But she had waited long enough. The time had come to set him straight if, that is, he hadnt already bolted for home like everyone else. Cheryl was just approaching her sixmonth anniversary as the CEO of Lakeland Wonders. A manufacturer of highquality wooden toys, it had three plants in Minnesota and almost 5,000 employees. Brought in when Walter Swensen IV was ready to retire and it was clear that none of his children wanted to take an active role in the business, she was the first person from outside the family to hold the top job. But she wasnt entirely a newcomer. Her relationship with the company had started years earlier when 32 HARVARD BUSINESS REVIEW she was the general merchandise manager, and later the COO, of one of Lakelands largest customers, Kids&Company, an upscale retail chain based in Chicago. Cheryl had worked with Lakeland to develop new products for which Kids&Company had six-month exciusives; many ofthose became best-sellers. Cheryl was widely known as the driving force behind the growth of Kids&Company from a small regional chain to a national presence with more than 150 stores. Her energy and enthusiasm were infectious, and she always seemed to be one step ahead of the market. Most important, she knew how to generate profits. Swensen saw her as the logical succession choice, and he spent several months persuading her to take the reins. He wanted Lakeland to grow, and he felt sure Cheryl would take this 94-year-old company to the next level. After all, even though he was stepping down, his holdings in the company were still the primary source of wealth for him and his family. Now, as she strode toward Marks office, Cheryl wondered why her expansive vision for Lakeland didnt seem to be taking hold. She tried to lead by example: traveling a pounding schedule to visit customers, setting aggressive deadlines for new projects, and proposing a bonus scheme to the union for improving cycle times. But the sales force was only slowly increasing the number of calls it was making without her, and her bonus plan had been received indifferently by the union officials. Theyd be happy to produce more, they said, but only if Cheryl agreed to put on a third shift. Marks lukewarm report on offshore manufacturing was just the latest hitch. It seemed as though her managers were giving her the nod on the surface, all the while building elaborate arguments for going more slowly than she knew they needed to go. She came through the doorway as Mark was shutting down his computer. Got a minute? she asked. Mark leaned back in his chair with a hint of resignation. Sure, boss. He was a large man with a boyish face, and he had often collaborated with Cheryl when she was at Kids&Company to get new products from prototype to full run. Hed seemed unflappable then hed always found a way to get the toys made quickly, without sacrificing the quality that gave Lakelands products their specialness. Cheryl dropped the report onto his desk. This is just not going to cut it, Mark. Bulls-Eye Stores is looking for an exclusive line of wooden toys, and theyd love it to come from us. I know everyone thinks Im crazy, but we can meet their pricing requirements-if we can establish manufacturing capabilities offshore in plenty of time to ship for Holiday. 1 know that, but Mark began. Cmon, Mark. Youve been in this organization for more than 25 years. Running manufacturing for, what, 12? Fourteen, he corrected her. Fourteen. So you know better than anyone that offshore manufacturing is the future of this business. If we really want to grow Lakeland, weve got to go beyond the upscale market and get into the midmarket. We cant do that with our plants here; our costs are too high. But your report-she tapped its cover with her forefinger says we should delay any move offshore for at least a year. You know as well as I do that that means losing the Bulls-Eye deal. I understand where you want to go, Cheryl. But we cant just hop on a plane to China and op)en a factory tomorrow. Wed be out of our league. Whats more, it would take our focus off the manufacturing operation here. We dont have to build a factory, Mark. You know we can source this production. Thats the only way were going to get the BuUs-Eye contract-and as far as I can see, that contract is the only way were going to meet the boards growth targets. Cheryl paced in front of his desk. Did you call Cecil at Kids&Company, as I asked you to? Hes sourcing private-label products from China, Indonesia, and the Philippines. Were playing telephone tag, Mark murmured. But my bigger concern, Cheryl, is the union. Our contract is up in nine months, and you really dont want to go into negotiations at the same time youre moving manufacturing offshore. Were not talking about cutting jobs here in Minnesota. Hell, were adding capacity. You know that I worked my way up from the floor, so 1 understand the union point of view. Believe me, they wont see this the way you do. Theyll Everyone here is in the