S1:E1 - Stuck at the Top

It's the beginning of another glorious day just outside Reedsham in Surrey. The Autumn colours are starting to show in the trees and the people cycling into work at The Company in the last few days have been the first to notice the crispness in the air. Autumn is definitely here... and perhaps not just in the weather.

The company founded only five years ago, grew from 5 people in a small lab in the basement of a major university to 130 people in purpose-built accommodation set in rolling countryside nearby. But, like any startup, this one is having a few growing pains.

The management team in this hi-tech organisation have lost the confidence of their people. The CEO is trying to run the company from another continent where he has been seconded for a year by the parent company and his immediate reports lack the day to day contact with him to be able to give clear direction to the project teams. This is causing great tension amongst the local leaders who feel they can't move without his say so. They walk about their beautiful building looking tense and unhappy. They work very late. They are pretending to be happy.

Meanwhile, staff have decided that their distracted, stressed managers have lost touch with them and that they are ignoring the views and feedback of the people at the technical sharp end. The net result of all this is that the star project - a gadget which no one will want to be without - once they can get it working properly - is falling behind as people scrabble around for definitive guidance from the top.  

Out in the field, sales are out to lunch. Most of the time. The main thing is, they're not making any sales but they are having a lot of lunches. Nobody is asking them why.

Fortunately, the very nice but stressed management team are in touch with us at PF and we're helping them to understand not only that they really need to prove that they're listening to their people but that they also need to actually talk to each other - for real. They found this hard at first because more than anything they'd each build up all sorts of funny assumptions and stories about each other and then they had to tell one other what those were. That made for plenty of awkward smiling and a few tears (mainly from frustration followed by relief that it was finally out in the open).

Still, these more real conversations are already helping them to cut across the geographical and time boundaries just because now they are being more open with each other and there's a great deal more empathy between them because many of the assumptions have been blown. So, it's not perfect but people are now talking to each other which means that the guessing, and the negativity that results from that, are beginning to lift. And the wider team are beginning to notice as well.

In fact, over the period of just a few months the leaders concerned have regained contact with their teams. There are fewer complaints and individuals are 'dropping in' to their boss's offices again. Part of this process has involved them being much more open about the difficulties that they were having communicating between themselves as leaders so that staff can now much better understand the reasons behind the often contradictory instructions and all the weird moods and confusing reactions that they had historically been at the receiving end of.

Yup, things are certainly starting to feel a lot better around The Company.

But Doran is far from happy. As Head of Marketing, it's down to her to develop a growth strategy and quite frankly some of the products are well past their sell by date. She is going to have to tackle her exco colleagues - AGAIN. They're making an unholy mess of things by burying their heads. AGAIN.

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