Organizational Change

A Family-owned Financial Investment Firm Moves through Tough Times

Situation: During the recent “great recession” this firm began to flounder: it was losing its old client base through attrition, and its own business value was sinking along with the value of its clients' portfolios in the sinking market.  My executive client leaves his banking management job to turn-around his family’s firm as its business development manager.  There are serious family-issues, which he knows full-well upon entering the firm. Two of the partners are active alcoholics and minimally productive, yet feel entitled to full salaries and benefits for prior years of service. This has created a severe drain on dwindling resources. Complicating matters, decisions they agree to are not honored.

Action: We used The Balancing Act strategic process to determine the firm’s core, vision and mission, then completely redid its collateral, then reached out to old and prospective clients. With this process, the business manager was able to overcome myriad obstacles, stay the course, and determine whether he could turn around the firm, sell it, or if he needed to abandon efforts and leave altogether. 

Results: The firm is now again on financial upswing; the business brand has shifted from a tired, old-time firm to one that is truly looking out for its clients. It not only has a refreshed, but also updated processes and infrastructure, and it has renewed client relationships that had long been ignored. These proactive steps resulted in new business with old clients and referrals for new business that, in turn, resulted in new contracts.  The business manager determined that the revitalized firm matched his own professional strategic plan. As a result, he decided to stay and fight ingrained family dysfunction for the sake of everyone. As of this date, one partner has been bought out and the other negotiated to a more reasonable salary for the work really done. Our client has increased formal decision-making control which in turn has resulted in upswing in both client base and revenues, and stopping excessive resource drain so the firm can build for the future.

 

A former Regional Law Firm Realizes it’s All Grown up

Situation: The new manager of this midwest-based international law firm requested that we conduct the strategic planning retreat to help him integrate this divisive firm. The attorneys were quibbling with each other, and started out the session by challenging and criticizes the facilitator. However, we firmly held command of the proceedings until the roots of their current problems became evident to all in attendance. One key problem was that this firm was still acting as if it was a local firm despite the fact that it had grown to international status. This was reflected in its policies, decision-making control, communications, leadership concentration, and infrastructure.

Action: By first realizing, then shifting, the group's new core identity—which included being an international firm, every other decision followed logically. The group then dug in earnestly to creating a new strategic plan that took into account every Element of Success and that had strong participation and buy-in across the organization.

Results: The group left the session with a completely different sense of who they were and what future they wanted to create for the firm.  As one of the attorneys who was based in another region said upon departure: “What you've done here allows me to go back home a hero.  The 'insiders' finally listened to what we’ve been trying to say for years.”  Moreover, the new manager who had invited us in was thrilled because the group had united and agreed upon a forward direction, rather than having the meeting descend (as was typical) into debating, yelling, and with no agreed-upon outcomes and goals. 

 

A New Start for a Regional School District

Situation: We were called into a large Massachusetts school district to conduct a strategic planning retreat. Our purpose was to support a new superintendent who was just coming on board. This district had suffered considerably from the prior leadership style of divide-and-conquer; in fact, the prior superintendent was referred to by his people as “he who shall not be named.” Most of the 16 principals attending the retreat started the session with little enthusiasm and a “wait and see” attitude.  Another severe problem was the district's lack of funding and the further budget cuts it was facing.

Action: During this intensive two-day retreat, we provided the attendees with the results from their Organizational Balance Profile, which we used to determine strengths that could be leveraged and weaknesses that needed to be addressed. We then walked the attendees through the entire Balancing Act strategic rebuilding process.

Results: At the end of the session, the group was working as a cohesive and highly-charged unit. They draft a new core identity and values, a revised vision, a new mission plus prioritized goals.  They also outlined key stakeholders in their larger community and determined how to increase buy-in for the school within that community. And lastly, they decided upon specific infrastructure changes they needed to improve, and set concrete goals (and committees for the accomplishment of those goals.) The school also ran a pilot project to bring The Balancing Act’s program to a pilot group of its middle-school teachers and students.  Our contacts report that this process got them all off to a strong start, that they are constantly referring to this strategic plan for tough decision-making, and that they've made good progress on several fronts, even in the face of severe funding restrictions.

 

National Non-profit Organization ponders how it can have the most impact

Situation: We were requested to assist this growing non-profit organization in its annual Strategic Planning process. The group was divided on its purpose and the direction it should take in the future. A large segment of the group believed they should deliver direct service, and the other part wanted to focus on influencing national and state policy in its area of concern.

Action: We conducted a series of full-staff strategic planning sessions over a number of weeks, allowing them to integrate and test each step on the ground. At the end of these sessions, the group had agreed upon its future direction (not however, without conflict that needed to be negotiated and resolved.) A plan for implementation was drafted and a TCI consultant was engaged to ensure its roll-out and to broker the continued disputes over priorities for time and resources.

Results: Most of the designed plan was rolled-out, and it resulted in good progress for the organization over the ensuing years. Interestingly, the one component that was not implemented was ongoing executive coaching for the leader. This person's poor self-control and interaction problems continued to cause strife and high-turnover of talent. (You can lead a horse to water, but....)