slow lane. Theyre all wedded to the ways things have always been done. think its the first step to outsourcing all our manufacturing. Frankly, I cant say Id blame them. I dont think you understand. To meet our targets, we need to get BullsEye on board. If we lose this contract, its not going to be for lack of effort. Keep working on this and be ready to talk about it at our meeting tomorrow.Then she added,Mark, we go way back. I have full confidence in you. We can do this. She left him with an encouraging smile. As Cheryl pulled out of the parking lot, she replayed a conversation shed had earlier that day. Pat Sampsen, the head of Sampsen Design in Chicago, had called to say that he had picked up two packaging design awards-both for Kids&Company private-label products that she had spearheaded. She had been puzzled, though, when he told her that, no, he hadnt heard from Barry Quince, Lakelands design director. She had pointedly asked Barry to give Pat a call two weeks ago. She was convinced that the local design firm Barry used just wasnt capable of top-notch work, and she wanted him to consider larger outfits like Sampsen Design. HBRs cases, which arefictional, present common managerial dilemmas and offer concrete solutionsfrom experts. OCTOBER 2002 33 HBR CASE STUDY Welcome Aboard (But Dont Change a Thing) Why she wondered, does everyone up here seem to be dragging their feet? My manufacturing head doesnt want to manufacture overseas, she mused, and my design director protects his little, mediocre designfirm.Ive been trying since my first week to get the procurement people to look at consolidating vendors for core parts, but youd think Id asked them to cut off their hands. Everyone here is in the slow lane. Theyre all wedded to the ways things have always been done. Maybe, she thought,I need to bring in some fresh blood. If I could get Pats firm for our packaging and marketing materials, and I could recruit Cecil from Kids&Company to work on outsourcing, 1 could start to tackle some of the other issues. She was feeling slightly more optimistic as she turned into her driveway. Charting a Course At 10:30 the next day, Cheryl and the management team gathered in the conference room. This space had been the CEOs office for generations, but when Cheryl came on board, she chose an office in the center ofthe executive floor and had this corner office converted into a conference room. She thought it was a good symbolic act: Things were going to be different, and she intended to be right in the thick of the action. Mark was sitting at the round table, along with Elaine Spenser from marketing; Jerry Silistrofromsales; and Ned Honester,theCFO. Lets get right to it, Cheryl began. Ive given you an overview of my vision for launching us into the midmarket, and this Bulls-Eye contract is a great place to start As leaders in this company, you each play a key role. Id like to hear your thoughts about how we move forward. Elaine, why dont you get us started? Elaine reported what Cheryl already knew: Research confirmed that the middle ofthe nonelectronic toy market was the only segment projected for doubledigit grovrth, and those consumers were shopping at big chains like Bulls-Eye, not at specialty stores. So, she concluded, I think we can launch a lower-priced line, provided its differentiated, for the midmarket without cannibalizing our existing base. Great, Elaine. Cheryl had asked her to speak first because of Elaines enthusiasm for undertaking new projects. Cheryl also realized that building momentum would be crucial in order to reach a consensus around her vision for the company. One more thing, Cheryl Elaine said. Yes? I dont want to overlook the branding issues. Every package we ship-and every delivery truck is emblazoned with Handcrafted with pride in the USA. Well have to be extremely careful with the message we send, and well need to invest in more advertising. We dont want to face a backlash if people think were not an American company any longer. Do you think you can handle it with the right resources? It shouldnt be a problem. Ill light a fire under our adfirm,and Ill get Barry to work up new packaging ideas. Good. This could be a great chance for Barry to try working with Sampsen Design. Ask him to give them a call. Barry was thinking it would be fun for our local designers. I think it would be fun to have some world-class packaging, Cheryl said, nodding slowly at Elaine. Have him call Sampsen. Now, Jerry, what do you see from a sales perspective? Wait a second, Mark interrupted. He didnt want to drop the made-inthe-USA issue so quickly. He reminded Cheryl that when she was at Kids&Company, she had told him that Lakelands U.S. manufacturing base was a great strength. He wanted to know what had changed and how she thought customers like Kids&Company would react to the move. Cheryl reminded him that when shed made that comment, her priority was to maintain Kids&Companys competitive advantage. But now she needed to act in Lakelands best interest, and that meant expanding into every viable market. As long as Lakeland was manufacturing only in the United States, its costs would be too high for it to sell in lower-priced markets. That said, she again asked Jerry to weigh in on sales. Jerry also did exactly what Cheryl had come to expect. He expressed enthusiasm for the opportunity but then launched into a litany of reasons why hed need significant new resources to handle it. Cheryl was thinking about how best to respond when Mark said, Jerry, lets talk about delivery. What do you think? Its critical, of course especially for Holiday. One of our biggest advantages is that we virtually always ship on time. Tresio has to ship across the Atlantic and get through customs so there are many more opportunities for things to go wrong. Im just wondering, Jerry, because our contract with the union is up fairly soon, said Mark. What if this move leads to a slowdown or a strike? Where would that put us? Looking at Cheryl, Jerry replied, It would be a disaster. He turned back to Mark and asked, Do you think that would happen? Cheryl could feel the meeting swinging away from her, so she quickly asked Ned to weigh in. 1 want to remind everyone that the board has given us a very aggressive growth target. We cant forget that Mr. Swensen sold 30% of his holdings to Hastings, Curtiss when he retired, and venture firms are relentless in their pursuit of growth. I know that Cheryls plan Eric McNulty is the managing director ofthe conferences division of Harvard Business School Publishing, HBRs parent company, in Boston. 34 HARVARD BUSINESS REVIEW Welcome Aboard (But Dont Change a Thing) HBR CASE STUDV may strike some of you as bold, but remember the first time she walked in here as a customer? We all thought she was nuts. She asked us to do some things that seemed crazy, but today those crazy ideas are some of our best-selling products. Im looking at the bottom line, and I think that-while we have to be mindful of the issues raised here, of course we need to move forward I know that we have differing opinions, Cheryl said to the group. But I also want you to know that I understand that we can only make this work as a team. Ned and I will present all of this to the board, and i expect everyone to get behind whatever decision is ultimately made. She made a mental note to call Sean Curtiss to update him on the situation. His company held two of the seven seats on the board. The Swensen children had two. Waily Swensen made five. Karen Winks of Northern Minnesota Trust was the sixth, and Waliys old college roommate rounded out the numbers. Rough Seas Ahead? The next day, Cheryl was poring over her upcoming board presentation when she felt someones eyes focusing on her. Wally, she said with surprise. Look at how tan you are. Swensen walked in and sat down. I have to say that I like being CEO emeritus. I get to fish most of the time and just show up for the quarterly board meetings. It suits you, she smiled. His leathery face was a deep brown, and his white hair gave him a dashing air. She had been fond of Swensen from their first meeting. Shed been a young, harddriven junior executive full of ideas, and he was a quiet, steady man who ran a long-standing company by making prudent decisions, sticking to its core value of quality, and eschewing fads. They had learned a lot from each other, and soon bold new products that were still true to Lakelands heritage were flying off the Kids&Company store shelves. Lunch plans? he asked. Id like to chat with you about the board presentation next week. They both settled into a booth at Christies a mom-and-pop sandwich shop a few blocks from the office. They chose a booth toward the back where they could talk without being overheard. Tvo glasses of lemonade arrived without their needing to ask. Whats on your mind, Wally?Cheryl asked. I want you to think through what youre going to bring to the board, he If what we do works out, everyone here will be better off. Ive already met with Cara and Wally V, and they support the move. Im not certain that my children fully understand Marks opposition. It dawned on Cheryl right then that the board presentation might not go as well as she hoped. If Wally was cautioning her to slow down and Wally V turned out to be loyal to Mark, his god- You have to understand, this is a very old companysaid the former CEO. You may need to pull people along more slowly to make sure you dont end up tearing the place apart said, gently. Be sure you have all the implications mapped out. Im just coming in with a more concrete plan for reaching the growth goals we set at the last meeting thats all. There shouldnt be any big surprises. Really? I had dinner with Mark the other night, and he was telling me some of his reservations ahout the speed of your outsourcing plans. And 1 have to say, I never thought Id see our products in a store like BuUs-Eye. You had dinner with Mark? Her voice was rising. He wasnt going behind your back, Cheryl. It was a family thing. Hes my sons godfather, remember? We were just chatting. You knew I was going to change things when I came in. We talked about that. You wanted me to. And when you sold a hlock of your shares to Hastings, Curtiss, you knew they were looking for growth. Were not going to do that by keeping things the way they are. You have to understand, this is a very old company, he said.Some of the people who work for you, their parents and even grandparents worked here. What youre about to propose is going to scare them. Marks not antiprogress by any means, but he does know this place better than anyone except me. You may need to pull people along more slowly to make sure you dont end up tearing the place apart. father-well, it stood to reason that Cara would vote with the rest of the Swensen family. I dont want this to he a board showdown, Wally, said Cheryl, earnestly. You hired me to grow this business. Let me do that. Whoa, slow down. Theres not going to be any showdown. But you must see that you cant do this alone. You have to have your peoples hearts and minds to make it a success. I have a plan. She told him about recruiting Cecil Flemming to take over new-product development. She went on to explain Cecils expertise in overseas sourcing and her desire to have someone on the senior team who shared her style and speed. Waliys brow furrowed slightly, signaling to Cheryl that this might be another move to ease into slowly, but he was finished arguing for the day. He sipped his lemonade, then replied diplomatically, Were always eager to see great candidates. Im sure hed love working here. Wally, everyone who works here loves the place. I dont want to change that, but I do want to be sure that we all have a place to workfiveyears out. I need you to have confidence in me now. Is the CEO pushing too much change too quickly? Four commentators offer expert advice. OCTOBER 2002 35 HBR CASE COMMENTARY Is the CEO Pushing Too Much Change Too Quickly? Severa turnaroun allelsl year to Chery sd ago situatio l Hailstroms , I foun n wit d mysel h man . Theyf com ipar n a pany I signed on to lead had new external investors with high expectations about our growth potential and a management team resistant to the significant changes needed to hit those aggressive targets. Its easy to see why Cheryl is frustrated. All the key indicators support her midmarket growth plan. She has a huge customer account in her sights and a legitimate sense of urgency; ifLakeland wants to ship in time for the holiday season, it has only a few months to design products, secure offshore production operations, and develop a marketing message that answers the branding issues. But shes saddled with a bunch of managers more interested in clinging to their familiar turf To get beyond this impasse, shell have to make some changes. Theres no reason she cant bring in experienced outsiders like Cecil and Pat,butshe should pairthem with members ofthe existing organization. Id suggest appointing a team to guide the midmarket private-label development strategy and empowering the group with authority to do whatever is necessary to ensure on-time product delivery for the holidays. Cheryl may also need to change her leadership style. What she sees as leading by example and relocating her office to be right in the thick ofthe action may be seen !ts easy to see why Cheryl isfrustrated. Shes saddled with a bunch of managers clinging to theirfamiliar turf. by others as coercion and intimidation. An emphasis on persuasion, inspiration, and negotiation might work better. She must start signaling her openness to hearing the concerns of people with divergent points ofview. Meanwhile, she needs to be communicating, consistently and enthusiastically, with her internal and external constituencies about how her growth strategy serves alt their interests. Resistance to change will continue unless Cheryl can link her vision ofexpansion Kathleen Cakidise is a vice president and the COO ofApple Retail Stores, headquartered in Cupertino, California. with their individual needs and expectations. I found, in my attempts to get some of the foot-dragging employees and board members to buy in to a vision, that it was best to frame it in bold contrasts. I compared the tangible future benefits of change for our organization, its employees, and its stakeholders with the dangers of doing nothing-which in our case would have involved bankruptcy and job losses. Whether Cheryls message is as dramatic as that or not, it should aim to ensure that no one is blindsided by change. Surprises can only increase the fear and resistance that cause delays. Perhaps most important, Cheryl needs to articulate a clear operating direction for Lakeland, one that specifies how structural and behavioral changes can be consistent with the companys most treasured values and norms and also improve performance. She can lead Lakelands employees over barriers to change by affirming what they love about the place, even while she challenges comfortable ways of doing things. To bring about cultural and performance transformation, I made it the explicit work of several teams. I charged them with identifying any obstacles to change and with recommending new structures, initiatives, and reward systems. By involving lots of employees, 1 was able to speed the process along. I should stress that the company I worked for was in far more trouble than Lakeland. In two years, it went through three other CEOs, each with a different vision. When I came on board, time and money were running out, and internal expectations for my success were low indeed. Ultimately, several years after I moved on, the company did fail. Cheryl, however, has a few advantages. Thanks to her past role with Lakeland, people there already believe in her. Thats a big leg up. Still, she may be mistaking how much license it gives her. Obviously, she hasnt felt she needed to spend much time building consensus for her potentially risky productexpansion plan. She thinks shes already earned the support of her colleagues and investors. I would caution her: She needs to earn it anew each day. 36 HARVARD BUSINESS REVIEW Is the CEO Pushing Too Much Change Too Quickly? HBR CASE COMMENTARY If Chery changed her relationshi l wer . She e msypnclient wit o longe h th , Ider poin th compan e customer t ouyt tha has,t shes the boss. But she hasnt established the rules of engagement of working together. To do so, she should privately explain to each individual on her team how she works. She might say something like/l operate with full disclosure and mutual respect. I will never make you guess what I want, and I dontwanttoguess what you want. We must communicate relentlessly about how we will achieve our goals. And after weve discussed an issue, we will come up with one voice, which will bespoken up, down,and sideways in this organization. As Cheryl speaks, shell smile, maintain a pass-the-salt tone of voice, and touch the persons arm. Once the ground rules for effectively working together have been laid, Cheryl needs to address the goal of taking the company to the next level. The growth targets were set by the board and arent up for debate, so the sole issue is how to achieve them. Cheryl should ask each team member, What do you see as a priority? What stands in the way of accomplishing that goal? How can we change that?The priorities named in these individual conversations should then be put to the group for discussion. Once the team determines one voice on each issue, it can assign responsibility, create a strategy, and set a time frame. If Mark Dawson continues to oppose the plan in management meetings,Cheryl must ask him to step outside to talk. The conversation could begin like this: You may or may not be right in your assessment. We dont know yet. But we have all agreed to this plan. Supporting the plan to my face and then shooting it down later does not show respect. I know your opinion on the obstacles ahead. And I know you have a lot ofexperience here, but even the minimum-wage people can tell me why it wont work. You are the cream of the Lakeland crop, and your job is to make things happen that others thought couldnt be done. When I ran Kids&Company, you worked miracles-you found ways to get things made quickly without sacrificing qualiiy. You need to perform that same magic now. When you have problems with what I say, please talk with me first; I will do the same with you. I dont want to be told about roadblocks for the first time in front of others. I work with a full-disclosure approach, and I If Cheryl isnt clear with this team, sheU he no better with the next She should not make personnel changes until she has given the current team a chance. expect the same of you. Ifyou wont or cant, Ill hire someone who will. While shes talking, she should again be speaking calmly, have a relaxed smile, and stand where she can put her hand on his shoulder and grip just a little too tightly. ifCheryl isntclearwith this team,shell be no better with the next She should not make personnel changes until she has given the current team a chance. Once she sees peoples reactions, she can decide who stays, who goes, or who gets added. In addition, Cheryl must have the rules-ofengagement discussion with Wally Swensen, members of the board, and the venture capitalists. No one must have any doubts about how she will lead. When Wally mentioned his discussion with Mark, Cheryl should have said (with,of course, a relaxed smile, a passthe-salt tone, and a firm touch), You have always made prudent decisions in your business; thats why you hired me. We can take this company to the next level without sacrificing quality. I will provide you and the board, as I have the management team, with full disclosure about what we need to do and how we plan to do it. If someone or something is a sacred cow and cannot be touched, tell me now. And if that restriction compromises our objectives, I will readjust our profit estimates. But if you want me to effect change, some blood will be spilled. Ifthe chairman, the board, or the venture capitalists do not let Cheryl do the job she was hired to do, she must decide whether to stay or go. No job is permanent anyway. Debra Beaton is the president ofBenton Management Resources in Fort Collins, Colorado, and the author of Secrets of a CEO Coach (McGraw-Hill, 1999). She can be reached at email@example.com. OCTOBER 2002 37 HBR CASE COMMENTARY Is the CEO Pushing Too Much Change Too Quickly? Executives come in and say, Heres my vision, lets goforward. But theyfail to create any sense of urgency about why a change is required. Dan S. Cohen is a partner at Deloitte Consulting (s(X)n to be Braxton) in Irving, Texas, and the coauthor, with John P. Kotter, of The Heart of Change (Harvard Business School Press, 2002). Chery der want sl ha lik s tseowalke achang bulldi int en th aochin eLakelan cultur a shop ed Won . sh She-e complains that theyre all dragging their feet- but shes the one whos out of step. She has shown little respect for the operating style of this 94-year-o!d company. She hasnt been listening to senior managers, and she hasnt been talking to the board of directors to line up votes for the upcoming board meeting. She just expects everyone to follow her lead. This is a very common mistake. Executives come in and say, Heres my vision, lets go forward. But they fail to create any sense of urgency about why a change is required. In other words, they dont lay the groundwork to allow the change to take root. Unless Cheryl can figure out a way to get people excited about this new direction for the company, her vision will die a quick death. Mark is already throwing up roadblocks; hes concerned about the unions reaction toofFshore manufacturing, and hes gone so far as to speak with the previous CEO. The head of marketing raises branding issues and resists working with a new design firm. And the sales director seems swayed by Marks argument against offshore manufacturing. The only team member who supports Cheryls plan is the CFO, and hes looking at it strictly from a numbers perspective. For the team to come together, Cheryl has to stop talking about my vision and start acting on our vision. It appears that she and the senior management team never really developed a common vision of the companys future. If objectives arent obvious to members of the top management team, what are the odds that the rest of the company will understand them, let alone get behind them? My immediate advice for Cheryl is to take a minute to reflect on her performance over these past few months. In her quest to grow the company, she has done several things right: She moved outof the secluded corner office. She enhanced the bonus plan. She has tried to improve productivity. But the fact is, Cheryl hasnt thought through her strategy very well. For instance, union negotiations come up in nine months, but she hasnt yet brought a union rep into these discussions. She seems to think that the company will deal with the negotiations when the time comes. The same is true for the branding issue. Elaine says she can handle it, but she hasnt proposed a solid plan. The most troubling aspect of Cheryls performance is that her driving style isnt aligned with Lakelands culture. She hasnt recognized that rather than increasing urgency, she is creating fear and anger among her executive group. Ifshe doesnt adjust her operating style, she will continue to lose the confidence of key stakeholders, Its almost to the point that Wally, once her champion, fears that she could tear the company apart. And without Wally, she has no chance of winning the boards approval. To regain Wallys trust, Cheryl must mend her relationship with Mark and show him why he should change his feelings and behavior to support her vision. If they put their heads together, Chery! and Mark may come up with a new plan that addresses the growth goals and better fits Lakelands culture. For instance. Lakeland might consider opening a subsidiary that does offthore production and sells to lower-end markets, thus eliminating some brand issues. Its true that the board set aggressive growth goals, and Cheryl is working hard to meet them. But she cant do it alone. Unfortunately, she has yet to reach the emotions of the senior team, and she must if shes to ignite their active support of her change plan. Without that support, it doesnt matter if her vision is objectively sound; it wont get off the ground until she deals effectively with the current level of complacency among her senior team. 38 HARVARD BUSINESS REVIEW HBR CASE COMMENTARY Is the CEO Pushing Too Much Change Too Quickly? It seem iIsfel thl int esonl tha o tha yt Chery wa t trayptwhe lobelieve gro n I wwa th s tha sestartin business t her pla g mn.y career at IBM. I knew my proposals were right, so I was frustrated that I had to spend time convincing others that my ideas needed to be implemented without delay. Then a wise and seasoned manager said to me, Nina, people supportwhatthey create. You need to engage others in the creation process, or you are doomed to failure. What a lesson! I had It seems crazy that Cheryl hasn t asked Mark, her key manufacturing manager,for his solution, especially since hes deliveredfor her in the past believed that involving more people in the planning process would slow things down, but in fact, the opposite Is true. Cheryl also needsto learn a related lesson: Theres more than one way to rope a calf A Xerox veteran with a pronounced Texas drawl told me that. Id been hired to launch a line of word processors, and I can remember looking at my colleagues as though they were the great unwashed.Theyd never sold in this nontraditional (that is, non-copier related) market; they didnt understand the technology; and, in my mind, they had no understanding of how to build a launch plan to meet our aggressive objectives. But this experienced manager wouldnt let me discount the thinking of others. He patiently discussed the alternative views and forced me to see that there are many ways to succeed. It wasnt easy, but I learned to try other peoples solutions-and I found that approach very liberating. Cheryl might, too. It seems crazy that she hasnt asked Mark, her key manufacturing manager, for his solution, especially since hes delivered for her in the past. Like Cheryl, Ive also had to deal with unions. I joined AT&T Network Systems (the offspring of Western Electric-a loo-year-old manufacturing, R&D, and distribution arm oftheformer Bell System)-im990, Bill Marx, the president, chose leaders who he thought could change the culture of this former moNina Aversano has held executive positions at IBM, Xerox, AT&T, and Lucent Technologies, among other companies. Currently, she runs her own consulting practice in Kinnelon, NewJersey. nopoly without wreaking havoc, I headed up an organization of roughly 1,500 installers and managers; most were members ofthe powerful Communications Workers ofAmerica and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. They were predominantly white men, aged 48 or older, with high school educations. They were well trained, dedicated, and highly respected by the customers. But the unit was hemorrhaging money. When I walked in the door, I felt as if I had been thrown into some alien culture; I wasnt sure how to begin to turn things around. I knew I needed the knowledge that these managers possessed, but it was clear they didnt want me there. So I began by reviewing the financials. Then I met with every local union president to go over the state of the business in detail -the good, the bad, and the ugly. And you know what? With the exception of one old, crusty union chief, I got a great reception (and even he came around eventually). Then I held town meetings with all the employees, in groups of 50 or fewer. It was usually just the rank and file and mel didnt want lots of supervisors there to constrain the questions. It was one ofthe most valuable learning experiences of my career. Those people were the heart and soul ofthe business. They wanted it to succeed, and they were openminded enough to let me share the realities ofthe business and seek their opinions and ideas. Together, we turned our losses around and built a highly competitive machine.Cheryl would be well served to talk to the union members about her plans and solicit their help in making Lakeland more competitive. Finally, our young CEO needs to recalibrate the boards expectations. Yes,growth is needed, but the targets must be realistic. The growth at any cost mind-set will be disastrous for this company. Cheryl has many of the right ingredients to make a great leader. She needs to move with speed and intensity to build a new culture from the strong foun dation she has been given. Reprint R0210A v To order reprints, see the last page of Executive Summaries. 40 HARVARD BUSINESS REVIEW Harvard Business Review Notice of Use Restrictions, May 2009 Harvard Business Review and Harvard Business Publishing Newsletter content on EBSCOhost is licensed for the private individual use of authorized EBSCOhost users. It is not intended for use as assigned course material in academic institutions nor as corporate learning or training materials in businesses. Academic licensees may not use this content in electronic reserves, electronic course packs, persistent linking from syllabi or by any other means of incorporating the content into course resources. Business licensees may not host this content on learning management systems or use persistent linking or other means to incorporate the content into learning management systems. Harvard Business Publishing will be pleased to grant permission to make this content available through such means. For rates and permission, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
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